We were welcomed to Copenhagen by Henriette Lund, a Danish consultant previously employed by TfL to help develop the Cycle Superhighways, which are modelled on Danish routes. Copenhagen is an interesting comparison for UK planners and engineers as its urban form is much more like UK cities, with low density residential areas, shopping malls and out of town developments. Being a northern coastal city it is cold and damp for much of the year, so not the most conducive climate for cycling.
The City Planner, Neils Jensen, provided some background information. Cycle tracks were constructed in the city from 1905 to 1980, with a network of around 250km and around 20% of trips by bicycle. The ‘car boom’ that started in the UK in the 1960s didn’t happen in Denmark until the 1980s, but there was a public backlash against removing cycle tracks to increase road capacity. Consistent investment in cycling since the 1990s resulted in a cycling mode share of around 36% by 2010.
The last few years however have seen another significant rise to around 45% (over 52% in the city centre) as existing facilities have been improved to ‘Superhighway’ standards and extended into the suburbs and villages.
We loaded 18 bikes onto the train without any problem to visit the Swedish city of Malmo on the other side of the Oresund Bridge. In Denmark cycle tracks are generally one-way adjacent to the carriageway but in Malmo the network is largely two-way tracks that offer complete routes either alongside or away from the carriageway.
In both cities the bicycle is very much regarded as an essential part of creating more attractive places to live and work that are not dominated by motor traffic. This doesn’t mean that the bicycle dominates traffic planning, but it is given equal consideration alongside public transport, freight and car movements.
In addition to lessons about infrastructure design, the delegates were able to learn about some of the cultural and legal background that has enabled more and safer cycling and we hope to follow these up with the Department for Transport to consider legislative change.