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Copenhagen’s Climate-Friendly, Bike-Friendly Streets

Tens of thousands of people from nearly every nation on earth have descended on Copenhagen this month for the UN climate summit. As the delegates try to piece together a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they're also absorbing lessons from one of the world's leading cities in sustainable transportation. In Copenhagen, fully 37 percent of commute trips are made by bike, and mode share among city residents alone is even higher.

Come see "the busiest bicycling street in the Western world", and lots of other you-gotta-see-them-to-believe-them features including bike counters (featuring digital readouts), LEDS, double bike lanes (for passing) and giant hot pink cars.

Copenhagen wasn't always such a bicycling haven. It took many years of investment in bike infrastructure to reclaim streets from more polluting, less sustainable modes. Last week, I was able to squeeze in a whirl-wind tour with Mikael Colville-Andersen, the bike culture evangelist behind Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic, to get a taste of the city's impressive bike network and cycling amenities. Watch this video and see how Copenhageners flock to the streets by bike even in December, when average temperatures hover just above freezing.




<blockquote class="_text"> [music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Mikael Colville-Andersen:</cite> We're here in Copenhagen. Welcome to Copenhagen. The climate conference is in full swing at the moment and we're standing here on what is regarded as the busiest bicycle street in the western world. We have a long proud tradition of cycling in Denmark and in Copenhagen. It all started to disappear in the 1960s with the advent of car culture. We spent the last 30 years working hard towards reestablishing the bicycle as a feasible and acceptable form of transport here in the city. We can see here we're standing next to one of the City of Copenhagen's bicycle counters and there is two reasons for implementing these bicycle counters in Copenhagen. One of them is that the data that is gathered here is transmitted to the city so they can track patterns, weather patterns, we get snowing, how many people are riding today or whatnot. But it's also to instill a form of civic pride in Copenhagen. It's because we don't notice the bicycles. The bicycles are tools for us. It's the quickest way to get around the city. So, instilling the kind of civic pride in Copenhageners. "Hey, you know what? You live in the world's cycling capital and look how many people are riding" and hopefully this will encourage more people to ride.</p><p>In Copenhagen, at the moment, we have 37 percent of all commuters choosing the bicycles for work, or educational institutions, or schools, and whatnot, 37 percent. Actually, if you look at the number of all trips by bike to the supermarket, to the cinema, we're up to 55 percent in the city of Copenhagen. But we're actually working towards increasing these numbers. We want the number of commuters on bike up to 50 percent by 2015. We are going to take a ride around Copenhagen and see some of the infrastructural things that we're doing you know to encourage more people to cycle and to keep our cyclists safe.</p><p>And this street here is called Nørrebro North Bridge Street and we're going to take a ride up here because this is actually quite a well known street this year, in the last couple of years from a urban planning perspective and bicycle planning perspective. You can see on this stretch, it's the busiest bicycle street in the western world of 38.000 cyclists but what we have done first of all on some of the busy stretches was that we doubled the bike lanes. We took another lane away from the cars and we have a double bike lane here to accommodate the enormous amount of traffic.</p><p>This is the first place in the world where we have created the "Green Wave" for cyclists for six kilometers into the center of the city. All the traffic lights are coordinated for bikes. You have to ride 20 kilometers an hour. If you do that, you're not going to put a foot down all the way to the center of the city.</p><p>The evolution of our bicycle culture and our bicycle infrastructure is it's always evolving. We're always working on improving safety, improving the mobility of the bicycles. In a lot of intersections, we have "pre-greens" as we call them, where the lights for bicycles turn green seconds before the cars, between two seconds, in some cases up to 12 seconds before the cars. This is just to allow the bicycle traffic to start flowing. But every intersection is individual.</p><p>This intersection, this used to be one of the most dangerous intersections in Denmark. 15 serious accidents a year in this intersection here by the lake. Now we've reduced it to one serious accident a year which is absolutely amazing.</p><p>This is brand new. From last week, we have introduced LED lights on our bicycle infrastructure to help avoid right turn conflicts between cars and bikes. So, what we have is, we have these flashing lights that indicate that a bicycle is on the way through the intersection. So, it's only visible to cars in their side mirrors. They're not visible for the cyclists who are riding because we would rather have them looking at the traffic. So, now you can see they've turned off. The cyclists have stopped and the cars are allowed to turn.</p><p>One of the things that makes Copenhagen very unique is the number of cargo bikes that we have here. When so few people own cars, we still need to transport various things around. In Copenhagen, there's about 30,000 cargo bikes on the streets every day. These are really our SUVs. You cannot live without them, the bike I've been riding on today. I pick up my two kids every day from school and daycare and go to the supermarket and whatnot.</p><p>So, the problem with these are that they're expensive. You don't really want to leave him on the street. The city of Copenhagen has a new initiative they're just test driving at the moment and this is a way to give our cargo bikes a place to park on the street. It's a car but there's cargo bikes in it and it's locked and it's secured. We took away one parking spot for cars by implementing this here. So, there's room for four people to park where there used to be only room for one.</p><p>If you make the bicycle the quickest way to get around the city, for the citizens, with separated bicycle infrastructure with lots of initiative for the bicycle. You're going to get everybody and their dog to do it and they're going to do their bit for the environment and for reducing pollution in the city and all the good things and for the public health.</p><p>I hope we can inspire other cities to do the same, implementing the bicycle as a prospective and accepted and feasible form of transport. And really, this is bicycle culture 2.0. The bicycle wasn't invented yesterday. All cities in the world used to have a bicycle as a main feature on their landscape. We did it again here in Copenhagen. Other cities are doing it again. It's possible for every city.</p><p>[music] </blockquote> <br/><br/>
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  • Lars

