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Posts from the "Denmark" Category

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How Bike-Friendly Streets Help Denmark Combat Inequality

danish bike use by income 570

Source: Transportvaneundersøgelsen, DTU Transport. 2011. Currency conversion: 7.69 DKK/USD via OECD PPP charts, 2011.

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

We don’t have to dream of a country where protected bike lanes and other quality bike infrastructure have dramatically improved life for poor people. We can visit it.

It’s called Denmark, and it’s arguably the most egalitarian country in the world.

Data published online for the first time suggests that bicycle transportation has been part of that triumph.

After embracing cars in the 1950s and 60s, Denmark took a U-turn around 1970 and began using protected bike lanes and low-speed side streets to make bicycle transportation an efficient, comfortable option. Today, this small, prosperous peninsula (whose capital, Copenhagen, is about the size of Columbus, Ohio) has the second-highest biking rates in the developed world after the Netherlands.

Ask Danes what sort of Danish people bike and they will probably say: “everyone.” In a sense, that’s true. But it also obscures something you’ll almost never hear a Dane mention: the massive benefit biking provides to the country’s poorest.

As you can see in the top chart, people of all incomes bike in Denmark at some of the highest rates in the world, but biking is most common among the poorest Danes.

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Report: Traffic Studies Systematically Overstate Benefits of Road Projects

Todd Litman, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Nearly every time a new road is built, traffic volume increases beyond the predictions of the traffic studies. And nearly every time, transportation planners are surprised.

The explanation is a wonky little phenomenon called “induced demand.” Essentially, if you widen roads to reduce congestion, people who were avoiding the road because of congestion will find it more convenient and take more trips, thus increasing traffic again.

So what do you have then? A big expensive project to eliminate traffic, and more traffic.

Induced demand has been widely studied; it was acknowledged by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in 1957. Today it is widely accepted by transportation practitioners. The Clean Air Act even requires big cities to account for this effect in traffic modeling.

But many large metropolitan planning agencies refuse to comply, according to Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute [PDF], and smaller cities are under no obligation to do so. Futhermore, though they may account for certain types of induced demand — extra trips — they don’t account for some of the long-term impacts of highway investments, namely sprawl.

That alone is enough to undercount the impact of induced demand. According to a 2005 study [PDF] set in California, “the net benefits of a suburban highway capacity expansion project declined by 50 percent if the project caused 60,000 residents (about 2 percent of the regional population) to move from urban to suburban locations, thereby increasing traffic congestion on that roadway link.”

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Congestion Pricing Will Make You Happy

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An op/ed by Eduardo Porter in today's New York Times makes a passing suggestion that by reducing the number of people who do solo car commutes, congestion pricing would make New Yorkers happier.

I can say this for sure: If it also reduces the number of honking, revving, careening and exhaust-spewing sociopaths clogging New York City streets in their gigundo sedans and sports utes it'll definitely make me happier. I don't know if it's just me or if for some reason there has been a sudden increase in idiotic driving and needless horn-blasting but lately I find myself wanting to take a sledgehammer to lots of New York City drivers' windshields. I suppose this sinks me pretty far down in the happiness rankings. Here's an excerpt:

The framers of the Declaration of Independence evidently believed that happiness could be achieved, putting its pursuit up there alongside the unalienable rights to life and liberty. Though governments since then have seen life and liberty as deserving of vigorous protection, for all the public policies aimed at increasing economic growth, people have been left to sort out their happiness.

This is an unfortunate omission. Despite all the wealth we have accumulated — increased life expectancy, central heating, plasma TVs and venti-white-chocolate-mocha Frappuccinos — true happiness has lagged our prosperity...

Despite happiness’ apparently Sisyphean nature, there may be ways to increase satisfaction over the long term. While the extra happiness derived from a raise or a winning lottery ticket might be fleeting, studies have found that the happiness people derive from free time or social interaction is less susceptible to comparisons with other people around them. Non-monetary rewards — like more vacations, or more time with friends or family — are likely to produce more lasting changes in satisfaction.

This swings the door wide open for government intervention. On a small scale, congestion taxes to encourage people to carpool would reduce the distress of the solo morning commute, which apparently drives people nuts.

Perhaps no coincidence, Denmark -- the land of Jan Gehl, communal, car-free public spaces and high-heeled cyclists -- consistently lands the #1 spot in studies of the world's happiest nation. Here is a recent study in the British Medical Journal.

Map of World Happiness: University of Leicester School of Psychology.