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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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  • Lama

    What a great web-site, and what great videos. It's a major wake up call for me as a Dane, because frankly - I never really considered the possibility of a city not filled with bikes!

    What can we as a nation of bicyclists do to support a similar development in other major cities in the world?

  • Jill

    I biked Copenhagen last summer and it truly is a remarkable example of multi-modal integration. It has encouraged me to begin cycling around my suburban town and this video captures the reason why cycling is so easy. Nicely done.

  • http://www.bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com Wayne

    A 1937 film shows many bicyclists and motorists coexisting in Copenhagen with zero bicycle facilities. In fact, there are no pavement markings at all.


    The bicycling planners interviewed on the StreetsFilms speculate that the high bicycling rate is due to feeling safe with facilities, while at the same time noting that Copenhagen motorists treat bicyclists nicely since they themselves are bicyclists at some time. 

    So the question is, why does Copenhagen need separate bicycle facilities? Is it because planners plan and engineers engineer and that is what they must create?

  • Denis

    Now how would the city manage if all those cyclists got in their cars for a day?

  • Denis

    how would a city like Copenhagen or ant city manage if all cyclists used their cars for a day, just to drive a point home.

  • Cph


    We need them to prevent anarchy and to make sure the cars can move around.
    What would happen if we removed them and then, why not the pavements too?

    The big loser would be cardrivers.
    Cyclists and pedestrians would rule the streets under our laws.

  • http://www.bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com Wayne

    Did Copenhagen have anarchy before bike facilities? How about Davis, CA, where there was similarly a huge amount of bicyclists well before bike lanes were introduced? Bejing, China was the bicycle capital of the world a decade ago with no bicycle facilities. Now, like everywhere on the planet bicyclists are being summarily removed onto crap bicycle facilities for the convenience of motorists. 

    What is really sad is bicyclists are demanding such facilities, not realizing they are like the proverbial frog in slowly heating water. What is not said in the StreetsFilms is that bicyclists are not allowed to make vehicular left turns in Copenhagen. Instead they are forced into time consuming 2-step lefts, like pedestrians. Further, wherever bicycle facilities exist they are mandatory, or there is pressure to make them mandatory, and the "car lanes" become off limits.

    Maybe those situations were "anarchy." Of course, the proper title for that is "shared space."

    I'm not shedding a tear for motorists.

  • http://olekassow.wordpress.com Ole Kassow

    M from Toronto asked: "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."
    Answer: I shot this photo in January outside our house in Copenhagen:
    http://picasaweb.google.dk/olekassow/Stuff#5504243266750828610 :-)

  • copenhaniac

    I cant locate your questionmarks but i can say..

    vehicular left turns are not forbidden here in Copenhagen. It just doesnt seem to make sence to take the risk for the average commuter and change lanes towards the left while approaching an intersection.

    However i tend to do it myself, and the package delivery dudes do it in great style whenever possible.

    Regarding the 2-step left turn:
    A cyclist heading north wanting to make a left turn going west. Goes into the intersection when the lights are green north/south - and is allowed to cross from the northeastern corner and ride west even if the lights has not shifted.

    In the center of copenhagen theres typically only two lanes of cars in each direction, which makes this maneuver possible even during rush hour - as you'll need to wait for only a small gap.

    This apply for a lot of intersections because they all give the possibility to wait in the middle of the road, where you can wait for a gap between two lanes of cars going the opposite direction... and off you go to the left.

    When seeing this:
    I recall my trips with my two daughters in front of me in a cargo bike, and whenever stopping the red light around Tivoli Gardens or the City Hall Square tourists would glare and take pictures of the mini me's happily posing.

    The rule especially applyed round christmas, where we decorated the bicycle with a chain of blinking LEDs, glitter and other corny stuff.

    PS.. i cried a bit watching my own city portraited

  • Cph


    I guess I do consider vehicular cycling kind of anarchistic. At least while cars are mainstream.
    It is doomed for failure, once the average cyclist is not a fit male aged 15-49.

    Most vehicular debaters will counter that point, by claiming the (shared!) streets unaccessable to kids and elders. Others will shift topic to frogs or helmets.

