25 February 2009

Copenhagenizing Copenhagen & Denmark

Beach People
It's always interesting to read about other people's angles on Copenhagenizing and green Danish issues. Here's an article from Climatewire, sent in by one of our readers.

ClimateWire - Feb. 18, 2009

CITIES: Bicycle-friendly Copenhagen strives to outdo itself (02/18/2009)

COPENHAGEN -- While the U.S. Congress debated whether to include less
than $1 billion in funding for Amtrak in the stimulus package, the
Danish parliament has put all its economic stimulus eggs in one basket:
transportation. The small Nordic country of 5.4 million people will
spend 94 billion kroner, or about $16 billion, by 2020 to improve
transportation. Two-thirds of that money will be used to make public
transit even better than it already is.

The government will invest billions in high-speed intercity trains that
will cut travel between northern Jutland and Copenhagen by a third,
install light rail systems, expand the Copenhagen Metro, and widen and
lengthen city bike lanes.

"We are making public transit a lot more attractive with massive
investments to increase capacity, improve on-time performance and lay
brand-new railroads. We are also making the biggest push to promote
cycling in recent memory," said Transport Minister Lars Barfoed.

For Copenhagen, already one of the world's most bicycle-oriented cities,
that is a very tall order. The oil shocks of the 1970s inspired Denmark
to build a vast network of bike lanes in the hope that Danes would start
driving less and biking more. Three decades later, the strategy has
borne fruit in Copenhagen, where a third of the inhabitants, or more
than 500,000 people, now bike to work every day.

For visiting American tourists, rush hour in Copenhagen is an
eye-opening event. There is more congestion on Copenhagen bike lanes
than on streets. Soon there may be more. The city now plans to increase
commuting by bike to 50 percent of workers by 2015. For many here, that
will be back to the future.

According to the Danish Cycling Association, in the last 15 years, Danes
have begun to slump on their handlebars. The country as a whole saw a 30
percent drop in biking as pedalers shifted to the comfort of cars. Now
the government is determined to spend 1 billion kroner ($171 million) to
encourage even more biking by improving cycling lanes, adding bike
parking and producing advertising campaigns.

The 'road to Copenhagen' may well be a track

Denmark is keenly aware of the symbolism of a possible new global carbon
emission reduction treaty at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in
Copenhagen later this year. The new public transit plan is meant to show
visitors that the Danes are leading by example.

"Now we will finally break the CO2 curve, which no previous government
has managed," said Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard. "We are putting
far more resources in public transit than into roads. By taxing cars in
a climate-friendly way, new emission demands on taxis and new 'green'
tolls on roads, we will cut CO2 emissions and reduce traffic jams at the
same time."

The legislation was supported by all parties in the Danish parliament
except a fringe former communist group. It is based on several core

* CO2 emissions from transportation should decrease and car taxes
should be redistributed according to environmental priorities.
* Most of the future growth in transportation should take place in
public transit.
* Train traffic should be reliable, safe and state-of-the-art.
* Road capacity should be increased in areas with traffic jams or
projected future bottlenecks.
* Bicycling should be promoted wherever it is a realistic option.
* Denmark should become a green technology laboratory for
* Bridges, roads and railroads should not disturb irreplaceable
* Air pollution in cities should be decreased.

Speeding up and sprucing up the rails

The biggest single item in the transportation package is 22 billion
kroner for new train signal systems to align the Danish railway network
to modern European standards, allowing better safety and higher train
speeds and even full automatization of the commuter train lines in the
Copenhagen area. Right now, commuter trains are run by mechanics, but
the newer, automated metro system runs pilotless within the city.
A third of commuters in Copenhagen bike to work. The city would like to
raise that to 50 percent.

An additional 13 billion kroner will be used to lay down extra railway
to double capacity on certain corridors and increase train speeds from
120 kilometers per hour to 160 kph, cutting transit time between
Copenhagen and Odense, the birthplace of fairy-tale writer Hans
Christian Andersen, by 25 percent to only one hour.

The line and signal improvements will also cut travel time between
Odense and Aarhus from 1 1/2 hours to 1 hour, and between Aarhus and
Aalborg, the country's fourth-largest city in northern Jutland, from 1
hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour. The government's ambition is to cut train
travel from Copenhagen to Aalborg, a distance of 260 miles, to only 3
hours from the current 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city, with 300,000 inhabitants, will
also get a new light-rail system that will service stations in the city
every 5 minutes starting in 2015. The central government will contribute
500 million kroner to the project, with additional investments coming
from Aarhus' city hall.

"A light-rail system will help the environment and public transit in the
city, and will have the same effect for Aarhus as the Metro has had for
Copenhagen," said Aarhus Mayor Nikolai Wammen.

Those who insist on driving get 'road pricing'

The state-of-the-art Copenhagen Metro opened in 2002 and currently
serves 22 stations on two lines. A Metro rider can reach downtown
Copenhagen from the airport in only 15 minutes. Under the new bill, the
metro will build a third line circling the city at a cost of 1.5 billion

"We're talking about an important change of direction in Danish
transport policy," said Johs Poulsen, a member of parliament from the
opposition Radical Party. "We're really placing our bets on increasing
public transit. At the same time, there is a breakthrough in individual
traffic, with the introduction of road pricing."

Under the legislation, the government will come up with rules to make it
cheaper to buy a new, more environmentally friendly car, but more
expensive to use it. The final rules will not be released until next
year, but they are expected to include road pricing, with tolls
differentiated according to the amount of pollution each car emits.

Car owners' lobby FDM was unhappy with the legislation, saying more
money was needed to ease rush-hour congestion on roads in a country
where buying a new car currently triggers a 180 percent tax.

The state-of-the-art Copenhagen Metro opened in 2002 with two lines.
Construction for a third line has received the green light.

FDM's complaints so far have remained unheeded, and the government
actually added more expenditures for certain drivers in the new bill.
Particle filters on trucks were made mandatory from 2011. New taxicabs
will have to be more energy efficient, emitting 20 percent less CO2 per
car compared to the current fleet of mostly Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Consolation for drivers: a 12-mile bridge to Germany

Some drivers got one wish fulfilled: Denmark will build a 12-mile bridge
to Germany over the Baltic Sea's Fehmarn Strait. The bridge will cost 32
billion kroner, or about $6 billion, and will be financed and owned
entirely by Denmark. Construction will begin in 2012, and the cost will
be recouped through tolls, so technically, the funding for this bridge
is not included in the total bill for the stimulus package.

The bridge will have a four-lane highway and a two-track railway
connecting Rodby in Denmark and Puttgarden in Germany. It will cut the 4
1/2-hour trip between Copenhagen and Hamburg by 1 hour when it opens in

Some German environmental groups oppose the bridge, but Denmark says the
link would cut CO2 emissions compared with the ferries that cross the
strait now.

It will be the third major transport link built in Denmark in recent
years. The Great Belt Bridge, connecting the Danish islands of Zealand,
home to Copenhagen, and Funen, opened in 1998. Two years later, Sweden
and Denmark were connected by the Oresund Bridge between Malmo and