Why Did Copenhagen’s Biking Rate Surge in One Year?

Copenhagen is famous for being a city where a lot of people bike.

More people are biking these days in Copenhagen, but why? Photo: Michael Colville-Andersen
More people are biking these days in Copenhagen, but why? Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen

But for years the bike commuting rate has remained roughly steady at just over a third of trips. Then last year the city’s bike commute mode share increased from 36 percent to 41 percent. Meanwhile, driving declined 3 percent as a share of commuting trips.

The unexpected increase had a lot of people baffled. But Mikael Colville-Andersen at Copenhagenize thinks he knows what happened:

When the results of the travel survey came out, journalists were scrambling for answers. Two researchers at DTU were “surprised.” They were quoted in the Danish press as saying things like, “uh… the City’s new bridges and traffic calming on certain streets seem to have worked. Giving cyclists carrots encourage cycling.”

The detail they forgot was that the new cycling bridges aren’t finished yet, nor is the traffic calming on Amagerbrogade. The Nørrebrogade stretch is from 2008. Cycling rose on that street by 15% but that was BEFORE 2012. Duh. Bascially, there hasn’t been much carrot dangling in this city for a few years. So forget about THAT hastily thunk up theory. Things are happening NOW, in 2013 and 2014, sure, but that has nothing to do with the data from 2012 to 2013. Double Duh.

What HAS happened is that 17 huge construction sites fell out of the sky all at once. Not something that happens every day. In addition, most of central Copenhagen — between 2012 and 2013 — was under further construction because of the upgrading of district heating pipes under many streets that had to be ripped up.

Look at the guide at the top again. THAT is what has happened. Driving was rendered incredibly difficult. Copenhageners, being rational homo sapiens, chose other transport forms. Public transport has increased, too, but the bicycle is clearly the chariot of choice. It’s no surprise at all why cycling is booming.

There you have it: If you want to improve cycling in your city, make it an awesome place to bike, sure, but don’t forget make it a terrible place to drive.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Biking Toronto announces that the city is getting its first parking-protected bike lane. Seattle Transit Blog relays first impressions of new city transportation chief Scott Kubly, who was Gabe Klein’s deputy in Chicago and DC. And Global Site Plans explains how Denver B-Cycle fits into the city’s plans to reach 10 percent bike commute mode share by 2018.

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