    My anarchy comment however, was more aimed at cardrivers.
    We certainly had anarchy from them, before we created infrastructure to lure them onto bikes. Copenhagen was a polluted, noisy, non-moving traffic hell.

    You can´t compare Copenhagen in 1937 or China a decade ago, because cars wasn´t mainstream.
    Change the gasolin price to 20$/gallon and it could get similar now. Very fast.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I enjoyed the prominence of the Copenhagen Left Hand Turn and getting to use it so much on my visit that I am using it even more here in NYC. Just yesterday, we were out for a ride and we were coming up to a difficult intersection and my girlfriend said "Copenhagen left?" I nodded and so we crossed that way.

    I have used that style turn since the 90s in NYC at extremely dangerous crossings, but now - especially when riding my Dutch bike - I love the CPH Left. I probably do it at least once on every ride now.

  • http://copenhagenize.com Mikael

    If bicycle infrastructure is present, bicycles aren't allowed to turn left like cars. The box turn (Copenhagen left) is the required way to do it. Nobody whines about it.

    It was a decision made in the 1980's when separated infrastructure begun to return to our streets after a few decades of urban planning revolving around the car. It took a short period of adjustment before it became the norm.

    Regarding winter, here's a good idea of winter in Copenhagen:

    80% of Copenhageners continue to ride through the winter. Even in snowstorms there are a couple hundred thousand Citizen Cyclists on the bike lanes.

  • http://olekassow.wordpress.com Ole Kassow

    I guess one important aspect which hasn’t really been discussed a whole lot in this video and in the comments, is the fact that citizens of Copenhagen often have very little choice than to bike. Not to say that we (I’m a resident too) don’t enjoy biking. We do, and it’s become a way of life for a really huge percentage of the population.
    The fact of the matter is cars are massively expensive. In fact so expensive that it’s hard for anyone not spoon-fed such prices from infancy will think you’re joking. Take this example: A standard Ford Mondeo Station Wagon family car will set you back $80,000 or the smaller type of car, which most people will settle for, if at all: A Volkswagen Polo averages at around $35,000.
    Cars are imposed a 180% registration tax plus a 25% value-added tax. Car protagonists have pointed out for years that this is leading to reduced car safety because of older and more unreliable cars on the roads. Well, that may be true (although Danish traffic casualties are actually below European average), but it also leads to fewer cars on the roads. Fuel prices is another important aspect. The average price is 11 DKK per liter (around $7.25 per gallon).
    And finally there is parking. For years the city council has been removing parking spaces on a continuous basis whilst introducing parking fees, ranging from $1 to $5 per hour for non-residents 24 hours a day. Residents can buy a pass for approx. $100 a year, which covers 3-4 blocks around their house. Commuters (and some residents) are opposing these measures, but the fact is that slowly and gently it has forced people to make choices about whether they really need cars. We’re a family of 2 adults and 3 kids. We own a car, but sometimes we don’t use it for weeks, even in the winter time. Instead we own a total of 7 bikes plus a Christiania Bike (a cargo bike), which is very handy for going grocery shopping.
    My guess is that if cars and fuel were to suddenly drop to American prices and parking would be free, we would gradually see a shift back towards cars in the large borderline part of the population.
    This is all just to give you a balanced view of what it takes to create an overwhelming bicycle culture. The infrastructure is certainly extremely important, but my guess is it takes equal measures of ‘inconvenience’ for car owners.

  • http://www.bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com Wayne

    That bicyclists allegedly don't "whine" about 2-step turns may merely indicate a lack of empowerment. Prohibition against vehicular left turns is nothing to feel good about. 

    And separated infrastructure isn't as safe as it is made out to be, as shown in this analysis of a well known study:


  • http://copenhagenize.com Mikael

    'Lack of empowerment' is laughable. Our infrastructure is a direct result of a massive grassroots movement in the 1970's and 1980's.

    Municial politicians campaign for more cycle tracks up to elections.

