11 December 2007

2 Million Cars - It's All Relative

Co-existence (by [Zakkaliciousness])
There was a recent headline in one of the papers about how the number of private cars in Denmark has surpassed 2 million for the first time.

There are 5.3 million people in Denmark, so that number doesn't seem so frightful. Danes enjoy the fastest average speed in their cities in Europe, which seems to denote that our roads are not particularly overcrowded.

The reason is, of course, our bike culture, especially in the cities. When 36% of Copenhageners ride their bikes each day and another 35% use public transport, that is a large number of people NOT sitting in a car each day.

I'm not that worried about the increase in private car ownership. If I lived in a country town, or out in the suburbs, I may need one. The fact of the matter is that living in Copenhagen, a car is just not necessary.

There is a lot of talk around the internet about how cars are so expensive and heavily taxed in Denmark. It's true. Road taxes and environmental taxes are steep. Some people will have you believe that this is why Danes don't have cars - the price. This is not my experience. If you came here from North America, with the troubled dollar in your pocket, you couldn't afford a car. But car prices reflect our standard of living. Car ownership is not out of reach for most.

If I look at my wider circle of friends, many have cars. It seems that once you have kids, you get a car. It's easy to drive to the summer house for the weekends, or to drive out to visit friends in the evening, or to go skiing in Sweden for the day.

It's practical. Most of those who have cars, however, ride their bikes to work each day, transporting their kids on bike seats to kindergarten. Cars are troublesome with regards to parking and they are slower than bikes.

They are mere substitutes for bikes. Transport extensions. This is quite the opposite in other countries, where the bike is the extension.

In Copenhagen most of the people living in the neighbourhoods surrounding the city centre do not own cars. Between 60% and 80% of these people live without one. The bike infrastructure provides them with more than adequate means to use their bikes.

If there is automotive traffic on the streets, it is commuters from the distant suburbs. Which is the best reason for the proposed Road Pricing scheme in Copenhagen - similar to London and Stockholm. If they want to drive through my neighbourhood, they should pay for it.

It's something I rarely think about... the fact that up to 80% of the people with whom I share a neighbourhood rely on their bikes or public transport to get around. And, when I do think about it, it is rather extraordinary. I love Copenhagen.

4 comments:

Fritz said...

A lot of the advocacy for funding transportation "alternatives" in the USA is geared to the idea that "somebody else" will take transit or ride a bike so you can drive to work faster. In the US, of course, "alternative" means something besides single occupant driving.

Some of use object to the use of the phrase "alternative" in terms of transportation choice and believe these should be the primary mode of transport. Single occupant vehicle seems to be the "alternative" mode in Copenhagen!

DeepBlueSea said...

Wow, I read the whole post!
That's how good it is. Seriously!

Cheers,
Martin

Zakkaliciousness said...

thanks for commenting.

the WHOLE post?! oh goodness. I'm honoured and thrilled and reediting all the other posts down to three lines and 8 photos, just for you... :-)

DeepBlueSea said...

Yeah, I was quite pleased with myself, getting thru the lot.
I've always had a short attention