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Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes

While Streetfilms was in Copenhagen for the Velo-City 2010 conference, of course we wanted to showcase its biking greatness.  But we were also looking to take a different perspective then all the myriad other videos out there.  Since there were an abundance of advocates, planners, and city transportation officials attending from the U.S. and Canada, we thought it'd be awesome to get their reactions to the city's built environment and compare to bicycling conditions in their own cities.

If you've never seen footage of the Copenhagen people riding bikes during rush hour - get ready - it's quite a site, as nearly 38% of all transportation trips in Copenhagen are done by bike.  With plenty of safe, bicycle infrastructure (including hundreds of miles of physically separated cycletracks) its no wonder that you see all kinds of people on bikes everywhere.  55% of all riders are female, and you see kids as young as 3 or 4 riding with packs of adults.

Much thanks to the nearly two dozen folks who talked to us for this piece.  You'll hear astute reflections from folks like Jeff Mapes (author of "Pedaling Revolution"), Martha Roskowski (Program Manager, GO Boulder), Andy Clarke (President, League of American Bicyclists), Andy Thornley (Program Director, San Francisco Bike Coalition) and Tim Blumenthal (President, Bikes Belong) and Yvonne Bambrick (Executive Director, Toronto's Cyclists Union) just to name drop a few of the megastars.

