22 October 2014

Anniversary of the Modern Copenhagen Cycle Track

Happy Birthday Copenhagen Bike Lanes! 25 years of cycling safety
I made the above graphic back in 2008 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the return of Copenhagen's separated cycle tracks.

Now it's 31 years on, but the anniversary is timeless.
Building Bike Lanes
It was in June 1983 that the Copenhagen cycle track returned to Copenhagen. Meaning cycle tracks separated from cars on one side and pedestrians on the other by curbs.

For the record, there were cycle tracks prior to this. Historically, separated cycle tracks criss-crossed Copenhagen but many were removed during the brain fart that was the 50s and 60s where planners decided the car was a good horse to back.

Marking Bike Lanes ca 1915
Here are the first bike lanes being marked out back in... 1915.

Building Bike Lanes in the 1930's
Here is a cycle track being constructed back in ... 1930.

But the return of the physically-separated cycle track in the modern era is a landmark. The City of Copenhagen made a visonary choice in implementing them. Cycling levels plummeted through the 50s and 60s from a peak in the late 1940s. By the late 60s, the modal share hit 9% after a high of 55%. Due... you guessed it... to infrastructure being removed to make space for cars.

Through the 1970s, the focus returned to the bicycle as a solution to transport problems. In 1983, the foundation was laid - in stone - for a return to rationality. Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, head of the traffic department (and later Lord Mayor) was responsible for the paradigm shift. A shift which continued unabated until today, where 41% of people arriving in the City of Copenhagen at work or education do so on bicycles. Of the citizens of Copenhagen municipality, the number is 55% who cycle every day. Only 12% drive cars.

On June 4, 1983 the Danish Cyclists' Union, at a large bicycle demonstration, gave a "Cyclist Award" to Mikkelsen in the form of a two metre long curb to symbolise the physical separation from traffic.

The cycle track was placed on the bike lane on Amagerbrogade at the corner of Hollænderdybet - just after Amagerboulevard - a sacred shrine for bike culture if anyone wants to start a'pilgrimage-ing.

The photo features the Cyclist Award and the two chaps who made it - stone mason Uffe Mohr [right] and his apprentice Egon Albertsen [left].


Anonymous said...

Many congratulations your city is truly inspirational, as a Londoner I can only dream that in 25 years we will have achieved something similar.

Sadly the bike facilities here are nothing more than badly painted lines in the gutter of which most are at best useless and some are actually dangerous.

Marc said...

Congratulations from Amsterdam, we know how you feel! :)

I'll raise a glass of Heineken in about an hour...

(now I need to look up when we need to celebrate this, I guess everybody forgot)

jennifer said...

Congratulations bike lanes of Copenhagen! I didn't realize that your bike lanes were hugged by two low-rising curbs. Cute!

I also dig the photo/banner you made. Hee!

Anonymous, there are a few of those sort of curbs in London. I remember seeing some around Regent's Park. But Boris - is he going to push any cycling legislation or insfrastucture though? Ehhh. :/

Marc said...

Wow, I didn't know this:

First Dutch seperate bike lane in Utrecht (40 km south of Amsterdam) in 1885, cutting through a major part of town. Then gradual expansion in the rest of the country until WW2.
During this war, the use of cycle tracks made compulsory in Netherlands, under Nazi occupation.

Because of the rise of the car in the 50's and 60's people founded the Bicycle Union, that helped create the National Bicycle Master Plan, which resulted in the massive bike infrastructure we have today.

You learn something everyday, including about the things you take for granted. Cheers, Mikael!

Zakkaliciousness said...

thanks everyone!
and you're welcome, Mark.

although there were separated bike lanes all over the western world back in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

"One example of an early segregated cycle facility was the nine-mile, dedicated Cycle-Way that was built in 1897 to connect Pasadena, California to Los Angeles. Its right of way followed the stream bed of the Arroyo Seco and required 1,250,000 board feet (2,950 m³) of pine to construct. The roundtrip toll was US$.15 and it was lit with electric lights along its entire length. The route did not succeed, and the right of way later became the route for the Arroyo Seco Parkway, an automobile freeway opened in 1940."

All over Europe and in America.