    WOW! I want bike counters on Bergen Street!

  • http://www.galfromdownunder.com Galfromdownunder

    It was fun to snag HuffPost Hopenhagen Ambassador David Kroodsma for a quick video interview (and a cheap and cheesy cyclists breakfast) before he headed off to Copenhagen. He reports that he arrived at the airport, put together his dad's Bike Friday, hitched up the suitcase and rode on the dedicated path to the action. Bet Al Gore didn't do that!
    For the curious ... the interview, video of him riding from the airport and other story about his Ride for Climate pursuits at
    Warning: strong adult Bike Friday themes despite 6' tall Kroodsma riding my Speeding tikit built for 5' tall me

  • John

    Shame the delegates still insist on being ferried around by gas guzzling BMW's and Merc's... 

  • http://www.pixanova.com Nik

    Impressive. Super innovative. Good for you guys. Well done...

    We only speak about thinking 'outside the box' over here but no one has ventured out yet. Hope we follow in you bike path eventually

  • Stelios

    Very nice .... and here we ate struggling to drive in the road with all the crazy drivers. 

    I hope that all of EU countries start following this path ! 

  • Anton Pirker


    This is awesome! I am from Vienna and we have some bike lanes, but we are ages away from something like you have in Copenhagen!

    I have send this video to all the contact email addresses i have found in the Austrian ministry for traffic and infrastructure.

    Hopefully at least one of them is watching it and things about it!

    Go ahead! Everybody send this video to your ministries and governments!

  • Jeroen

    I think this is great!
    But to claim that you are THE bicycle city and that you have the busiest bicycle street in the Western World is frankly ridiculous. There's this little country called the Netherlands, where almost everybody owns at least one bicycle.
    There are numerous streets in the cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam that have way more traffic than Copenhagen.

  • Joe Metzger

    Helmets aren't widely used. I wonder why.

  • http://amsterdamize.com Amsterdamize

    @Jeroen: you're absolutely right. It's just that Copenhagen has been better at marketing this internationally than the Dutch (authorities/cycling orgs), who STILL play down/are way too modest about their achievements and underestimate the global interest. 

    I'm doing my part the best I can. :)

    @Joe: not widely when you're from the US, but 20-30% is a lot in European terms. Which is at odds with quite a few of their campaign slogans. Turns out almost 50% of CPH people don't feel the infrastructure is safe enough to ride daily and less and less parents let their children ride to school. 

    Mikael has been fighting the helmet fear-mongering for a reason for quite some time now.

    Oh, so much work to be done, in any city, in any country. Just to inject some perspective :).

    PS: I've cycled in CPH myself and have crunched many statistics and policies in the last year and a half. Ask away if needed. 

  • Jacob L.

    Very inspiring! Hope this can happen in North America.

    One thing though, I find that the pink car shell used to park cargo bikes is awfully large, and I can't imagine those things lining the streets.

  • http://amsterdamize.com Amsterdamize
  • Jorge

    Can't wait to have more infraestructure like this in Mexico City, a car centric city. Hopefully there are some interesting projects for the next year like bike rentals near subway and bus stations.