<blockquote class="_text"> [intro music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_1_text"> <cite class="speaker_1" >Yvonne Bambrick:</cite> [0:26] Copenhagen is best-case scenario for bicycles. They have properly integrated bicycles into the transportation fabric. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_2_text"> <cite class="speaker_2" >Felicia Williams:</cite> [0:31] I think one of the main things is the separated bike lanes because it makes people feel safer. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_3_text"> <cite class="speaker_3" >Andy Thornley :</cite> [0:35] And everywhere you go you have a sense of a very humane and human city. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_4_text"> <cite class="speaker_4" >Nicole Jensen:</cite> [0:40] And the people here, it's just part of their daily lives to cycle and I just find that so amazing.</p><p>[music] </p><p>[crowd crosstalk] [0:43] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_5_text"> <cite class="speaker_5" >Andy Clarke:</cite> [1:05] The fact that there are around about 100 people here from North America from the U. S. and Canada I think is cause for optimism because I think one of the things we've lacked in the U. S. is the real belief that this stuff actually works, that we've been making it up and saying Copenhagen's like this. But until you really see it, touch it, and feel it for yourself and you ride the streets of Copenhagen during rush hour, it's really hard to believe. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_6_text"> <cite class="speaker_6" >Martha Roskowski:</cite> [1:28] They have created a system where every single road works for bicycling. Some of them are quiet streets where you just ride right on the street. Some of them they have painted bike lanes. But more often they have cycle tracks, which are these elevated bike paths. It's only two or three inches of elevation with a little bit of curb and some asphalt filled in, but the difference that it makes is really profound. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_7_text"> <cite class="speaker_7" >Leah Shahum:</cite> [1:53] They've really made safe facilities, comfortable facilities, facilities that are welcoming for people of all skill levels. What you do have is a lot of cargo bikes that are often moving slower. You've got a mom or dad pedaling one, two, sometimes three. I've seen children in the cargo bikes. That slow speed is not only accommodated, but it's almost celebrated. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_8_text"> <cite class="speaker_8" >Peter Furth:</cite> [2:12] A lot of times in the U. S. when you're riding your bike, you feel almost like an outlaw. You feel like, "Oh, can I just find a little tiny bit of space for myself?" Here, you feel like they're just laying out the red carpet for you. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_9_text"> <cite class="speaker_9" >Jeff Mapes:</cite> [2:25] In American cities when you come to a really busy street, that's when you really tense up and you wonder, "Can I get across this street?" When you come to a busy street in Copenhagen, you say, "Oh, good! I know I'm going to find a cycle track here, and it's going to be a quick route. I'm going to be where I need to be in five minutes." I mean what a difference from just about any place else that I've been!"</p><p>[music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_10_text"> <cite class="speaker_10" >Jackie Douglas:</cite> [2:54] I love the counters on the side of the road. It makes you feel like you should be on the road, that it's OK to be here. You don't feel like anyone's going to tell you to get out of the way. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_11_text"> <cite class="speaker_11" >Klaus Grimar:</cite> [3:05] We're here standing in Copenhagen at Nørrebrogade. And Nørrebrogade is the busiest street for cycling in Copenhagen. Last year we put this machine up. There's now 36, 000 cyclists per day in this street. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_12_text"> <cite class="speaker_12" >Andy Clarke:</cite> [3:18] To stand and see a couple hundred cyclists go through an intersection, and then realize that just a block away there's another hundred coming, it's a phenomenal experience. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_13_text"> <cite class="speaker_13" >Yvonne Bambrick:</cite> [3:28] We went by the counter last night, and I was cyclist 10,361. That is amazing! It is just feels really empowering to know what's possible. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_14_text"> <cite class="speaker_14" >Andreas Rohl:</cite> [3:39] In Copenhagen it's mainstream to go on a bicycle. It's everybody. It's all incomes. It's all age groups. It's both female and male, so that means the average cyclist is a pretty-well [inaudible] person.</p><p>[music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_15_text"> <cite class="speaker_15" >Leah Shahum:</cite> [4:02] I've from some of the Copenhageners that it's 55 percent women biking here in the city, which is really impressive and it feels like that. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_16_text"> <cite class="speaker_16" >Felicia Williams:</cite> [4:09] One of the main things is the separated bike lanes because it makes people feel safer, and the slow speeds of cars also makes people feel safer with their kids. You see just like these buckets o' kids. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_17_text"> <cite class="speaker_17" >Nicole Jensen:</cite> [4:19] The cargo bikes, you're child's in the front with you. You can put your groceries in there, just total utilitarian everyday kind of stuff. Why wouldn't you ride? Why wouldn't women and children ride here? It just seems so practical and so obvious. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_18_text"> <cite class="speaker_18" >Martha Roskowski:</cite> [4:33] You see these women wearing skirts, dresses, and high heels, and just pedaling around. They obviously feel comfortable taking their kids on bicycles. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_19_text"> <cite class="speaker_19" >Tim Blumenthal:</cite> [4:41] One thing that I've noticed here are a lot of really little bikes. They're like four-year-old kids. They ride a straight line, and they're super on it and ride better than most American adults. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_20_text"> <cite class="speaker_20" >Mikael Colville-Andersen:</cite> [4:53] The kids have training at schools in the third grade and again in the ninth grade. They have to do proficiency tests on the bike lane signaling and all that stuff. My son who's eight was riding on the bike lanes to Kindergarten with me or to daycare when he was three and a half with his training wheels riding along. It's just the way it is. You have to. It's a practical solution. The kids have to start riding so you can get around the city.</p><p>[music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_21_text"> <cite class="speaker_21" >Peter Furth:</cite> [5:25] The drivers get tamed. That's my expression, they get tamed. They look before crossing. Lots of intersections I've seen, a car wants to turn right and just sits there waiting while four, five, six bikes go by, and then, when the coast is clear, then they make their right turn.</p><p>[5:42] Drivers are so comfortable and familiar with what to do around cyclists that even when you remove all the infrastructure, in the sense that you're on a street without any bike infrastructure, you still feel very safe. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_22_text"> <cite class="speaker_22" >Felicia Williams:</cite> [5:53] There is sort of a driver education component, but the speeds are basically what do it. I think that's what brings people down, and people being accustomed to cyclists in general. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_23_text"> <cite class="speaker_23" >Mikael Colville-Andersen:</cite> [6:02] We trust them on such a fantastic level because that lady, or that guy in the car, they've got a bike at home. They were on the bike lanes when they were five years old, six years old, so we understand each other. We're all cyclists. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_24_text"> <cite class="speaker_24" >Tim Blumenthal:</cite> [6:14] The more people ride, the more the motorists expect to see cyclists out there, the safer it becomes. There is safety in numbers. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_25_text"> <cite class="speaker_25" >Ida Auken:</cite> [6:22] It's just a different brought up with this. I didn't think about all of this until I went to New York, for instance. That's when I really became aware of what we do here in Copenhagen, that biking is just part of our life.</p><p>[music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_26_text"> <cite class="speaker_26" >Jackie Douglas:</cite> [6:46] I've never once had to lift up my bicycle. There's ramps at every stairwell. There's places to put your bicycle. Lovely. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_27_text"> <cite class="speaker_27" >Jeff Mapes:</cite> [6:55] One of the things that... Just is an incredible feeling of freedom here is to roll up to your apartment, or store, or restaurant. You slip your key into that simple little back tire lock, click it, pull the key out, and walk away. No wrapping a chain around a tree or a pole. It makes even shorter bicycle trips more possible. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_28_text"> <cite class="speaker_28" >Andy Thornley:</cite> [7:23] It's very impressive to see the special infrastructure, the special traffic treatments, the little tiny turn pockets, the traffic signalization. We have the Green Wave here, the signal timing that supports a continuous and comfortable bicycle movement. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_29_text"> <cite class="speaker_29" >Andreas Rohl:</cite> [7:38] You have a Green Wave adjusted for the speed of the bicycle instead of to the speed of a car. So we have, for example, a stretch where you can pass. If you travel at 20 kilometers per hour, then you can pass. I think it's 14 traffic lights. They'll all be green for you. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_30_text"> <cite class="speaker_30" >Tim Blumenthal:</cite> [7:54] Wherever they're doing construction, road construction, they always drop down these temporary asphalt ramps, so that... Even if it's just working on it for half a day, or a couple hours, you never have a curb where you approach. There always will be a transition. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_31_text"> <cite class="speaker_31" >Ida Auken:</cite> [8:11] This is the Danish Parliament, where I work. One of our big victories in recent years was we got about 10, 15 parking lots shoved down and turned into bike parking. Every morning you'll see Parliamentarians. You'll see all the people working in the Parliament coming with their bikes, placing them in front of the Parliament.</p><p>This is the most beautiful, wonderful bike city in the whole world. </p><p>[music] </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_32_text"> <cite class="speaker_32" >Jeff Mapes:</cite> [8:45] Too much, in the United States, there's a feeling of the other. That somebody on a bicycle, that's not me. That's some different kind of creature. Here, it's very clear. A person on a cycle, that's just me using a different mode of transportation. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_33_text"> <cite class="speaker_33" >Martha Roskowski:</cite> [8:59] Copenhagen has hit some point of transformation where bicycling is cheaper, easier, quicker, perhaps safer than any other mode of transportation. And so, it's just what people do. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_34_text"> <cite class="speaker_34" >Leah Shahum:</cite> [9:12] I think if we can succeed in making our streets back home safe and welcoming for moms, for parents bringing their children out, we will have succeeded. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_35_text"> <cite class="speaker_35" >Andy Clarke:</cite> [9:22] The painted bike lane is great for the committed and enthusiastic cyclist, but for the next big swath of the population, that isn't going to be enough. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_36_text"> <cite class="speaker_36" >Andy Thornley:</cite> [9:31] We need to find a way to give bicycle riders a place that's comfortable, and inviting, and has a sense of safety. We don't have that yet. So, we need to move on that, and we need to accompany it with promotion, and education, and explanations. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_37_text"> <cite class="speaker_37" >Andy Clarke:</cite> [9:44] We could do this fairly easily and fairly inexpensively in just about any US city. The only thing that we would need to do is have the will and the political power to squeeze the cars a bit.</p><p>[9:56] We like to say, just to put people at ease, that Copenhagen didn't do it overnight. It took 40 years to get where they are today. We don't have the luxury of waiting 40 years to get to that point in US cities. We have to do it a lot more quickly. </blockquote> <blockquote class="speaker_38_text"> <cite class="speaker_38" >Jan Gehl:</cite> [10:09] To me, it is fantastic to be in a city where every morning when you wake up, you have the feeling that the city is a little bit better than it was yesterday. It's remarkable to have that feeling every morning for forty fifty years. That is the case in Copenhagen.</p><p>[music] </p><p>[10:28] </blockquote> <br/><br/>
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  • Copenhagen cyclist

    Thanks for this great film! Clarence, in your post, you asked about statistics on helmets in Copenhagen.

