Velkommen til København: Welcome to the cycling city, literally urban design personified.
20.07.2023 | Mobility
The transport revolution began in Copenhagen in the early 1980s: thousands of people took to the streets and demanded for urbanisation to be regulated, but above all highlighted the dangers posed by the rising volume of traffic. This set in motion an unprecedented urban and transport design that has been steadily advancing for over 40 years. Today, the city gives its name to the “Copenhagenize Index”, a ranking of the world’s most bike-friendly cities.
Long-John Cargo Bikes were developed in Denmark in the 1920s. From there, they have spread right around the globe. Especially in the capital Copenhagen, bikes are an integral part in the day-to-day lives of almost 650,000 people – something that is particularly evident during rush hour.
Hundreds of commuters pedal by bicycle, Cargo Bike or E-Bike along, including over the Cykelslangen, or “Bicycle Snake”, which runs next to Fisketorvet Mall: this over 200 metre-long, orangish-red cycle bridge winds up to the Bryggebrüen Bridge, at a height of almost six metres, connecting the Vesterbro district to the Havenstad district.
The two-minute ride between the districts passes the futuristic glazed façades of the branches of large companies. It meanders across the tranquil harbour basin, which reflects the cityscape of Copenhagen, and ends at the silo-like towers of the Gemini Residence, a massive residential complex on the other side of the river.
Distances are given here in cycling minutes.
Time seems to pass more slowly the first time you cross the bridge. It is a very special experience, as new space has been created for movement and been allowed to grow here – as witnessed by the constant flow of bikes over the ‘Bicycle Snake’ and the Bryggebroen.
But there has been a lasting change not only in these places but in the minds of the people who live here. The number of deaths on the road has been falling since 2005, with almost 80% of cyclists saying that they feel safe on the road – unfortunately, still not a matter of course anywhere.
Safety is one aspect. But there are also no traffic lights to delay cyclists from heading onto the ‘Bicycle Snake’. No one has to wait in a traffic jam or for a ferry, and you don’t even need to weave your way around a roundabout. Life can be simpler when you ride a bike. This totally unrestricted crossing of the bridge gives people a feeling of timelessness and vastness, a feeling of freedom.
The ‘Bicycle Snake’ is thus a living monument to the bicycle: it is celebrated and revered as a mode of transport, tangible in the here and now. Uncompromising.
“E-biking can be more than just cycling with ease.”
Copenhagen has been a cycling city for more than 50 years. What have been the major changes?
Most of all, it has been the development of cycle paths that has increased the Danes’ desire to cycle. It is in the nature of the Danes to cycle – 9 out of 10 own a bicycle, and to help support that trend, more space is need for bikes. The city of Copenhagen alone already has around 400 kilometres of cycle paths – all clearly separated from car lanes and pavements. So things are going in the right direction.
What contribution is society making today and in the future?
There are, for example, annual biking campaigns to get even more people on bikes, and a lot is being done to build jobs around commuting. In addition, science is making a great contribution with studies that prove the great health benefits for people who bike regularly. They request fewer sick days, reduce emissions by 20,000 tonnes a year, and gain €1.00 euro per kilometre in terms of health benefits – quite in contrast to driving.
What does cycling – especially with E-Bikes – mean to the people of Copenhagen today?
E-Bikes are on the rise. Where we used to cycle, enjoyed it and broke sweat, today we can cycle and enjoy it without overexerting ourselves. An average trip by bike in Copenhagen is about five to seven kilometres. This radius extends to 13 to 18 kilometres by E-Bike. Covering a greater distance offers more flexibility and, when you think of Cargo Bikes, makes bikes the best-suited means of inner-city transport.
If you could be mayor of Copenhagen for one year, what would be the first thing you changed?
First, I would widen the cycle paths even more. More and more people are getting on their bikes, and our infrastructure needs to not just adapt but get a head-start on the development we aspire to achieve. Next, I would close the old city centre of Copenhagen to cars.
Where are the limits to cycling in Copenhagen? Which infrastructural elements should be focussed on in the coming years?
We should build more cycle superhighways, as they have helped to promote cycling as our number-one everyday mobility solution. On these cycle routes, the commuters’ needs have been given the highest priority – providing a smooth ride with fewer stops and increased safety. The main purpose of the cycle superhighways is to create better conditions for cyclists and to connect work, study and residential areas, making it even more appealing for commuters to bike to and from work instead of taking a car. Furthermore, the cycle superhighways run near bus and train stations, making it easy to combine cycling with public transportation to cover longer distances smoothly.