After a number of years of admiring photos of Copenhagen and its cycling culture, it was time to check it out for myself. Last week, I reported on some of the sites we visited by bike in Copenhagen. This week, I am focusing on some of Copenhagen’s infrastructure.
Icons of Copenhagen
Just like you always see the same images of the windmills in the Netherlands, the tulip fields and the crummy bicycles parked in Amsterdam, Copenhagen has its icons too and the mermaid is one of them. Christiania should have a mention and dare I mention its Amagar Bakke waste facility that burns 70 tons of waste per hour? And there is cycling. It is a great accomplishment to put on the map a means of transportation as a thing to do. It took the Dutch much longer to wake up and understand the potential of cycling as promotion for the Netherlands.
In Copenhagen it is very easy to take wonderful pictures of people cycling by as several people have been doing over the years, but I am usually more interested in what cities do for infrastructure, not only in the centre, but also in peripheral areas.
Convenient and connected
We enjoyed very much the bicycle network as Copenhagen has built it. It is convenient, connected and allows cycling for many ages in the areas we biked around. We did notice though that the cycling population is fairly young. It appears there are much less seniors on bicycles than in Dutch cities and towns. In this post I will share some images of every day Copenhagen bike infrastructure. I had always assumed it was similar to the Netherlands, but it turns out that is not really the case. Generally, I have found it a bit outdated and sloppier in places and less abundant from what I have seen. But that is OK, because it works just fine in most places.
Community cycling network
What counts when you start to build a bicycle network is that you can safely cycle within your community. Often, in North America we focus on commuters such as bike to work month, but I’d like to see an increased focus on neighbourhood cycling because this is where it all starts. If kids can cycle around safely they will hopefully turn into cycling commuters eventually. That means safe crossings, safe places to stop, safe intersections, safe green spaces where you can cycle after dark, bike parking, timing of traffic lights and so on.
It is much harder to convince an adult who never cycled much to leave the car on the driveway and start cycling to work than supporting someone who always cycled and naturally progresses to a bike commute (cue: myself).
Another reason for encouraging neighbourhood cycling is that you want to promote short distances to the library, the church, the hairdresser and -gasp- the dentist before you ask people to bike 12 km into work along an arterial road. Many trips are only a few kilometers so safe cycling in neighbourhoods is really where the low hanging fruit is.
Copenhagen’s cycling infrastructure
Let’s have a look at some of the areas which were a bit away from the beehive of downtown Copenhagen and see what they have done. This might inspire you to ask your city councillor for improvements.
So there you have it. Flying all the way to Copenhagen to take pictures of asphalt. Last week I wrote about our great bike rides to some of the sites such as Christiania, the design museum, the tower of the Vor Freiskers Church and the Amalia garden. Read it all back here.
When i was in copenhagen last fall i looked for the much-heralded much-hyped cycling infrastructure. Should i be disappointed it wasnt significantly better than Ottawa? Or should i rejoice that our city’s cycling infra is comparable to the lauded / branded Cph ?
I had the same thoughts. It wasn’t as superior as I had expected, but we shouldn’t forget that the whole Copenhagen cycle thing was also very much a marketing thing. And indeed, Ottawa’s cycling infrastructure, with the addition of a number of new bridges, is definitely getting much better. Although I’d like to see better cycling infra in areas near arterials such as Fisher, Merivale north of Baseline, Prince of Wales just to mention a few roads in my neck of the woods.
Hi Eric, this is very interesting! Are you saying that infrastructure-wise, Ottawa and Copenhagen are not that different? But, cycling is much more popular in Copenhagen, isn’t it? In this case, what would be the other elements that influence urban cycling?
Those concrete block permeable pavers were all the rage in Ottawa back in the 1980s. There are ….err…were, multiple installs in my neighborhood.they did not work out well. In dry summer environments like ours the blocks continually wick up moisture, leaving the spaces between which were supposed to be green, dead. We have deep frost, which means they have to be laid on gravel substrate which is designed to drain, not support roots.
Since then i have seen much thinner, finer pavement pads made out of recycled rubber tires, and plastic grids which dont wick out the moisture and have larger soil pockets to support plant growth.
IMO, these pavers are a solution in search of a problem. Much simpler is my gravel driveway in which whispy grass grows, or my concrete paver patio with gaps between the blocks that permit 100% of the heaviest rainfall to run down through.
Gravel is still an option too. No doubt my neighbours will think I am a hillbilly, but if I look on old satellite photos, it appears that previous owners of our house had a gravel driveway for the longest time.