18 August 2009

Bicycle Commuter Superhighways in Copenhagen

The City of Copenhagen is currently planning to expand the existing, extensive network of bike lanes to extend farther out into the suburbs. A network of 13 high-class routes - 'bicycle superhighways' if you will - dedicated to bicycle commuters and aimed at encouraging more to cycle to work.

Currently 37% ride to work or school in Copenhagen. While in many other countries anybody who cycles to work is often considered a 'bicycle commuter', most of the 500,000 people who cycle to work or education in Copenhagen don't fit into the Danish version of this statistical category.

A 'commuter' is loosely categorised as someone who travels more than 10 km to work. The City of Copenhagen and the surrounding towns are aiming to increase the trips by bike on the new routes. There is an efficient network of public transport throughout the region but just as any train passenger or motorist knows, it feels much quicker and is much quicker if you don't have to stop all the time. The same principle applies to cycling to work and it is the key to the development of this new net of superhighways.

Just like anywhere, there are many people who cycle longer distances but the focus for the new plan is the 'middle ground' - the zone between 7 and 15 km from the city centre.

There are roughly 100,000 people who currently commute into or out of Copenhagen County [as opposed to within], travelling between 4-15 km. 15,000 of them ride their bicycle.

The remaining 85,000 who take the bus, train or car are the target group for this project.

The routes will be developed on the existing bike lanes but they will have a number of improved features, according to the City's vision:

- Smooth, even surfaces free of leaves, ice and snow.
- As direct as possible with no detours.
- Homogenous visual expression, for example, with signage and the trademark blue bike lanes through larger intersections.
- 'Service stations' with air and tools along the routes.
- Possibility to maintain a high speed and with sufficient width to overtake other cyclists.
- Safe and quick crossing priority for cyclists when they approach cross streets.
- Green Wave for cyclists through sections with frequent stop lights. [The Green Wave is in place on three main routes into Copenhagen already. Cycle 20 km/h and you hit green lights all the way.]

The new commuter routes are expected to cost roughly 250 million kroner [$47 million]. A net of routes of similar length, isolated and away from the streets would cost between 1 and 1.5 billion kroner. [$200-280 million].

The City of Aarhus is working on a similar project.

Link in Danish.


Anonymous said...

Sounds great! Mikael, do you have any advice for how cities without existing cycling infrastructure (of Copenhagen's quality) can incorporate some of these ideas? For example, I'm thinking of how short-sighted many city planners were in my area when they designed our urban road system.

J.Schlesinger said...

After reading this article I have to ask one question: How long do I have to wait before the Danish army invades America? Seriously, Danish rule would expedite bicycle-infrastructure projects in the states!

Let me know when you're bicycle-mounted infantry are coming -- I'll roll out the red (and white) carpet for you. It may take a while, but we'll trade in our McDonalds for Frikadeller, our spandex for street clothes, and our SUVs for cargo bikes.


Chicago, USA

Mikael said...

whenever consultents, like myself, advise cities with little or no infrastructure, building super commuter bikeways is not at the top of the list. :-)

every city that has successfully implmented infrastructure started with a little piece of paradise. starting with, for example a neighbourhood or a sizable section of a city centre and then worked out from there. creating the culture first.

jon: the danish military? :-) for Golf War II we sent one lousy submarine to a desert war... :-) we'll send elegantly-clad cycling girls instead.

Jacob said...

Århus, the second biggest city in Denmark is going top spend 15 mio kr. on some "super bicycle lanes"

The first road will go from the inner city to the northern suburb Lystrup. It will have green waves for bikes, so you will get there faster. Service stations where you can inflate your tire and water fountains when you feel thirsty. Later there will be routes to other parts of the city.

