In Bike-Friendly Copenhagen, Highways For Cyclists - Politics | PoFo

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Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back. And city officials want even more people to commute, and over longer distances.

So a network of 26 new bike routes, dubbed "the cycling superhighway," is being built to link the surrounding suburbs to Copenhagen.

Lars Gaardhoj, an official with the Copenhagen capital region, says the routes will be straight and direct.

"It will be very fast for people who use their bike," he says. "This is new because traditionally cycle paths have been placed where there is space for them and the cars didn't run. So now the bike is going to challenge the car."

The first highway, to the busy suburb of Albertslund some 10 miles outside the city, was completed in April.

To test it, I got a rental bike and went out for a ride.

No Place For Slowpokes

One of the first things you learn about these bike lanes is that you have to move in fast. This is not leisurely biking — this is serious stuff in Copenhagen.

It's a parallel world of transportation: You've got the cars on the roads and the people on their bikes. There are thousands and thousands of people on their bikes here in this city.

NPR reporter Eleanor Beardsley rides in one of the new bike lanes in Copenhagen. The city is building more than two dozen lanes from the suburbs into the city. They cater to cyclists by including such things as rails and footrests at stoplights.
Courtesy of Eleanor Beardsley for NPR

As commuters pour into Copenhaghen on the new highway, I stop biker Cona Endelgo at a red light. Endelgo says he used to drive his car to work, but biking is better.

"It gives you more exercise and motion, and it's more free, and it's quicker. When I pass the harbor, I wave to the cars," he says.

Each mile of bike highway will cost about $1 million. The project is to be financed by the city of Copenhagen and 21 local governments. And in a country where both right- and left-leaning politicians regularly ride bikes to work, it has bilateral support.

Addressing The Needs Of Bikers

Several innovations are being tested, like "green wave" technology, which times traffic lights to suit bikers. If you maintain a certain pace, you can ride all the way through into the city without stopping. There are also footrests with bars to lean on at traffic lights, and a bike pump every mile in case you have a flat.

Outside the city, the pace is slower and people talk to each other as they ride. Jacob Messen, 33, is on his way to a water park with his kids. He says support for the project runs deep.

"Bicycles are a very essential element in most people's lives in Denmark," he says. "We have them as small infants and all the way up through the ages."

He's not kidding. Another rider, 83-year-old Soulva Jensen, is using the highway to visit her daughter in a neighboring town.

"The trains are too much trouble at the moment, so I thought it was easier to take the bike," she says.

Once the highway network is completed, an estimated 15,000 additional people will switch from driving to biking. And that, say officials, will have a direct impact on the environment, public health and finances. The bike highway alone is expected to save Copenhagen's health care system some $60 million a year. ... r-cyclists


Is Copenhagen's new GoBike bike share system too complicated and expensive?
It is surprising that for a city with so much bike infrastructure, Copenhagen doesn't have a bike share system. It used to, (Warren wrote about it here) but it was closed last year.

Now, GoBike is proposing to bring it back, and it's a different kind of system that they call a "brand new means of transport!"

Most cities have buses, trains and metros. Many cities even offer city bikes. However, common to most cities is that these means of transport lack interconnection. Users are faced with a major planning task when they want to go from A to B– so means of transport are generally not used as a whole, but as individual offers.... GoBike is an integrated transport solution – "the missing link" in public transportation. By integrating public transport – and focusing it around the flexible city bike – GoBike's solutions will offer the first real alternative to car transport in the cities.

Their idea is that bikeshare stations would be located near residential districts to deal with the last mile from home to train station, and at the other end from train station to office. "GoBike will ensure coherent transport all the way."

The bikes are pretty nice too:

Bikes from GoBikes are designed as an aluminium unisex model and come with a cardan shaft drive. Cables, light, etc. are built into the frame to prevent vandalism. The saddle is adjusted via gas pressure – and when the saddle is adjusted, the angle to the handlebars automatically adjusts to ensure optimum ergonomical sitting posture. Tyres are puncture-proof – guaranteed for 15,000 km. The bike has front and rear loading platforms.

They also have a built-in tablet PC for navigation, train schedules, local activities, information about bike and docking availability. "GoBikes intuitive systems help the user all the way – thus ensuring that the user reaches his/her destination in the most pleasant and efficient way."

Indeed they are nice, but they are expensive at 48,000 kroner (US$ 8,482) to buy and maintain, and a lot of people think this is crazy. Mikael Colville-Andersen tells the Copenhagen Post, the weekly english language paper:

There are already fantastic bicycle-sharing systems in the Netherlands that are cost-efficient. They could have copy and pasted a system that has already been proven to work. This is the grossest over-complication of a simple system I have ever seen.... It is overly-expensive and doomed to failure when there were easier solutions at hand.

He notes also that the electric version is too fast and that the tablet computer is a dangerous distraction. He is probably right; I almost crashed last week looking at a GPS display. Another problem is the size of the whole program; they are talking about 1275 bikes, which barely makes a dent.

I had a perfectly good cycling experience on an inexpensive three-speed supplied by the Christian IV hotel, and the GPS in my iPhone worked wonderfully. I think Mikael is probably right. ... id=9993611

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