    Male-dominated, testosterone driven sub-cultures like the vehicular cyclists may not approve but who really cares? They've had 35 years to prove their 'theory' without results. The fact is that safe, separated infrastructure gets regular Citizen Cyclists and keeps them safe. That's why cities are building or rebuilding it all over the planet.

    The 'analysis of a well-known study' is a running joke in traffic planning circles by the way...

    Regarding the 'Copenhageners have no choice but to cycle', this isn't really true. In the rest of the country - mostly in rural areas - cars are acquired as soon as youths get their driving licences at 18. Yes, they're expensive but they are within reach of the average Dane if they choose to want one. In Copenhagen only 40% of the citizens own cars. Simply because they don't need one.

  • http://www.bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com Wayne

    Copenhagen cyclists don't even realize that they used to have full run of the roads, as in the 1937 film. They are programed to think they are being gifted with bike infrastructure. They don't know what they don't know. 

    No bicycle infrastructure is required to ride a bike. It's policy that really matters. The politicians could have decreed that bicyclists are equal and have full use of the right lane. But no, bicyclists were treated like a separate entity and crammed into bike bantustans at considerable expense. 

    I know many female cyclists who don't need infrastructure. In fact, some of the best instructional material is being produced by a female. 

    Do you have a criticism of the analysis I posted or are you just spewing? 

    Your fellow Copenghagers seem to disagree with you regarding car ownership. 

  • Cathrine

    I live in Copenhagen and I own a car and a bike, and I love riding around the city on my bike, and so do my friends and family. even my little niece who's only 3yrs. old love riding her bike. I know you say that we're kind of forced into riding our bikes, but that's just not true. The average dane wish for the politicians to do more for the cyclist, and this is an important factore when we vote at an election too. Your arguments are very good, but when it comes to DK - Copenhagen, they're just not true. I have lived in the US, Sydney, London, Madrid, Tokyo and Singapore too, and I still used my bike as my primary transportation, though I felt very unsafe doing so. and when I finally were to use my car in those countries, I always ended up getting stuck in traffic, while thinking, if only I had taken my bike, then I would be stuck here.

    Copenhagen is a great city and has for several years been voted the happies in the world, and one of the main reasons for that, is that you have public shared areas and cycle paths everywhere. you really feel that it's your city, that you belong there.

    Great movie. there's been many movies about Copenhagen, but this is the first one to show the Copenhagen I know.

  • Thomas

    @Wayne: Very nice 1937 clip of Copenhagen, and very interesting to see that it is largely the same place now as it was back then (fish- and flower-markets aside, say). One big difference is that cyclists back were clearly menances and bullies; the traffic appears to be quite chaotic and cumbersome, both to cars and to cyclists - all due to undisciplined cyclist behaviour. Today's Danish cyclists are far better behaved, and traffic is consequently far better flowing and safe, both for cars and bikes. This is probably in part due to shaped and educated bicycle culture but it is hard to deny that it must also be partly due to those segregated bicycle lanes.

  • http://www.bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com Wayne


    Yes, throughout history men, women, and children bicycle users have been bullies and menaces on their 25 lb bicycles. But thanks to the constraining nature of the bike reservations, their rogue behavior can be kept in check, and those poor oppressed motorists can be free from terrorism.

  • Thomas

    Neither truck drivers, car drivers, bike riders, nor pedestrians should behave like bullies. Two wrongs don't make a right.
    If everyone could act in safe harmony by sharing the whole street, then fine; in reality, that gets people hurt, and congests traffic flow. I'm pretty sure that Copenhageners today would overwhelmingly prefer the present segregation over the bike-ruled but dangerous road sharing of 1937.

    On another note, many cities, including Copenhagen, have an increasing proportion of car-free area: only for bikes and pedestrians (or just pedestrians). A trend that is prejudiced against cars but a good trend nonetheless, wouldn't you say?

  • http://www.bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com Wayne


    You claim that the bike-ruled 1937 Copenhagen was dangerous, but I highly doubt that is true. In fact, I'm willing to bet that the low speeds meant that it was very safe. 

    In order for car free areas to be viable there must be great population density, which I'm not a fan of in general. But I suppose it is a reasonable trend in high density cities.  