    The most recent study was done in 2008 (and I am sure the development has continued upwards as more "trendy" helmets have hit the market) by the Danish Road Safety Council. It found that between 2006 and 2008, almost all age groups had increased their use of helmets:

    Under 11 years old: from 67 to 66%
    Between 11-15 years old: from 22 to 16%
    Between 16-25 years old: from 6 to 6%
    Between 26-60 years old: from 11 to 16%
    Over 60 years old: from 5 to 14%

    These statistics are for Denmark as a whole, and in regional terms, in greater Copenhagen, up to 28% of adults wore helmets, while in the provincial city of Aalborg, only 5% wore helmets.

    The report (in Danish only) is at http://www.sikkertrafik.dk/Paa%20cykel/~/media/Files/Rapporter/cykelhjelmsrapport_2009.ashx

    The one factor I must add, and which has to be thought in in an American context, is that of the car driver. I have driven very little since moving to Denmark (we have no car - it's expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary in a country with such great cycling and public transport infrastructure).

    However, those times that I have driven, my American driver's training has not been adequate for me to take cyclists into account. Drivers really have to learn to think the cyclists into their maneuvers - to look over their right shoulder when turning right (not just use the side mirror) and to be aware of where the cyclists "could be".

    To realise the level of safety on the streets of American cities that we have here in Copenhagen would require a major adjustment to how people drive their cars - and in my opinion would require adjustments to driver education curricula.

    In any case, great film!

  • http://www.opednews.com/author/author24983.html Scott Baker

    Fantastic! Every day is like Transportation Alternatives' Century Tour. This proves that once you hit critical mass, there's no turning back; bike-riding just becomes part of everyone's life and every planner's thinking.
    Compare riding in Copenhagen to riding in East Midtown Manhattan, where there are NO BIKE LANES AT ALL! Oh, except for those 1-2 block jokes on 54th and 55th that dump you off First Avenue and onto Second, respectively, as if the side streets were the problem and not the most congested, dangerous avenues in the city! This is also the region of the 38-60th street Greenway Gap. In Copenhagen, you don't hear about Greenways, because every way is a bikeway!
    Another thing that can't be stressed enough - people seem so fit and thin, not waddling down the street like in the bike-lane challenged sections of the city. Although our lifespans are essentially the same as in Denmark, they seem to do it much more naturally, without expensive and difficult medical intervention - a very nice side benefit, and one that saves lots of money...for more bike lanes!

  • http://www.paddedshorts.co.uk extra

    When I took my driving license in Denmark we where told to always to look for cyclist and to give way to them if we were to cross their lane. Along with pulling right into the kerb to make sure that a cyclist could't pull up next to you and into the blind spot. 

    What really helped you to understand cyclist as a driver, is that everyone in Denmark cycled everywhere before they to their driving test, well we did in the 70's-80's.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Sharon5BBC Sharon Behnke

    This is a fabulous video! very professional and worthy of cinematic acclaim - I agree with Ed - it should be entered into a documentary film festival! Great job, Clarence!

  • Jeff Knowles

    Having been to Copenhagen I'd like to point out that the lower temperatures, relatively flat topography, and population density support cycling in ways not found in most US cities. Just adding bike lanes, sharrows, signal timing, bike racks, etc is not enough. Take away the bike facilities and Copenhagen is not typical of Anytown, USA.

  • Juliana Roberts Dubovsky

    Thanks for making this awesome video! I lived in Copenhagen for a little while and you really showed how glorious and easy it is to ride in Copenhagen. Granted, our glasses are a little rosy, but the film really illustrates the cultural and policy differences that make Denmark (and other countries) so bicycle and bi-modal friendly. Thanks, Clarence and Streetfilms!

  • http://ibikelondon.blogspot.com MarkA

    Just perfect!  It's so important to show what's achievable and what's out there for the taking if only we'll all start planning for it.  Copenhagenize!

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

    As wonderful as Copenhagen is for cycling (and I've seen it first hand as far back as 1969), I think Amsterdam has even more bicycles based on my observation of both in October, 2008.  We can learn from both.  Amsterdam has more public transportation issues like streetcars as well as buses and bikes jamming the roads (and lots of canals, more than Copenhagen) to complicate matters.  Yet they pull it off.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Green_Idea_Factory Todd Edelman

    A Handy Fact from Green Idea Factory, Division of Solidarity in Sustainability: According to recent data in Wikipedia, both NYC and Copenhagen have nearly the same everything-but-private-automobile modal share.

  • Mark Are

    I ride a road bike in the town of Harrison Arkansas and frankly what surprises me is that folks in cars will slow down for a cat or dog and ignore a cyclist as if he weren't there. I literally have to ride in the middle of the right lane in town to get people to give me room. When I ride to the right of the lane they will come within one foot all the time. It get's pretty aggravating. The other thing I have noticed is so many inconsiderate drivers have handicapped license plates. Are they jealous? Makes me wonder...

  • HaraldS

    For the first half of my so far 40+years of cycling I rode helmet free until regulations came in. While it might seem more free not to wear a helmet, it is pretty unwise especially for extended trips and even just around home. I had my head saved by a helmet (it disintegrated on impact but my head didn't hit the ground) when a pedal snapped (metal fatigue?) at about 40km/h and basic physics took over. Of course a helmet won't save you from everything - common sense and luck helps here - but who wants brain injury or death?