  • Steve

    15 accidents a year? Sounds so dangerous.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/edpino Ed Pino

    I have said it before Europe is sooooooo far ahead of us in many ways

  • http://copenhagenize.com Mikael

    Jeroen, having spoken with your Fietsberaad and Fietsersbond here in Copenhagen, I can understand that there are no streets with 38,000 cyclists a day in Holland. There are, of course, many streets with loads and loads of cyclists.

    The street in question is so busy because of the layout of the city. It is a funnel leading to the city centre and that's why it has so many cyclists on it.

    The parallel streets only have 20,000 or so cyclists on them.

  • Ted lewandowski

    I like the bike counters, the coordinated bike traffic lights, delayed green lights and the led lights only visible to vehicles ideas.

    We should send all our politicians there to see all this first hand.

    We're fighting our city government just to have bike lanes striped in Rhode Island - sad!

  • vanlose

    CPH is just adorable place for bikers..nobody really cares about the temperature

  • mathew

    what kind of cargo bike is the white bike the presenter is riding?

  • Bill

    I live in Winnipeg - the backwards people here are calling to have the bikes taken off the streets - but we have never been known for being a forward-thinking city.

  • Phil

    Bill is correct, Winnipeg is a disaster. A previous mayor put up "Bike Route" signs around the city. No other changes. No bike lanes, bridges, nothing. Just the fricken' signs. Buy an SUV or big pickup truck if you want to get around this bike hating city. Or move somewhere else (as I plan to).

  • Erik

    I'm a resident of Boston.  Our own streets do not look very different from those of Copenhagen at rush hour.  On the Beacon/Hampshire corridor through Somerville it is very regular for the number of cyclists to match or exceed the number of cars during the morning commute.  I do not own a car; but to transport heavy loads use a cargo bike shared among members of my house.

    The change here year to year is visible.  But it has not been easy.  We cyclists are enacting it without much support from city governments.  We don't have well-timed lights, and running reds is the only way that a bike can be beat a car as an urban transit tool.  This means that riders are more likely to be young, male, and very fit.  After years of riding with cars at their speeds, I have trouble imagining using a bike path in which the average travel speed is only 20kph.  I might try to ride in the road!

    In the long term this is a very sad situation.  Everyone should have rights to the freedom of movement that the bicycle offers.

  • Drew

    That's very different from my native Texas...
    I'm literally too scared to bike on the streets here; I have to bike on the few sidewalks there are. I know two people who have gotten hit by trucks...
    How awesome Copenhagen must be...

  • http://hembrow.blogspot.com David Hembrow

    I've commented on the use of statistics on Copenhagenize before. Copenhagen has done very well, but it's still a long behind many Dutch cities in cycle usage. Especially behind Groningen, where over 50% of all journeys are by bike (they don't just count commuters, and this is important).

    As for the busy streets stuff... There are streets in Groningen with more than 10000 cyclists a day, and Groningen's population is only a tenth of Copenhagen's.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/maggieclarke Maggie Clarke

    Interesting article. If that's a bike counter, we need a few hundred for NYC. I was in Copenhagen a year ago and took photos of some of those bicyclists and double bike lanes. I was also in Amsterdam, which I must say has Copenhagen beat for sheer numbers of bicycles on the street.

  • http://www.bicyclefreedom.com Jacob

    Why oh why can't we make something like this happen in Los Angeles? I look at our latest "bike plan" and weep with shame...

  • Cheryl

    Wow, I love the bike lights, the green wave, and the LED lights. It would be so cool if Chicago would implement any or all of those!

  • bjorn

    People should not forget that the accidents in Copenhagen have also increased with the installation of cycle tracks (http://www.ecf.com/files/2/12/16/070503_Cycle_Tracks_Copenhagen.pdf). The typical cycle track accidents - a motorist turning right - has increased by 129 percent. When all accident types are combined, accidents have increased by 10 percent since installing cycle tracks.

    Imagine a traffic engineer creating an intersection where motorists would approach on three lanes. The lanes would be done as this from left to right: left-turn lane, right-turn lane, straight-through lane. That traffic engineer would likely be fired. In Europe they are celebrated.

    Here is some data from Freiburg/Germany out of a report that gathered data from 2005-2007
    A.) Basler Str: 33800 cars/24hrs; length 1300m; 800-2000 cyclists/16hrs; 41 accidents (11 with severely injured persons)
    B.) Habsburger Str: 22700 cars/24hrs; length 1550m; 3435 cyclists/16hrs; 32 accidents (3 with severely injured persons)

    Note that street A has a complete system of cycle tracks, street B does not (on one side there is a very short section, about 50 meters). All other streets in Freiburg that carry between 20-25,000 cars a day have also a variety of facilities installed and ALL of them have a lot more severely injured persons than street B.