  • Paul

    WHOA!! Did he say that the "Schools have training in the 3rd grade and again in the 9th grade" and the kids are tested? What a novel, and incredibly simple idea to promote bike safety. If we did that here in the U.S., we would have to make in mandatory for the parents to attend too, so that they would understand why their kids are telling them how to act around a cyclist. I LOVE IT!!

  • Bike Mom

    Thank you! This video made me realize I need to up my personal goals to get more bicyclists on the road in Hawaii.

  • Biking_NYer

    As a native New Yorker who has been biking since the age of 6 (late bloomer) and who bikes-mainly in spring/summer/fall over 75 miles a week, I LOVED the video. Unfortunately Copenhagen has one advantage over NYC. It's flat (mostly). Aside from that in my humble opinion it would take NYC at least 50 years to get to the point where CPH is. Unfortunately it takes more than just protected bike lanes to make a bike-friendly city (I hate that term). What is needed is re-education. Of bicyclists, pedestrians, and especially drivers. Total, absolute from start to finish, top to bottom. And that includes the folks in charge, especially.

    Ok rant over, keep up the good work Clarence. I'm still waiting for the biking Rome video.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    @Biking_NYer: You're right that it's more than infrastructure -- many simultaneous and complementary measures are needed to make a city (and region) more friendly to its residents, immigrants and visitors (and since some of them will be cycling, "cycle-friendly" is a subgroup of the larger friendliness).

    So many people come to NYC just from inside the USA that - even if we just want to improve things in NYC - this mobility re-education has to happen at a national level.

    Perhaps we can call it the "30/30/30/30 Program":

    + 30 year plan
    + 30 kph top speed in car cities (within 30 years metric will be the norm).
    + 30 years til NYC is a carfree city
    + I am sure we can come up with 30 reasons why Holy Separated Urban Cycling Infrastructure* preserves car cities. It's old skool in Western Europe.

    * Yes, this week (not Danish) but Dutch well-meaning experts are in Chicago and Toronto promoting this design philosophy, even as orgs. and citizens in e.g. Amsterdam are working towards a citywide 30kph limit which should in my nearly heretical-view make many mandatory-use sep. paths unnecessary, and mostly for children, cargo bikes or inexperienced cyclists.

  • RT

    I'm on a slow rural dial-up so it's been taking a while for the video to download and I've only seen the first 1:52.

    Something that I noticed in that brief snippet is that there is a noticeable absence of Spandex and didn't see even one member of the "heads-down-bums-up" crowd.

    Oddly enough, the Danes in the video appear to have just gotten onto their bikes in the course of their normal daily activities and started pedaling. Imagine that !

    I've never been to Copenhagen but I'm going to guess that there isn't a plentitude of 6-lane wide (plus turning lanes) cars-only thoroughfares with 80 kph speed limits cutting large swaths through the urban areas.

    I don't see the problem in NA as being a lack of cycling infrastructure. I'd venture that it's more a matter of people choosing to drive rather than cycle.

    I'd argue that if more North Americans simply started cycling, more of that pavement would have to be given over to bicycles.

  • Leo Horishny

    It was interesting to actually view the Copenhagen 'cycle paradise' in action. A few things that strike me:

    Too many bikes in a narrow confine. Here in the US, the major complaints about MUPs are traffic conflicts and that's with a fraction of the traffic shown in the video.

    12kph speed limit?? Too slow. I'm not a TdF wannabe (I ride a 'bent), but leaving my house, I travel 35mph and within a mile of my house I can travel 40mph. Take that helmet haters, ride that fast w/o a brain bucket. Please!

    That leads to another point...terrain. In my area, there's a 1500' altitude gain within a 10 mile overall radius. At best.
    That level of cycle traffic going up 6-9% grades would be problematic. And I don't live in S.F.

    Then there's population density. While it may be efficient for some purposes, having big city pop. densities is not possible or practical in large parts of the US. What do those folks do then?