  • Cph

    I guess, I am one of the unwise deathwishers.

    Sorry, but I am getting tired of that sort of emotional arguments.

    Going 40km/h while pushing the pedals, some could say, you were the unwise one.
    Maybe lured by the safety of the helmet. It was not a typical cyclist situation.

    Regular cardrivers are not required, to use the same equipment as racedrivers either.

    I can´t think of any other major way of transportation, where they would dream of requiring the person to wear safety equipment. Scaring people away is not good business. Psycological, there is a big difference between equipping the person or the vehicle/environment.

    That is why you see adds like this from Volvo in Holland:

    "Bij Volvo staat veiligheid voorop. Niet alleen van de mensen in een Volvo, maar ook van iedereen eromheen. Daarom introduceren we nu de POCito: de Volvo onder de kinderfietshelmen."

    "At Volvo safety comes first. Not only for the people in a Volvo, but also of everyone around it. Therefore we now introduce the POCito: the Volvo amongst the children’s bike helmets."


  • Glenn Klith Andersen

    What an inspiring film, thanks for making and sharing.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Green_Idea_Factory Todd Edelman

    There is some discussion of the Volvo children's helmet promotion in the Netherlands starting here.

  • HaraldS

    Cph: Basic physics isn't an emotional argument. Also, going 40km/h on a bicycle is not particularly fast or unusual - slower riders might be going 20km/h. In any case a helmetless collision with a solid object (the ground or a pole) would not be ideal even at the low speeds shown in the video. In my case I had a mechanical failure at moderate speed compounded by using a road bicycle with drop handelbars - touring bars or MTB bars would maybe have given a better chance of regaining control.

    So, while I like the idea of riding helmetless, unless I am clearly just puddling around on a touring/MTB bike (which I grew up on) for commuting on a racing style bike, helmets are a good idea. I've bicycle-commuted extensively in various countries: Australia, Germany, Sweden and the USA - and you can guess which of these countries are more bike friendly.

  • Cph

    Physics may not be emotional.

    My comment regarding emotional arguments, was aimed at your finishing line. After you had brushed off any helmet doubters as silly people, who wants to ride free, you said:

    "Of course a helmet won't save you from everything - common sense and luck helps here - but who wants brain injury or death?"

    Wear your helmet if you like, but when you start to campaign it, with fearmongering and questionable claims,
    your motives has to be questioned. Just like Volvo.

    There is alot of junk-science around but 2 conclusions seems pretty confirmed:

    1) Promoting/enforcing helmets will lead to a big drop in cyclists.

    2) The biggest safety increase for cyclists comes from numbers. Higher awareness amongst (the fewer) cardrivers, more political power for infrastructure etc.

    Many studies claim that, if you can double the number of cyclists, you will reduce the number of deaths and serious injury by 33%.

    Assuming you know and/or acknowledge this, why would you scare people away?

    And why, would you stay in the minority of cyclists who drives around with 40km/h on a daily basis, if you consider it so dangerous?

  • http://www.dontai.com/wp/ Don Tai

    That was an excellent video of Copenhagen's bike scene. I lived in Beijing for 2 years when biking was huge, but this has regressed since people are more prosperous. It's a shame.

    Here in Toronto, Canada, we have a very long way to go. In the suburbs people ride on the sidewalks so we don't get run over by cars, who can be very aggressive. Even at traffic lights, when cars have a red light, a right turner almost ran my son and I over just yesterday. Toronto has very far to go.

  • http://www.coreyburger.ca Corey Burger

    Excellent video. Minor spelling point: "quite a site" should be "quite a sight".

  • HaraldS

    Cph: Nothing I've said has involved "fearmongering and questionable claims" especially considering I have 40+ years of cycling experience. I've got no agenda, but given that accidents can happen at all speeds from 10km/h upwards, landing on ones head without a helmet sounds a bad idea. It seems pretty naive to assume accidents won't happen or happen in a predictable way. Landing on one's head is even more likely for younger riders (given weight distribution).

    I'd agree to be concerned about the motives of automobile companies/organisations - especially from the perspective of a cyclist/motorcyclist but that doesn't negate the sensible nature of head protection.

    Also no  need to be silly, I do not regard 40km/h as particularly fast on a flat stretch - it depends on geography and traffic conditions. Riding to the conditions is common sense. For commuting purposes, there is no point in dawdling about. If you want to move slower you could walk if you like! 😎

    Anyway, I live in a town which has a good range of cycle paths (but longer commuting distances that typical in Europe). The more people that cycle (safely) the better. Active and passive safety are both important here.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Green_Idea_Factory Todd Edelman

    HaraldS: There are huge differences between bicycles and motorcycles, between bikes and cars there are no "accidents", 99.99% of cyclists in Copenhagen ride at speeds under 40km/h, and 30km/h needs to be the urban limit anyway as, e.g., it is in a large part of Graz, Austria... and there are plenty of reasons to dawdle, for example to ENJOY PEOPLE.

    Keep your helmet business to yourself. If people are interested in wearing one I am sure you can convince them, but make sure you get faster joggers to do the same.

  • HaraldS

    Todd: It is pretty obvious there are differences between bicycles and motorcycles but there are also big similarities - probably take an active practioner of both forms of transport to realise. To say there are no accidents between various forms of transport is just playing semantics - regardless of the cause - even bicycles vs bicycle each at 20km/h results in a closing speed of 40km/h hour - you can work out the physics yourself.

    The figure of 40km/h is not material - it just happened to be estimate of my speed when I had a (very unusual and rare) mechanical breakdown and was saved by a helmet. It is possible to have the same problem at 20km/h.

    If you want to enjoy people rather than focus on riding properly you probably should pull off the road or cycle path. Dawdling is only OK if you're not impeding other traffic.

