On a daily basis, Copenhagen is crossed on bike summing up to 1.2 million kilometres. This equals around thirty round-the-world trips for a population of less than 1.5 million inhabitants. Copenhageners pedal a lot. Given the statistics, pedal power helped alleviate the pollution issues and was a boost for the health system. As much as 37% of the citizens ride bikes nowadays. The urban planning and infrastructure follows the current needs as bike lanes and tracks constantly gain space on the city grid. Surprising for the case of a cold climate, yet the bicycles in town outnumber its inhabitants.
The bicycle craze has been swinging throughout the decades between pleasure and necessity. The upper society hopped on wooden bikes of the 1860′s just for amusement. The “Penny Farting” with the huge front wheel of the 1880′s had an extensive use which brought the first bicycle path in the Danish capital and postal services on bikes. Later on, new designs bloomed along with Mikael Pederson‘s famous prototype. As early as 1905, unions were founded to support and improve the condition of driving on two wheels. Later, the economic boom of the 60′s triggered heavy traffic and high pollution rates that restricted the legislation. The spotlight was again on the bicycles, as alternative ways of transport. Ever since, a collective consciousness influenced the urban culture.
The urban designers embrace the concept as it saves space, offsets the traffic noise, and improves neighbourhood watch. The inhabitants meet as they roll along and interact directly. This ties the citizens, growing a common sense of belonging.
Copenhagen is the case of a wholehearted initiative to liberate the traffic of the toxic engines. The integrated transport strategies and functional bike designs made it an easy choice that satisfies all ages and genders. The comfortable city bikes are adapted for carrying the shopping, the kids, even the toddlers. All taxis are equipped to safely carry two bikes and the trains offer storage possibilities in special compartments. A “green wave” strategy coordinates the red-light at rush hours providing a continuous traffic flow for bikes speeding at 20km/h. Extensively, “green tracks” guide the enthusiasts through parks or towards the wilder outskirts of the city.
Engineers, urban planners and intensive social media advertising built a new identity for their capital city. Jan Gehl himself played a crucial role in implementing the bike culture. Major players, such as the Bicycle Innovation Lab, animate the local grounds with spontaneous exhibitions and debates. The Copenhagenization project went even further by sharing the city’s achievements worldwide as a pioneering bicycling city.
How long will it take until bike-priority transportation prototypes will have priority on a global scale?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.