    There's cycle security. I imagine that in a conformist culture as is shown, there is less need for concern about your everyday tool, but I can't see ever getting to a point that I just wheellock my rear tire and walk away and I don't live in a particularly high crime area. Now that I think about it, there weren't any images of the cargo bikes parked for some reason.

    I'd have appreciated a balanced view of Copenhagen cycle culture by showing scenes of inclement weather cycling. I'm sure it's done, but let's show all facets of paradise in the future please.

    I do like the raised cycle tracks, but how are they maintained? In the US, we are on a more tax averse mindset than usual. I worry about the costs associated with just striping and lane painting more roads here.

    All that said, it's A vision for what can occur, but I'm not sure it's THE vision for what should occur which is the vibe I'm getting from the Copenhagenize crowd.
    Too similar to the tone of the Vehicular Cycling folks. A "my way or the highway" attitude.

  • RT

    Leo H. wrote: "Too many bikes in a narrow confine.12kph speed limit?? Too slow. I'm not a TdF wannabe (I ride a 'bent), but leaving my house, I travel 35mph and within a mile of my house I can travel 40mph"

    I'd have to say "Like "Duh??"
    The 12 kph speed limit is likely because of the large number of people having to share the limited space in the city. In Europe, entire towns could fit into the wasteland created/consumed by a single highway interchange in North America.

    I would venture that 35 or 40 mph
    (56 -64 kph) is too fast even for vehicular traffic on streets in the city core where there are pedestrians and cyclists sharing that thoroughfare.

    Anyone who wants to travel those speeds on streets in the core should be using the same traffic lanes as the vehicular traffic.

    And if they get into a tangle with a vehicle, then it's Darwinism in action AFAIC.

  • Leo Horishny

    Fair enough, but I'm not in the core, I'm 5 miles away from the city core and, generally in the US, the city core is not THE destination, it's A destination. Shopping and such is usually another core, or several.

    The poorly made point I offered is that the terrain we travel in our location is such that without constant riding your brakes, you can travel those speeds in the course of getting from point A to B...in my case getting from my home to any other point B. On the flats, I still travel 15 to 18mph and that's on a steel pig bike.
    12kph is not a happy traveling speed goal, imo. Whether in a bike lane or amidst vehicular traffic, which in the US is the de facto standard.

  • RT

    Leo H. wrote:" I'm not in the core, I'm 5 miles away from the city core
    12kph is not a happy traveling speed goal"

    But the comments on video are WRT to cycling IN Copenhagen (ie the city core).

    I'm about 40 km from the city core and I don't have any expectations for traveling at the same velocity in the city core as I do when I'm cycling around the rural roads on my way into town.

    That is to say, I adjust my expectations and my velocity to suit the scenario. The speed limit on the bicycle paths in town here is 20 kph for those which are shared with pedestrians. 20 kph is plenty fast enough IMO for that situation but there are yahoos who whip through at speeds significantly in excess of that.

    Those yahoos do not make any friends amongst the pedestrians or other cyclists who must share those paths and for good reason -- too many "accidents".

    If a person wants to travel at 90 kph on a speed bike on roads that are shared with automobiles, then that's there business and I don't have a problem with that. However when those people share that thoroughfare with many others, whether they be cyclists and/or pedestrians and they have the same expectations of unfettered "freedom to fly" then I'd say that those people are selfish, self-centred louts who give cyclists the horrible reputation that they have in most North American cities.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I'll point this out because the fact in the video has been gotten wrong by Leo:

    The actual speed of the Green Wave is NOT 12 kmh it is 20 kmh which is equal to about 12.5 mph.

    12.5 mph/20 kmh is a perfect speed for a facility such as this is you ask me.


  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    NYC has the better example than CPH in regards to one small but important part of cycling freedom: You can ride in "traffic" on any major street with cycling facilities such as a bike lane which is at least 40' wide (about 12m). This means the Avenues in Manhattan. Of course this does not make up by any means for all the other problems but I want Zozo to bring this up with JSK and ask why this good rule is not posted on signs on the Avenues.

