Copenhagen - City of Cyclists
Upon visiting new cities we instinctively look upwards, seeking out the grand monuments that define the place. Here in the Danish capital, the iconic Little Mermaid statue has caused generations of visitors to utter the same four words: "But she's so small!"
Therein lies the key to understanding Copenhagen. The Little Mermaid isn't small, you see. She is life-size. Much like the city that she calls home.
If its monuments you are after in Copenhagen, don't look up. Look around you, right there at street level. Our greatest monument is motion. It is a massive, constant, rhythmic and life-sized legacy.
The never ending flow of Copenhageners on bicycles is like a symphony of human power and it has been forty years in the making. In the 1960s, this city was just as car-clogged as anywhere else. Visionary decisions were made and the result can be seen all around you. There are few places in the world where the morning rush hour is graced with such poetic motion.
The people that make up this organic monument are from all walks of life. From every age and wage bracket. We don't have cyclists in Copenhagen, we merely have people who happen to ride their bicycles. Nor will the rolling masses define themselves as environmentalists. When polled, the majority of Copenhageners say that they ride because its easy and fast. Only 1% sway they do so for environmental issues.
The vast network of safe, segregated bike lanes criss-crossing the city has encouraged us to choose the bicycle. So much so that we have demystified the most efficient machine ever invented. The bicycle is not exclusively the domain of small sub-cultural groups. It has become the spiritual property of every citizen and it continues to fulfil the liberating role for which it was intended.
Cycling in Copenhagen brings us close to the life of the city and the people who inhabit it. Your fellow citizens are right there next to you, propelling themselves effortlessly through the urban landscape. We are one with our town on our bicycles.
Copenhagen is a city of cyclists. Everyone agrees - Copenhageners, tourists and dry statistics as well:
Copenhagen cyclists ride a total of 1.2 million kilometres a day. This is the equivalent of two brisk bicycle journeys to the moon and back. Or 30 times around the world every day by bicycle.
There are a total of 350 kilometres of cycle tracks and 40 kilometres of green cycle routes in Copenhagen, the equivalent of the length of Jutland.
In Copenhagen 1 person out of 3 commutes by bicycle to work or school every day.
A big city in which people cycle offers many benefits. In terms of the environment alone, cyclists help keep the city's CO2 traffic emissions at a low level compared to other big cities. When we've reached the point that over 50% of commuters choose to cycle to their place of work or education, then Copenhagen traffic will be able to save an additional 80.000 tons of CO2 annually.
Fair winds for pedal power
Copenhagen's ubiquitous cyclists are a key element of our identity and profile, making us one of the leading cycling cities in the world. Our bicycle culture has developed over the course of many years, heartily encouraged by ongoing investments in cycle tracks, cycle routes, etc.
In recent year cycling has been given an extra boost. We have built two new cycle and pedestrian bridges, Brygge Bridge spanning the harbour and Åbuen Bridge over Ågade, one of the major thoroughfares. We have also been successful in reducing cyclist accident rates.
However, much remains to be done before cyclists feel completely comfortable in traffic. Many Copenhagen inhabitants would like to see even more and even wider cycle tracks, more car-free green cycle routes, synchronized green waves through traffic lights, better bicycle parking facilities at stations, at work and at home.
Working to become the world's best city for cycles
Copenhagen aims to become the most bicycle friendly city in the world. This means constructing more cycle tracks, extending cycle routes along the city's green thoroughfares, establishing safer and more bicycle friendly cycling conditions at the most crowded intersections - and many other improvements and ideas suggested by Copenhageners.
With Copenhagen taking the lead, other cities all over the world will hopefully be inspired to create better conditions for cyclists to the benefit of the environment, public health and traffic movement.