    Joggers are not anywhere near cycle speeds, (no such thing as fast joggers!) you might therefore consider runners (better than 5 minute/km pace). But it is somewhat irrelevant to compare to a cyclist as as humans we are used to using our bodies and dealing with minor tripping events whereas a cyclist is at a considerable disadvantage due to high centre of gravity leading to a greater likelihood of head trauma.

    Saying "Todd EdelmanJuly 24th, 2010 at 11:31 amHaraldS: There are huge differences between bicycles and motorcycles, between bikes and cars there are no "accidents", 99.99% of cyclists in Copenhagen ride at speeds under 40km/h, and 30km/h needs to be the urban limit anyway as, e.g., it is in a large part of Graz, Austria... and there are plenty of reasons to dawdle, for example to ENJOY PEOPLE.
    Saying "Keep your helmet business to yourself" is just a cop out. Advocating censorship are we? (Not really relevant; just having fun with you!)

    Anyway, the issue of helmets in some countries is still left as a personal choice, that I have some sympathy with; I rode for some 20 years without one - and I consider myself a very skilled cyclist (but always open to learning new things); other people don't have the same level of control or experience. But even then, a (properly designed light) helmet is a valuable safety aid; without, one is at an immediate disadvantage in collisions with hard objects.

    Of course YMMV - and if you don't wear a helmet in the long run (statistically) it will! 😎

  • Cph

    HaraldS: I know that I have sounded confrontational and sorry about that.

    But come on, no questionable claims?

    "I had my head saved by a helmet" is a pretty questionable claim to me.
    Especially since you then described it´s failure. No helmet producer will make that claim.

    Please go make a cup of coffee (or tea) and go through the data on this site: http://cyclehelmets.org/

    Have a nice day :)

  • HaraldS

    Cph: This to/froingh has become a little drawn out, even though I find some of the comments amusing. Originally, I just wanted to make the point, from personal experience, that a helmet can be a useful safety device. Of course there are different types of accident and it won't save you from all of them e.g. gravel rash, broken limbs. Also it will indeed depend on your riding mileage, traffic exposure, riding style and pure luck whether you on a statistical basis have an accident where a helmet is useful. Of course our heads (for those of us who use need it) are much more vunerable than any other parts of our bodies - also based on personal experience in active sports/commuting cycling/motorcycling/skiing/sledding/segwaying. So it is wise to protect it - either with ones' hands or even with a helmet.

    In answer to your final comment, you forgot or do not understand the physics principles underlying a properly constructed helmet (I have some preferences here). The helmet is supposed to absorb the energy of collision with an object so that our clearly deformable skull and brain do not have to. In my 1 vehicle-(bicycle)-event with a pedal breakage the unsymmetrical forces caused me to to go sideways into the ground in a couple of seconds; I have good (motorcycling honed reflexes) but not enough leverage from the racing style drop handlebars (touring bars might have saved me). I had an older style foam helmet which effectively absorbed ALL of the shock and kept my head from hitting the ground (at about 10km/h). I walked the bike home - with pretty much 99% certainty that I escaped severe brain trauma. The WWW site you refer to supports my case - though you may have to interpret their statistics correctly. I'm a research scientist by the way and I know statistics and how they can be mis-used. In any case it depends on your acceptance of risk in any activity - hazards can be hard to quantify. I'd agree that research can go much further to produce even lighter and adaptively deformable helmets that are less of an inconvenience to wear. Also it is good to know how to crash safely - protect one's head and decelerate safely. More knowledge is usually better.

    Anyway, ride well and ride safely and have fun!

  • HaraldS

    A typical case of a mis-used statistic from http://cyclehelmets.org/: "Children are 2.6 times more likely to suffer head injury through jumping and falling than by cycling." This sounds like cycling is much safer than jumping and falling for children until you factor in the obvious facts that children spend at least an order of magnitude or more of their time jumping and falling (I have 3 personal data points not counting myself!). Helmets are an especially good idea for kids:
    1)For some time, kids have a greater portion of their body mass concentrated in their heads.
    2) Deceleration in a cycle posture makes it more likely to have over the handlebar events - exposing the head to collision.
    3) Children are probably more robust than adults in some types of collisions - more deformable skulls - but any consequences are life-long ... a responsible parent would enforce helmet usage (as well as general bicycle skill development).

    I look forward to a time where cycling is more widespread and supported; it is an ideal form of transport - commuting up to 20km is ideal and it helps solve resource, health and climate change problems in one go!

  • http://www.subunit1.ca Val

    Yet - it appears that helmets are not mandatory?  Nor do you see the children in the 'bucket' bikes with helmets.  Awesome video and kudos to Copenhagen for their vision!!!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Green_Idea_Factory Todd Edelman

    HaraldS: By "Keep your helmet business to yourself" had nothing to do with censorship, or fun: It was about your attitude and how you talk about the issue, e.g. "a responsible parent would enforce helmet usage..."

  • HaraldS

    Hypothetically speaking, if one could create a perfectly safe essentially invisible helmet (a deformable force field for ones head) would those objecting to helmets still not want to wear one even if the comfort fitted helmet was otherwise undetectable?

    Is it a practical issue (of approaching the perfect helmet) or a matter of principle (freedom to ride without a helmet, however ill-founded)?

    Unless one can find a better approach, I stand by my statement that " a responsible parent would enforce helmet usage" (passive safety). But note I also focus on "general bicycle skill development" (active safety). So if there is enough focus on active safety the passive safety is likely to be optional. Of course YMMV!

  • Emm

    The helmet discussion has been interesting. I'm with the "for helmets" side, not that anyone was asking for a vote. Maybe wearing helmets for safety makes more sense in this country (U.S.) vs. Denmark (Copenhagen) because there seems to be a general lack of respect here for bicyclists' safety on the part of motorists, not to mention the lack of respect among motorists. But anywhere you ride a bike, "better safe (i.e. safer) than sorry" seems to make sense simply because a helmet increases your chances of surviving an accident in one piece. Nevertheless, more power to bicyclists, with helmet or without!

