It is fair to say that cycling in the Danish capital is a way of life: “We don’t have cyclists in Copenhagen, we merely have people who happen to ride their bicycles.”
This quote can be found in the city’s publication entitled “City of Cyclists – Copenhagen bicycle life”. The fact that the city has a brochure entirely devoted to people on bikes speaks long and large about the way of life in this beautiful city, one of Europe’s oldest capitals.
When Copenhagen hosted the UCI Road World Championships in 2011, athletes, UCI officials, national federation delegates, media and fans were all stunned by the never ending flow of people on bikes in the streets. Indeed, 52% of Copenhagers cycle for their daily commute.
But how did Copenhagen become such a bicycle friendly city?
It certainly did not come naturally; in the 1960s, the city was just as car-clogged as anywhere else and it took time and dedication from authorities, advocacy organisations and citizens to get to this result.
This history of bicycles in Copenhagen can be found here
The City of Copenhagen published its first bicycle strategy in 2002. The aim was to increase the number of people riding to work, reduce serious accidents involving bikes, make cyclists feel safe and increase their comfort. Ten years later the benefits were obvious.
But the city was not going to rest on its laurels: “We should not content to be good when
we can be better,” declared Ayfer Baykal, Mayor, Technical and Environmental Administration
of the City of Copenhagen.
So in February 2012 the City of Copenhagen published a new bicycle strategy “Good, Better, Best – The City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy 2012 – 2025”.
According to the strategy, by 2025 the city aims to:
- Increase the percentage of commuters who cycle to work or education to 50%
- Increase number of cycle tracks in the Copenhagen PLUS-net with 80%
- Reduce cyclists’ average travel time by 15%
- Grow the number of cyclists who feel safe in traffic to 90%
- Decrease the number of seriously injured cyclists by 70%
- Increase the share of cyclists who find cycle tracks well maintained to 80%
- Increase the share of citizens who think that bicycle culture affects the city’s atmosphere positively to 80%.
Get the feel of life on two wheels in Copenhagen
Summer, winter, young, old, casual, chic: it doesn’t matter in Copenhagen. Just get on your bike and ride.
From the point of view of one of Copenhagen’s leaders
We talk to Pia Allerslev, UCI Advocacy Commission member and Mayor of Copenhagen in charge of Children and Youth.
Copenhagen is often described as the most bicycle friendly city in the world. What are the benefits for the city and its inhabitants?
There are numerous benefits for both the city and its inhabitants. Bicycles make up a huge portion of Copenhagen’s visual appearance. When coming to Copenhagen you will see bicycles parked at every station and in every street, but what is most impressive is the vast number of Copenhageners on bikes who are an integrated part of traffic and the urban infrastructure. Bicycles play a vital role in Copenhagener’s everyday lives. The bicycle is used for all means: for getting to work or school, going out for a night on the town, transporting construction materials or appliances, bringing children to kindergarten, going for a recreational ride, or just for gazing at other Copenhageners on their bikes. No matter what the purpose, the bike is the answer. The bicycle offers a cheap, comfortable, easy, and eco-friendly way of getting around. When we ask Copenhageners why they choose their bike over the car or public transport they simply answer “because it’s the fastest way of getting around in the city.”
What kind of advice would you give cities who wish to follow Copenhagen’s example and become more bike friendly?
Most importantly, you must ensure that the bike is the fastest and easiest way of getting around in the city
In 2007, Copenhagen was awarded the UCI Bike City label. Why benefits did this have for the city?
It was an enormous recognition to be the first city awarded the UCI Bike City label. It confirmed our image as the world’s most bicycle friendly city. Surely, it was a confirmation that we were on the right path – both in regards to competition and leisure cycling. It also enabled our relatively small capital to organise and attract major international events, which probably would have been impossible otherwise. We have continued attracting events ever since, with great success. So the investment in Bike City has been great for Copenhagen
You are a member of the UCI Advocacy Commission. What do you think the UCI can do to help the promotion of every day cycling?
Everyday cycling is very important for many people, but we also know a lot of factors that will make people chose NOT to bike. That’s why the influence of the UCI could be of a great importance, for example by making sure that host cities of elite races also make the best efforts to improve the standards of everyday cycling in the city, and invest in better bike lanes and tracks. In Copenhagen we marked the route for the World Championships when they were held in our city. That gave a lot of everyday cyclists a great chance to try cycling in the tracks of the elite. Besides that, all the elite bike riders are great ambassadors for biking – both everyday and competitive biking. They are present in all countries, and should be used as much as possible to encourage more people to use their bikes.