    Roughly the same thing is allowed in Berlin. One possible drawback is that it might put less pressure on good separated infrastructure. But I think it is a good hybrid solution - accompanied by slower speed limits - until cities are free of at least private automobiles: Separated infra. for people who want it, and the possibility to ride with other traffic for anyone who can handle it.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    Regarding the above, I meant to say "will create less pressure for the creation of good separated infrastructure" but now that don't right neither.

  • John Merory

    Lovely video. Where are the obese? Danes are surely not so good looking. If youall get around on bike (or walking and PT), the exercise will get you slim, healthy and much happier, let alone enjoying the life-enhancing peaceful culture. Of course, the Copenhageners cycle to get from point A to point B as quickly, conveniently and economically as possible- health, environment and society are secondary considerations.

  • Leo Horishny

    Thanks for the clarification Clarence, I stand corrected.
    I understand that, should there be that many people heading the same way by bike there would need to be speed limits, but again, in the US I just see the potential problems.

    Were we all to have flat thoroughfares and the same 3 spd bikes, it would be of help, but when America does get to a Copenhagen level of cycle density, which many, many folks here watch your film and project that vision over this side of the pond, we're not going to settle for that type of bike. We're just not built and bred to be that pragmatic of a culture, if we were, we'd have a Copenhagen culture already.

    I'll quit. I don't mean to offend you. I appreciate your work and I enjoyed the film and would be happy to see it distributed and more widely shown. I just am reacting to the folks who are running around thinking we can do something like that here anytime soon when, in point of fact we can't even create a model of bicycle education or adults that a majority of people agree on or wish to take. Much less the squabbles about helmets and what clothing a cyclist is 'supposed' to wear.

    If there's one thing the past couple of years' worth of reading internet comments about cycling and cyclists has taught me is that cyclists are obsessed with their appearance. Fluorescent clothing, lycra, helmets, what shape your bicycle is 'supposed' to have. Lord knows how much electricity has been wasted on computers exchanging arguments about these things and there's no sign of this changing.

    Much success to you.

  • John Merory

    Jan Gehl is credited as saying to have a cycling culture you have to get women cycling. Maybe the macho males on their racing bikes decked out in their lycra are not the basis for a cycling culture. Cycle for transport in a relaxed manner and wear the clothes you'll need at your destination.

  • http://www.theslowhome.com Travis

    At the Slow Home, we like to think of the house as a certain scale of place in the world, designed for us and our needs, but also incorporated as sustainably and comfortably as we can make it into the fabric of the city and others around us. While our site deals primarily with the design of houses, to see posts like these talking about the livability of our streets is really impressive and promising! Great to see Copenhagen as a precedent for improving the quality of life in our cities here in North America!
    Thanks Streetfilms!

  • bill steers

    A fantastic video! However!!,...it does not mention weather. Why not show how they cope with rain, snow, icy streets, etc.? These are major hangups in the minds of most cyclists and city planners.

  • http://olekassow.com Ole Kassow

    @Bill, a very good point.

    I shot this photo outside our house last winter and it shows the priority of bicycle paths when clearing snowy streets :-)  http://picasaweb.google.dk/olekassow/Stuff#5504243266750828610

    Also, check this all-year-around video from the streets of Copenhagen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXw_t172BKY Snow and sleet are just minor hiccups...

  • Michael Norris

    I live in Ottawa which by NA standards is a pretty good biking city but nothing even close to this. I have lived in the US, UK, and Australia and the attitude toward biking as a viable commuter option will take a generation or 2 at least to change. In NA our car culture is so ingrained, the investment in roads so huge, and the whole automotive lobby so powerful we will not see a Copenhagen on this side of the Atlantic in our lifetime. Until government begins to attach a cost to health care from our current strategy it won't change. We can build and maintain highways but not proper public transit or bike paths/lanes. Sorry to be so pessimistic but that's the political reality.

  • Martin@aarhus

    What is up with this whole 'cycle movement'? Like it's something special. It's just daily life for us. And, it's not just Copenhagen that has the bicycle tracks. It's all over our country. Even on the countryside with just main roads you will find them, often 40-60 meters away from the roads, behind bushes and fences completely seprated to vehicular roads. Now don't tell me you will want to ride next to a big fat polluting truck - when in fact you can be on your own nice little cycle roads not exposed to the noise or bad smell from trafic! It is just the way it is here, everywhere and you know that if you chose a cycle as your mode of transport that is where you will be, on the cycle tracks like you know that if you need to catch a train you go to the train station and go on rails - simple!