  • Robin Levitt

    It's true that Copenhagen is great for biking. Just some of the problems I encountered there with the separated bike lanes:
    There are often conflicts between bicyclists and people exiting buses onto the bike lanes.
    The separated bikepaths get very crowded and you can't move onto the street off the path to pass slower moving cyclists--and if you're riding slowly you are often looking over your shoulder for faster cyclists who may want to pass you.
    Finally the separated paths require you to make many turns and wait through several traffic light cycles to make a left or a u-turn. So for example, if your destination is mid-block on the other side of the street, you are required to go to the next intersection, wait for the green light there, cross, wait for another green light to go left, wait for another green to go left again and back on the other side of the street to get to your destination. It's a pain.
    But I'm sure the Danes will eventually come up with an easier way. In the meantime, yes Copenhagen is terrific.

  • Cph

    If such a helmet indeed existed I would wear it. At home, at work or in a car.
    As it is, I can go to any supermarket and buy a helmet for 12-13$(25% VAT included)

    Production price of 1-2$ I would guess..Yeah, I will trust that.

    Advertising helmets scare people away from cycling, just like advertising bulletproof wests would scare people off the streets.

    I will not repeat my other (ignored not refuted) arguments.

    @Robin Levitt
    There is no law stopping you from doing a quick dismount across the pedestrian area.

  • M

    Question: what is the winter climate like in Copenhagen?

    Canadian winters (I'm from Toronto) are pretty harsh; I can't imagine that, even if such an infrastructure were in place, it would be a feasible option.

  • Cph

    We just had the most snowy winter for some years. Just to welcome the climate conference I guess.
    I doubt it is Canadian-style but it can get pretty snowy and windy as it is coastal.

    Bikepaths gets cleared before roads in many areas.

  • HaraldS

    I do respect peoples personal decisions - it is their body after all. And I'd actually prefer not to wear a helmet and just rely on my bicycle skills - defensive cycling and in the rare event - crashing with style - not landing on my head (limbs tend to be easier to fix!). But at commuting speeds, I know I can roll in an accident but the final bit of deceleration (5km/h or less) may involve my head if I'm unlucky - so I want to improve my odds. (Though, in 20+ years of cycling without a helmet I never did land on my head so go figure!)

    I like the European style of living - I believe villages were the high point of civilization - and were designed to be traversed by humans (pedestrians, carts, cycles). The modern trend is to suburbia and cities without well thought transport. But exceptions exist, as in Scandinavia and countries like Germany.

    As a dedication to this thread, I cycled in to work this morning with my young boy on the child seat - winter here (1 degree) - so he was in a snow suit. He enjoyed the trip which was about 15km (average speed around 20km/h) and on a dedicate cycle path most of the way. (I was swooped by one early territorial Magpie - probably thought it was spring!) I used to cycle more regularly, but family demands make that difficult - in the past - cycling alone - I could make good time into work and back home (top speed was 50km/h (slight downhill) with an average speed around 25km/h). Needless to say I've got to work up to that (regular) level of fitness again.

    I wish I could live in Europe again e.g. Sweden (Göteborg) or Germany (Göttingen) and enjoy the cycling in a village type setting. Happy cycling folks!

  • John Asbacher

    Do people in Copenhagen decide to live close enough to work, so they can cycle there? People in North America expect more privacy and space where they live, creating larger distances to travel to places, in unconnected communities. Cities in North America have not evolved over centuries where walking was the way to get around. Cities in NA have been designed with private vehicles in mind that travel at in excess of 100km/h

    Do people cycle in bad weather, or do they then turn to an excellent transit system?
    In NA, I would think that during the bad weather parts of the year people do stop riding and turn mostly to driving at least part way to work... maybe joining up with a transit link.

    Roads in NA have not evolved over centuries as "minimal gravity difference", or roads that are designed to have as few up and downs as possible.

    There are no hills nevermind mountains in Copenhagen.

    Combining the above 'problems' to a morning cycle commute in North America adds up to a very focused and dedicated person who will cycle-commute on a daily basis.

  • Cph

    @John Asbacher
    Copenhagen is rather old with narrow streets so not controlling car-usage has not been an option for many years.

    I don´t believe it is because of especially good weather or flat land that we have many cyclists.
    As this great movie show, carrots has certainly been used to get us away from cars.

    It doesn´t really descripe the stick that I think will also be needed to go with it.

    Apart from strict cityplanning, imagine:

    -Extremely high taxes on car and fuel.

    -An endless network of 1-way streets where cyclists can travel both directions.

    -Very few and very costly parking spaces. Many parking tickets.

    All that, makes "it" more appealing.

    (By "it" I mean "the bicycle", not "replacing government") 😉

    That is the difficulty in speeding up the process, that 1 of the speakers talked about as necessary.

    I wouldn´t trade it for the world now (Amsterdam excepted). Not even if most of those trades didn´t involve obesity problems. I couldn´t imagine being able to swim in our harbour 20 years ago.

    With a few exceptions along the coast, housing is generally cheaper the longer you get from the center of Copenhagen. So, moving closer, while converting 1-2 cars to bikes can help adjust that difference and shorten the commute. Your money is better invested in housing than in cars.

  • Bram

    This is a nice video. I live in Amsterdam and commute by bike everyday and it's a joy. Even if it's snowing many people still bike. What we don't do hear is wearing helmets though. I occasionally see some tourists wearing them,
    but that's it. On my commute I don't see a lot of cars, it feels very safe. I think there's like 1 car for every 10 cyclists on my route.

    Also visited Copenhagen last year, it's a truly wonderful place. The bicycle infrastructure seemed even better.