    You can also see that a street without facilities still attracts a lot of cyclists.

    These points are never acknowledged by cycle track proponents. By looking at the above example you'd think they would be concerned about street A, but instead they will now add cycle tracks to street B! Crazy.

  • GeneC

    And to the cycle track opponents... show me any city without cycle tracks that has a bike modal share anywhere close to even 5%.

    The US has an overall modal share of just under 2%.

    Copenhagen has a modal share of over 30%, Oulu Finland has a modal share of over 20%, Davis, CA has a cycling modal share of over 15%, Portland, Or has a cycling modal share of around 6%.

    What city without cycle facilities has a cycling modal share above 2%?

    Anyone... Anyone... ???

    And yet some folks insist that cycling facilities are not needed. Go figure.

  • http://www.velo-city2010.com/ Nicoline Jacoby Hansen

    This year in June, Copenhagen is hosting the first global bicycling conference that aims at inspiring cities around the world to become more bicycle-friendly.

    VELO CITY GLOBAL 2010 brings together appr. 800 participants; cycling experts, city planners, decision makers, NGOs and researchers who will share knowledge about the potential and challenges of cycling and experience bicycling in Copenhagen first-hand.

    The League of American Bicyclists is aiming for at least 100 participants to be there from the United States. http://www.bikeleague.org/conferences/velo_city_global2010/index.php

  • http://www.velo-city2010.com/ Nicoline Jacoby Hansen

    @ mathew: The presenter's white cargo bike is a Bullit designed by Larry vs Harry (based in Copenhagen). Check them out here:

  • Ben from Harlem

    I just returned from a week long vacation with my wife to Copenhagen. We rented bikes during our stay and loved every minute, but for some cold weather.

    Some observations - the city is fantastic for biking, so much so that we hardly minded our cold toes.

    It felt so safe, quick and easy to get around. Only honked at one time, when I made an error navigating an intersection.

    Bikes cars and pedestrians cooperate to make it safe for everyone...the right turns are the best example...bikes go straight across an intersection or turn right, while the cars wait. Then the bikes wait and the cars turn right. Tricky merges, left turns, etc. are all designed in a way that makes things safer.

    We went to see an exhibit about bike culture there at the city museum. One thing that made an impression is how this city wasn't always like this. They've always had a love for bikes but really its been the last couple of decades where traffic engineers have built out the cycle track network and improved the traffic signals so much. And what's inspirational is that it wasn't a top-down thing - really, the people of Copenhagen who loved to bike and wanted to make it safer have been politically involved for decades.
    And now they still aren't done...with more work to do improving each remaining dangerous intersection, adding more lanes throughout the city.
    So here in New York City, where I care about improving our bike network, I will dream of Copenhagen and remember that it took them many many years to become a biking shangri-la.
    All biking lovers should visit Copenhagen to experience the joy themselves. And maybe during spring or summer if you like warm toes!

  • danc

    >What city without cycle facilities has a cycling modal share above 2%?
    I'm not worry about ANY particular city modal share.
    >Anyone... Anyone... ???
    >And yet some folks insist that cycling facilities are not needed. Go figure.
    2.4MM USD per mile for urban cycletrack seems a tuff sell.

  • James D

    danc suggests "2.4MM USD per mile for urban cycletrack seems a tuff sell"

    Not really, when you consider that the cost of pollution from cars in many states runs into the billions, and once a cycletrack is built it is of much less cost to maintain because bicycles dont create the same wear because of their weight. IT's a good investment in short.

  • http://www.californiality.com California Blogger

    California has tried so hard to have a bike-friendly society, but it is the Car Culture epicenter of the world. Was nice to see Schwarzenegger at Copenhagen, though. Maybe he snatched a few ideas?

  • http://www.beat-theheat.weebly.com/ eagle eye

    how it has been!

    how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!how it has been!


    Shame on you Riga!! Look what Copenhagen has made..

  • James D

    To hell with my country Australia, I would give up the warm weather, etc, to be able to ride my bike in peace. I would love to live in a country that saw cycling as a legitimate mode of transport.

  • beth!

    way to go, denmark! our percent of trips made by bike is a little lower here in Aarhus (Denmark's second largest city), but it still beats the pants off anywhere I have lived in the US (although I do miss the critical mass rides in LA!).

