It's been a while between blogs - not because I've nothing to say but because the team have been exceptionally busy delivering on a wide variety of projects around the world. Oddly it's been a project in Saudi Arabia which took me to Denmark (more specifically Copenhagen) which has led to this post.
I've been to Copenhagen before but not straying far from hotels or offices in any meaningful way. With a bit of spare time I thought I'd take in the city’s lesser visited areas to see how they do urban development. And whilst I didn't quite build up the courage to take advantage of one of the multitude of cycle hire schemes it didn't take me long to appreciate why one might. The cycle network must surely be one of the best in the world. Unlike London's attempt - Copenhagen have gone all in. And if it were a card game you might say they are holding a Royal Flush. Anyone who knows me - will know how hard this is for me to say - but I think I covet their cycling infrastructure.
The first thing you notice is how much of the city’s highways are dedicated to the exclusive use of cyclists. Paths are in many places completely segregated from vehicles and pedestrians. From bold super-highways running through Frederiksberg through Norrebro complete with cycle flyovers; through to far more subtle height changes and alterations in paving materials. And why wouldn't they? It's estimated around 50% of journeys are made by bicycle in Copenhagen with commuters cycling 10+km each way to get to and from the office. Parents doing the school run. Local logistics - anything from pizzas to office supplies - businesses are taking full advantage of the extensive network. Consequently, every other corner has a cycle related store, cycle park or quirky contraption that serves to make cycling better.
Yes, as a pedestrian I had a few close scrapes but I'll put that down to reckless crossing (by me). Another trait it seems the Danes have is an exceptional obedience and respect of the green man at pedestrian crossings. And I also noticed a few more than is typically the case of people with what looked like cycle related injuries. But I also got the feeling the plaster casts were badges of honour. Without doubt every one of them were itching to get back on their bikes.
A few stats...
- On average Danes cycle 1,5km a day
- Nine out of ten Danes own a bicycle
- 44% of 10-16 year olds cycle to school
- 29% of Copenhagen households own a car
- Traffic lights coordinated to favour cyclists in rush hour
Now I know and appreciate that Copenhagen and London are exceptionally different in terms of size and population. People on average travel further (probably) in London and we've also got one of the worlds greatest rail transport networks, but I can't for the life of me understand why we've not cracked this. Surely there is merit in accelerating London's plans for its cycle network.
The one overriding thing I noticed in Copenhagen was how calm the place seemed. How clean and fresh the air was. And - perhaps controversially - how few overweight people there were. Now I'm not about to start making one and one equal five, but come on!? There has to be something in this surely. Maybe I'll do some more research.
I guess the fundamental difference between London and Copenhagen has to be the people. Londoners always seem to go with purpose, whereas the people of Copenhagen seem to be on an endless amble with brief social interludes taking place at traffic lights.
It's no wonder Denmark has been voted the best place to live several times over.
Keep calm and cycle on.
- I've recently started experimenting with the London cycle scheme. While I am not a complete convert I do see its merits. It's been a long journey from a few years back when I started my own one man campaign to #licenselondoncyclists.
- @MrMikeDuff sorry it took me so long to agree with you.
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