Mikael said...

thanks, jacob. i did link to my eariler post about Aarhus in the above post.

although a French journalist, who read about the Aarhus project on this blog, called them in order to hear more about it but nobody she spoke at the City had ever heard about it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Refreshing to read about an inexpensive and sensible transportation project that will actually help people. I just spent much too much time reading online about the western extension of the Helsinki metro here in Finland. The 14 km of new line has been planned as a heavy rail metro running deep underground in Espoo, the western neighbour of Helsinki. You might be excused to think that the place must look like Central London or something, but it's actually more like a bunch of suburban centers spread out close to the shores of the Baltic (some quite nice scenery, in fact, but the metro riders will get to enjoy a tunnel all the way). The construction is about to begin and will likely cost a billion euro before its done. That's a cool 70 Meur per kilometer. The designers do not expect the new line to make public transportation faster than the current fleet of buses (metro requires lots of people to use connecting buses) nor increase the mode share.

They could likely have made ten times that length of surface light rail lines for the money, and have those extend the existing Helsinki tram system. Or, put in the best network of bike lanes in the solar system. Or, bought a 1000 euro bicycle for every man, woman and child in the entire Helsinki metropolitan area (pop. 1 million at the moment). Ok, sorry about the off-topic rant. The 'billion' figure just made my mind boggle.

Adrienne Johnson said...

I would have so much fun finding what was at then end of all of those roads! Maybe I should visit and explore!

Paul Peterson said...

Anon, regarding Helsinki Metro: Will the metro be faster than the current suburban train from Espoo to Helsinki Central? Just curious. I've ridden the suburban train before, but not the buses. I'm assuming the metro will be more frequent than the train.

At any rate, good news about Copenhagen. I wish every city would put so much focus on bikes.

Anonymous said...

To Paul P: The new metro line will be in southern Espoo (Ruoholahti-Lajaasalo-Otaniemi-Tapiola-Matinkylä) at a different location from and not connected to the current surface rail line, which is in the corridor of the long-distance west-bound track to Turku. I suppose the speed of the metro itself is comparable to the current commuter trains and somewhat faster than the buses on the same routes. The frequency is to be up to 2 min at rush hour from Tapiola and 4 min from Matinkylä, using fully automatic operation (a large part of the astronomical cost). The trouble is that the area is already built and the metro is a 'retrofit' in the sense that the buildings were not originally planned along a rail line, so relatively few homes or offices will be at a walking distance of a station. There will be few stations due to the expensive underground construction. So, the gains made by the fast metro trains are lost in getting to the station, probably using a bus that runs much less frequently than the metro. Incidentally, bicycles are likely going to be a *very* attractive way of getting to the station and, to the credit of the planners, they seem to have emphasised bike parking facilities. I suppose the new line will be very good for those who live/work close to a station and need to get to somewhere on the existing eastern part of the metro line, so that they no longer need to connect using a bus. This does not describe most users of the system.

Again, sorry for going so far off-topic.

Anonymous said...

On some level, this is the same mistake we have made before. Freeways for bicycles, are really not that much different than freeways for cars.


Anonymous said...

On some level, this is the same mistake we have made before. Freeways for bicycles, are really not that much different than freeways for cars.

Oh please, that's nonsense. These bike lanes are at-grade and are not separated from other streets. You can get on or off anywhere. They are exactly what is needed in a city.

Mikael said...

Care to expand on that, Rex?

We're just calling the superhighways, motorways, etc. they are just existing bicycle lanes with a few tweaks to make them attractive.

neelpeel said...

I can't say that I think the 'green wave' idea has been much of a success. My experience is that bus stops cause most of the interuptions to my commute - for those that don't know, cycle lanes run inbetween the sidewalk and the main road, so when a bus stops the passengers need to exit the bus and cross the cycle lane to get to the sidewalk. And they have the right-of-way over cyclists in this situation. So, stopping for a bus and its passengers screws up the timing of my progress along the 'green wave'.


Mikael said...

bus passengers on bus islands don't have the right of way. they have to wait for a hole in the bicycle traffic.

statistically, the green wave has been a massive success.

hamish said...

This is another "beam me over" moment from Caronto, Ontcario, North Americar where we can't make room for a Bloor St. bike lane beside our big east-west subway. So we fan the flames of climate change... but thanks for the example, and sharing.

