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.