    Now please stop this whole 'shared traffic' idea as a cyclist who doesnt own a car I prefer it this way - our way! 

    Now we just need to grow grass on the roads so we can walk there!

  • Mathias

    There are a lot of reasons why biking is popular in Copenhagen:

    1) Cars are expensive. They cost 3 times more than in North America and gas costs 50% more. Parking is also expensive. If you work for the Danish minimum wage and park your car in the center of Copenhagen while you work, then it would cost around 40% of your wage.

    2) Biking is faster. Even if someone gave me a car for free and paid for the insuarance and gas, I would still prefer the bike over the car when I want to get around Copenhagen. In a car you will most likely end up in congestion or take a large detour, because of the many one-way streets. Then when you have finally reached your destination, you end up spending another 20 minutes or so looking for a parking lot. Public transportation generally works well, but it is expensive and it is still faster to get around on a bike.

    3) The bike lanes makes it safer.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/maikenn1 Maiken Nathan

    Bikers in Copenhagen follow the same traffic rules as other vehickels.A bike turning left however does not go out in the middle of the traffic (unless a lane is dedicated to L turn).A left turn cycklist stay in his lane and go across at green,stop on the other side and wait for green light to proceed left, in other words left turns are done at a 90 degree angle.Where no lane is marked for bikes (smaller streets) a car turning right should possition him/her self so close to the curb that no bikes can go on the inside of that car,this prevents cars knocking over bikers hidden by their blind spot.
    Traffic rules and how to I learned in kinder garden/school and later on in traffic school. I am now 65 and starting biking when I was 3, and alone to school when I was 6.Never had a bike related accident.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maikenn1 Maiken Nathan

    The weather is no deterent for many bikers.They have rain gears that can not be found other places outside Svandinavia. 

  • Bernard Naylor

    One thing to remember about Copenhagen is that, like the rest of Denmark, it is very flat, which makes cycling much easier.  My wife and I, both over 70, live in a hilly city (Southampton UK).  Our lives have been transformed by getting electric bicycles.  There are now no inner city journeys where we feel that there is a hill en route.  Our bicycles do not go too fast; by law, they must not exceed 15 mph under power.  So they are not cutting up 'ordinary' cyclists.  For us, it is an excellent solution to our urban transport needs.

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  • Nina

    I think it is strange that in this film and the films about the cycle spaces in Bogotá, nobody mentions that cycling is not only better for the environment but also beneficial for your own personal fitness and health! 

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  • Tallycyclist

    On the flatness, true, much of Denmark is flat.  But there are places like Aarhus that have considerable hills (at least to the average commuting citizen who only cares about getting around by bike and not about fitness, etc.).  I don't know how the weather is where you live, but Denmark is quite cold, windy and/or rainy throughout the year, so fair-weather cyclist would not do well there. 

    Geography and climate do matter, don't get me wrong, but their importance is way over-exaggerated and very often becomes a dubious excuse as to why people aren't cycling and to also hinder any development for improving conditions for cycling.  There are many cities that are flat and have way better weather (San Diego is a great example) than the average climate in Denmark, but have way lower rates of cycling.  

    I personally have no problems with an e-bike itself.  If it's a significant help to people who have some sort of disadvantage, by all means they use it.  Still better than cars.  But I can just see e-bikes being over-marketed, at the expense of regular bikes, and then people who don't really need it may be more attracted to them, and all those lithium batteries have to come from somewhere.  Much like the way so many people have been enticed into getting a car, courtesy of the very successful marketing by car companies.  They should be made available for people who need them, but it would be quite a problem if half of the world's cyclist suddenly want e-bikes.  It won't be our backyards being dug up to get the resources for these batteries, but we're not going to be able to shift our externalities to others (in this case South America), without it coming back to bite us, forever.