    @John Asbacher

    I agree with all Cph says, at least it's actually the same in Amsterdam.
    In addition these cities are also more densely populated than American cities making them more suitable for cycling. Although these cities also have a lot of suburbs with the complementary cars. Although because of it's spatial planning I think almost all people in Copenhagen's suburbs live within close proximity of a train station.

  • Alex Kurnicki

    Clarence- this is an incredibly inspriring movie! It motivates me to make it happen in my city, where I work as a streetscape planner. Excellent job.
    Whenever I feel like its not going well, I'm going to watch this and get PUMPED!

    Thanks for sharing your passion!


  • John Asbacher

    I watched the video with audio this time... I still find it impossible to find similarities between a Copenhagen cycling environment and an American one.
    There are so many small things that make the difference.

    20 years ago I heard a statement from a fellow Canadian originally from China who said, "everyone who gets a drivers license should prove that they are a competent cyclist... so that they can prove they understand how cycling works etc..."
    There is NO WAY that you can get even 1/10th of the people who acquire drivers licenses here to even show they know how to ride a bike safely for a block or two, never mind for a morning commute.

    Even the starter bikes that people have here in America are generally complete junk (made in China) with steal that rusts and renders a bike unusable within a few months of riding (turning people off of cycling)

    I don't even think bikes that are of that poor quality should even be allowed to be imported, but that's an entirely different story.

    I am curious to know... All those bikes in the Copenhagen video, where are those bikes made? What quality are they? Do they all use interchangeable parts? Here in America there are two different innertube types, there are metric and imperial thread types, even for bikes...

    In Vancouver here, and maybe I should just go and shoot some video of examples of "commuter cycling" to show the heights and depths that dedicated commuters need to go to to get from A to B

    I do believe that flat commuting trails is important. If you re-look at how people cycle in Vancouver from a hill avoidance eye, you will see they cycle around the sea-wall, they cycle close to false creek... you don't see people riding for pleasure up and down Arbutus...

    In Vancouver in particular, I think you would get way more cyclists on the road, if you were to "flatten" out the huge dips between each end of most of the bridges in Vancouver...

    The layout of an American city is so vastly different, along with the way that people think...

    There is just so much more to the equation than, "Cars need to turn into bikes"

    Another question I have about this video is about the vehicles in the background. Here in Vancouver, you will have 18 wheeler dump-trucks, semitrailer trucks, 5 tonne delivery trucks, SUV's amongst all the normal traffic, on every block in Vancouver. Where are all the vehicles in the video that are doing "work"? Are they somewhere else? People ARE killed or seriously injured while in Vancouver by, Cement trucks, Dump trucks, and other large vehicles which usually can't be held to fault for not seeing cyclists.

  • Holger Joergensen

    Yesterday I'd see how cyclist-money is spend on making cyclists feeling totally stupid, wasting the money, signaling that cyclists are dead-brains-robots.
    You might know that the danes are very provinciel and orthodox conservative, viking-helmet-minds.
    CPH 300 kms paths in 105 year,- NY.300 kms in 1 year.
    You did'nt see the staircase where 8000 people carry their bikes up and dawn to reach the new bridge that the hole world have seen.
    There are some great mistakes done against the cyclists nearly 40 years, the are not even recognized. and in a new part of the city Oerestad is full of mistakes, as the autorities dont see, and it may be talking dawn to the cyclists for the next 50 years.

    When the population was 700.000, 400.000 were using bikes daily, now it is 2 of 5,
    Yes the flat ground in Holland and CPH, is the reason why it never succeded to wipe the cyclists out.
    in Lissabon (Por) there are some tram-lines, few houndred meters, to take You up and dawn, in the hilly city, there are 50 named cyclists in Lisboa.
    The CPH CycleMayor got much more to tell You

  • Cph

    Thanks for the support. Helmets in Copenhagen drive me crazy. I bet you don´t get spammed with promotion campaigns in Holland. The results are pretty clear here:

    Numbers for: car ownership, air pollution and danger around schools are all up.
    Wouldn´t surprise me, if it is the same with the number of headinjuries.

    @John Asbacher
    I don´t know too much about either of your questions but regarding the bikes:
    Generally they are comfortable, practical and reliable and not fast.
    3-gear, sitting straight, fenders, chainguard, backracks etc.
    Most women use a basket as well. Hasn´t caught on with the men.

    Those with a bit longer commute, like 5-10 km each way, will more go for citybikes with 7+ gears, slimmer tires and so on. They are not racebikes but a bit faster. Using these, you are still sitting in a position that will make you higher than most cars. Above 10 km commuters are a small minority, like they will be in most places with many cyclists and good public transport. In city-trains and metro you don´t pay extra for your bike. If there is room for it you can bring it, apart from a few rush-hour exceptions.
    Many keep a "slave-bike" for the wintercommute because of the salt.

    Most of the bikes are made in Denmark, the rest in other European countries. They wont break down.
    Within a 1 km radius from where I live, I got at least 15 bikeshops. Plenty of brands to choose from.

    Regarding transport of our goods. I know that we don´t allow too big trucks.
    We use freight trains and by European standards we got decently sized airport and harbour but I don´t know the shares. We got plenty of smaller trucks, like dump, mail, fresh food and moving companies etc.