Unfortunately, all of this was lost for many years. During the German occupation of Denmark there were roads dedicated to bikes as well, so they didn't restrict the movement of German troops.

In the modern era, when the rethinking of our cities and urban landscape kicked in - led by people like Jan Gehl - cities had to restart their financing of separated bike lanes.

These so-called 'Copenhagen Lanes' were an important landmark in the modern era.

jennifer said...

Wowza. What a lil' piece of history learning about the cycle-way from Pasadena to that cycling and pedestrian hell that is LA!!! How different that area surely looked then. WOW! I'm a sucker for nostalgia. But is it nostalgia when such infrastructure is the WAY FORWARD? Hmmm.

David Hembrow said...

I was surprised that Copenhagen did this as late as 1983. Much has been achieved in that time !

A small improvement you might like to suggest is 45 degree kerbs. We have those here in Assen and the result is simply that cyclists don't fall if they hit the kerb. You can see that in this photo (which also shows cycle campaigners on one of May's Study Tours measuring the thickness of the top surface of a not quite complete cycle path):


There are a few articles about the history of cycle paths linked from my website:


Zakkaliciousness said...

"The 1980s saw the start of experimental cycle route projects in Danish towns such as Århus, Odense, and Herning. In addition, the 1980s saw the Netherlands begin a large programme of cycle facilities construction as part of a "bicycle masterplan". Following the "bicycle boom" of the early '80s, German towns also began revisiting the concept."

The 80's - great music - great bike culture ideas. Danish delight and delicious Dutch.

Marc said...

that was one awesome project in California!
Yeah, bike infrastructure has a up and down history, alright. Besides the bike advocacy back in the day, we should also mention that the 70's oil crisis gave the movement a big boost...deja vu! :)

Marc said...

haha, the 80's...all good, except fashion :)

Marc said...

By the way, Mikael, have you ever seen the 5 part abillionbikes.tv video podcast series on Copenhagen Cycling from 2007? It's really good!

Zakkaliciousness said...

yeah, seen it. it's cool. what issues with blogger did you have that made you go over to wordpress?

Marc said...

ok, check.

Since a few weeks ago, major server outages and when it got back up, it had screwed up my blog setup. Sidebar wouldn't get back into position, no matter what template I tried. Sidebar widgets kept disappearing, etc.

Before starting Amsterdamize on blogspot, I hadn't used it since 2004. But I did, because I thought it would bring some comfort as most other cycle blogs are on it (commenting, adding, etc).

I should've known better.
Wordpress of course allowed me to import it all, so no harm done. This summer I'm going to get a domain for A'damize and I got my own hosting, so I can work with what I love the most: wordpress.org.

All in due time, I'm not in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

When the auto-centric cultures are crying in their domestic brews (owned & operated by foreign firms) over the costs of spending $5 to drive and buy a gallon of milk for $4, you will still be cycling in style and enjoying every minute of your freedom.

Congratulations, the dividends will grow with time and be larger than ever imagined.

With envy,

Stéphane Brault said...

Montreal start to build bikes lanes in the 80's to, but the project stopped at 300 km of bike lanes in the 90's (grunge years). Now our mayor plan to build another 400km of bike lanes whit a bike sharing program like Velib in Paris.

Un toast à la petite reine qui s'impose partout dans le monde depuis Copenhague.

Tak københavn!

Zakkaliciousness said...

si vous faissez, á Montréal, un véloville comme paris, voila, c'est moi qui toastez vous. Allez les quebecois!

Stéphane Brault said...

It's time to celebrate! We have it!
See my blog:


Sue said...

It just makes me want to weep with envy.... here in Brighton uk, the local news is full of the full on hostility between cylist/motorist; cars park on cycle lanes, cyclists ride on pavements, the town is gridlocked with cars; bikes get their wheels stamped on while locked up. I'm moving to Copenhagen as soon as I can!

Heck Lennon said...

> Anniversary of the Modern Copenhagen Cycle Track"

I read/heard that cycle tracks got a boost in the 90's because CPH was almost bankrupt, so couldn't afford spending more on car tracks, something which Stockholm did, which could explain why cycling isn't as developped there compared to CPH.