A North American Journalist Describes Cycling in Copenhagen


Mikael at Copenhagen Cycle Chic

Globe and Mail journalist Gary Mason visits a city where they really do put bikes ahead of cars; it is city policy in Copenhagen. He interviews Andreas Rohl, suggesting that the bicycle program manager's job is to "ponder the daily question: How can he make life hell for the car drivers of this Scandinavian capital." But Mr. Rohl never actually says that, it's just Mason playing to his poor, suffering "war on the car" audience in Toronto. But Rohl does admit to trying to make a commute on two wheels more attractive than four.

"This is what we work on a lot," said Mr. Rohl, an every-day cyclist who does not own a car. "It's all about normalization: making the experience of getting in and around the city on a bicycle as normal and hassle-free as possible.

"We have reached the point where riding a bike is a far better mode of transportation than a car. You can get almost anywhere faster on a bike than in a car. We focus a lot on increasing bike speeds from point A to point B, and one way you can do that is slowing car speed over that same distance."

It works, too; 37% of citizens of Greater Copenhagen cycle to work; 55% of those who live in the city proper. Mr. Rohl does things that shock Mr. Mason: he takes space away from cars and gives it to bikes.

"Part of finding ways to get even more people biking is to make the experience for cyclists as pleasant as possible," said Mr. Rohl. "So if you can create peaceful routes for cyclists and give them pleasant views, it makes the trip more enjoyable and they'll be more apt to continue doing it."

Mason notes that everyone appears to dress normally, and ride old one-speed bikes. Nobody needs to wear a helmet, and there are almost no accidents, with the number of accidents declining as the number of cyclists increase. When it snows, cycle paths get priority over roads.

Mason basically confirms what cycling advocacy sites like Copenhagenize have been saying for years: when you take bikes seriously as a mode of transportation and stop putting cars first, then people take bikes instead of cars. Now if he had only left out his "war on cars" intro. Globe and Mail