  • Holger Joergensen

    In history there havent been a year, with more produced cars than bikes, cars ruled the infrastructure of the world, and cyclists got the left-overs if any. From 1983-2001 I'd travelled with my cycle, visited 80 countries, most of the big cities, 75 capitols, made an exibition at CPH townhall, 2004, 'The Modern TransportStructure', a transport-picture of the world, (1000 pictures) with focus on cycle-traffic and modern glass-roof-architecture.
    M. from Toronto got the point, 1½ year before the climate-meeting I'd drawed the point (see; cykel logisk institut) what to do with a socalled 'green cycleroute' in a ½ m. snow. That is the point, cyclists are not stone-age-people, the cycle is a modern mode of transport, and modern people need a modern infra-structure. They do clean bikepaths for snow, some, but far from all, the budget is quickly used, and far from enough, No the autorities are sleeping. Another thing is that they ran out of salt, this year, it is estimated that a third of the road-green, trees, bushes, is dying of suffering from the salt-killer.
    In CPH is now being made a metro, 15 kms, = 15 billion Dkr, for only 2 billion CPH can make 100 kms weather-protected cycle-metro network. Go safe comfortable dry, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, never a excuse for the fat babyes to be driven.
    Do he wont to fill up the city with glass-roofs, only the needed off course, (and it is going to be very beuatiful) it is allready filled up with movable traffic-roofs, cars, why are the roof so importent for the modern people, why do the number of cyclists fall drasticly when it rains and the paths is a snow-desert The moveable traffic-roofs steal all the space, the 'standing' traffic-roofs takes no or only a minimum of space.
    In temporated regions there will be light glass-roofs, and in tropical areas they will be ligth-proof or shaded, (in future)
    I'd follwed the development closely in eyelevel since 50 years ago from my child-cycle here in CPH.
    In 1991 Bejing, Amsterdam and Cph, was the tree C-capitols of the world, but the highway-wide-like cyckle-roads, in Bejing the greatest the world have seen, dissapeared.
    Svend Auken (InvironmetMinister) wrote to me, 15 years back, that We are still far behind the number One Holland, well, I'd allready new, and even that CPH and Amst. is on the same level, then the dutch is generally still far a head, and dont suffer from narrow-minded conservatism and blindness, the would never do this mistakes as mentioned (Oerestad)
    In the film You see a parliment-member very progressive, and from a cyclefreindly parti (she introduced on her site, 'green revolution',) showing some very ugly things supposed to be cycle-rags in front of the parliment. they are not cycle-rags, they are wheel-wreckers, as we got 50 years a go, and You can find in Zimbabwe today, this is the true picture of the dead-brain-danes, and the development- and vision-level.
    The highways became a network, the pedestrian-streets became a network, where are the cyclestreets, not in CPH, what We actually have here in CPH is the most developed emergency-paths, 105 years a go, the decision-makers say cycle-path, to day the say the same, cycle-path, noting has changed in 100 years, and We do have day-fresh examples of cosmetic misuse of the cycle-money.
    Still more to tell.
    A NewZealander is working on the 'Shweeb',
    which is a aerodanamic weather-protected pedal-car hanging in rail. (PedalMetro) You can see it on 'velomondial'.

  • Cph

    @Holger Joergensen

    Erm, you want to put us in a tunnel?
    What happens then on the good days, are we not allowed on the streets?

    Sure hope that idea doesn´t catch on.
    I highly doubt such a tunnel would be used much, if alternatives were left open.

  • Holger Joergensen

    Dear CPH,
    Far from,,, this has notting to do with tunnels, cyclists only need tunnels where it is the only possibility, cyclists dont like tunnels, forget all about tunnels, there is sunshine in Your face, it is a 'traffic-garden' We talk on, dry when it rains, clear in snowing, shaded in the tropical middaysun, For Who as read and thinking about this, You are the Architect, think about the must beuatiful and practical way it could be made in Your own city, it costs more to make it very beuatiful, but dont mind, it is still the absolutely most inexpencive way of making a real modern transportstructure, there is only very little maintainence, getting 'the hospitals and sportshall's out in the streets', as a sideeffect.
    Here in CPH the big busses in the cycle-streets 'will' be exchanged with, small dobbelseated, low, narrow, trams, rolling dobbelseats so to say, on and of from both sides, all in same level, wheelchais, trams cyclists pedestrians, garden-like street, under the same roof. All year.
    Just short

  • Cph

    @Holger Joergensen

    Thanks for your answer.
    It was the description of "100 kms weather-protected cycle-metro network" that made me think tunnels.
    I kind of like keeping weather out of reach of democratic decisions. Like good or bad weather.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I want to thank everyone for watching and all the incredible comments posted. Nearly 100 already, and where the film has went up on other sites (like BikePortland which has well over 50 comments...)

    One thing I would like to point out about this Streetfilm, alot of people like to say bike advocates are anti-car. We are primarily not (after all most of us are in a car a few times per year, minimum, as a passenger, driver, or on vacation, etc.) I think this video is a great one to counter those claims by drivers - for the conditions in Copenhagen would be close to nirvana for many bike advocates - and if you look this video shows still lots of automobiles throughout, safely sharing the road with riders. What cyclists are asking for is to be properly and safely integrated into the transportation system.

  • Refaat Georgy

    I think Copenhagen is one of the most civilized countries in the world. If you look to this documentary film you get the guts that people respect each other deeply. Is not like our city, where a famous barrister hit a cyclist with his car and left him without mercy. The police discovered the accident next day and the victim passed away. The barrister went to deceive Justice. It is shame.             

  • Kenneth

    Fantastic film and even be better content. Having just moved to Australia from Copenhagen I wish this movie would be made mandatory for all city councils around the world.

  • The Pedalling Dane

    What an excellent movie Mr. Eckerson, as are the rest of Streetsfilm's Copenhagen bike movies. Shows it just like it is.
    A pity they're not available on DVD.

  • http://Streetfilms Robin Urban Smith

    @The Pedalling Dane: Streetfilms are available on DVD! https://livablestreets.wufoo.com/forms/order-a-streetfilms-dvd/
    Also, we expect to have a third compilation DVD with this and other new videos available by fall.

  • http://john-s-allen.com John S. Allen

    38% mode share in Copenhagen? According to David Hembrow's "View from the Bike Path" site, that is only for commuting trips, and the figure for all trips is about 22%.
    See http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2009/12/truth-about-copenhagen.html for substantiation of this statement and some other interesting observations about cycling in Denmark.