  • http://www.ecf.com/ frans

    Great I like this movie.
    My thanks to the producers who prepared this movie .
    The bicycle parade was one of the many high-lights of thid Velo-city 2010
    Copenhagen-ize or Amsterdam-ize we should, can and will cycle-ize the world

    Frans ECF boardmember

  • http://www.ctc.org.uk/campaigns Roger Geffen, CTC (the UK national cyclists’ organisation)


    You ask a good question.

    In Britain, there are quite a number of towns with cycle mode shares in double figures. For commuting trips (the only data we have at local level), Cambridge has 26%, Oxford 15%, York 12%, Hull 12%, Gosport 11% and Boston 10%.

    I cannot say for sure that any of these are cities without cycle tracks - I doubt it. But in Cambridge, Oxford and York, segregated cycle tracks are certainly not the norm, and even where provided they are often not used by the cyclists because they are so poorly designed (especially some of the cycle tracks in Oxford).

    Cambridge and Oxford are both student cities of course, but cycle use is also widespread among the wider working populations of those cities too. Like York, they are historic cities, which means they haven't been riddled with wide roads - natural traffic restraint, if you like! But this factor also limits the space available for really well-designed wide cycle tracks. Whichever way you look at it, it's not a simple debate.

    I too have been wondering whether there are limits to how many people one can get on bikes in a highly motorised country without the widespread use of well-designed segregated cycle tracks. And conversely, whether there are particular conditions (e.g. design standards, traffic laws, driver behaviour etc) which are either beneficial or perhaps essential for segregation to work well, without adversely affecting cyclists’ safety at or near junctions (where c70& of cyclists’ collisions occur). And even if segregation is the best strategy for getting cycle mode share nationally beyond c5-10%, are the strategies we’re currently trying to pursue in Britain (20mph speed limits, cycle training, 'smarter choices' measures etc) more cost-effective at raising cycle use to a sufficient level in order to mobilise the political will to fund the provision of really good cycle tracks - i.e. to get to the next stage in creating a strong cycling culture?

    I have my opinions on these questions, but I’d have to admit I don’t really have answers based on sound knowledge and evidence. So if anyone else has answers to GeneC's question, or those I've asked, I'll be watching with interest!

    At the Velo-city conference itself, there was some very strong and unquestioning advocacy of segregated cycle tracks from several plenary speakers, notably Jeanette Sadiq Khan, Gil Penelosa and Jan Gehl. What's more, for myself working in an organisation which is generally sceptical of segregation, the self-evident advocacy of cycle tracks provided by the streets of Copenhagen itself was certainly pretty thought-provoking!

    So I only wish there had been opportunities at the conference to probe these types of questions. Having said that, I thought it was an excellent conference overall - by far and away the best of the 5 Velo-city conferences I’ve been to.

    So, big big congratulations and thanks to the European Cyclists' Federation for organising it. Likewise to the maker of this great video - a wonderful momento of a fantastic week!

    Roger Geffen
    Campaigns & Policy Director
    CTC, the national cyclists' organisation

  • Roger Woolford

    Until the cost of owning and using a car in the US is up close to the costs in Europe real significant progress for cyclists will not happen. Check the cost of buying and running a car in Denmark, it is the highest in Europe and probably the world. 

  • http://www.seomarketingservicesonline.com Link Building Services

    I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I've bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  • http://www.tupbebekgebelik.com gebelik

    Love it. I equate this to the same thing as cookie based advertising.ol.

  • http://akerpub.com Tom

    Cool video, I love it very much.
    Thank for share.

  • http://rubias-21.com rubias

    This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. 19-1-2011_19_20_6

  • http://www.ascoss.com automation

    Climate change is a global problem, and yet each one of us has the power to make a difference. Even small changes in our daily behaviour can help prevent greenhouse gas emissions without affecting our quality of life. In fact, they can help save us money!

  • http://www.howtomeasurebrasizez.com/ How To Measure Bra Size

    It has been a tough ride but definitely worth it

  • http://www.become-an-electrician.com Become An Electrician

    It's nice to see Copenhagen infrastructure to reclaim streets by utilizing bikes and creating less pollution.

  • http://www.howtomeasurebrasizez.com/ How To Measure Bra Size

    I can't disagree with you. Copenhagen will host the next worldcup Inshallah 😀

  • http://www.vilalala.com jahorina smestaj

    next cup is in Copenhagen?