Anonymous said...

I am not saying it is anywhere near as heinous as grade separated freeways, I don’t even think the improvements are a bad thing. If lived the Copenhagen, I would certainly support them, but there are some philosophical corollaries to the development of the commuter highway system. Instead of encouraging people to live in the neighborhood they work in, you are enabling the suburbs by increasing access to the central core, and homogenizing the appearance urban environment to accommodate a transportation mode. The best cities have the best neighborhoods; and the best neighborhoods are walkable first and foremost.


Kevin Love said...

Even Caronto just opened a bicycle commuter superhighway - the West Toronto Railpath. I've ridden my bike down it, and it was better than the ones Mikael is describing.

Why better? No level crossings. No intersections. The Railpath takes the railway bridges over all crossing streets. So I get on the Railpath and just ride until I get to the street where I want to get off. I've never crossed any part of Toronto so fast.

For a map, see:


Mikael said...

Thanks, Rex. I see your point. It's the urban sprawl dilemma. Thanks for expanding.

Regarding the Toronto railpath, it sounds wonderful.

I'm not dissing it at all when I present the following.

Back in the 1980's the City of Copenhagen decided to develop high-end bike lanes away from the busy streets, thinking that it would encourage people to ride into the city. Safer, isolated from the traffic.

It was a fair idea. Intuitive.

Nobody used them. They still headed into the city along the busy streets. The quickest route.

The 'off Broadway' routes, to call them something, were eventually dropped and work began on safe, separated infrastructure along the Desire Lines that our citizens on bikes determined were best.

offroad wildcat said...

Love the idea. I cycle about 20 miles a day--to cope with haagen dazs-ing! Ok, bad pun.

We'd line the toll bikeways with strip malls, factory outlets, MacDonalds, restaurants, bicycle, accessory and bicycle trailer dealerships, and a token Jamba Juice for progressives and lefties.

After all, in the US
democracy = profit

Anonymous said...

Let me get this right. The City recently completed a study that showed that cycle ways increased the number of cyclist accidents and injuries[1]. So their policy conclusion from this is lets build even more cycle ways. Did I miss something?

[1] http://tinyurl.com/3dlkbm

Mikael said...

sounds like you missed everything, really.

Anonymous said...

Mikhail, if you think I missed everything perhaps you can enlighten me and show me how you reconcile a report that says cycleways are more dangerous for cyclists with a decision to build even more of them.

Mikael said...

i've quite given up on engaging in dialogue with Anonymous people. It's sooo 2002. The answers have been written on this blog over the past year. The reactions of the City of Copenhagen to that now rather outdated report is also a regular feature on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Before I posted I did a search on the blog in the name of the report authors, Trafitec, and also the title of the report. It came up blank on both searches.

So perhaps you could point me to where I can find that discussion as I am genuinely interested to know what the issues with the report are. Sorry if I only dip in occasionally and don't spend every day reading your blog to know what you discussed last year. I did try to check before posting.

As for Anonymous, I can't be bothered to register for every single blog I visit and neither it would appear can others judging from just the comments on this blog.

Still if you want to be a closed clique of regulars it is your blog.

Lene said...

I cycle daily to/from work in Copenhagen. The bike lanes in the city get so congested during the rush hour that it becomes hazardous. Initially, I was for these Superhighways, but it seems like they only feed more cyclists into the city... so will add to the congestion inside of Copenhagen?

I hope they also deal with the amount of space allocated to bike racks...there seems to be no discipline or rules where bikes are left and I am so tired of having to step over them or deal with the blocking of sidewalks.

Yes, Danes are "green" but you have to remember that we pay a 180% tax on cars and gas is 3x what it costs in the U.S. Getting a driver's license is expensive and has a high fail rate - so unless Daddy pays for it when you're 18, many adults can't afford the driving lessons, classes and test fees. I know many in their 30's who still don't have a driver's license. Whether these are all in place to limit cars on the road or just make it plain impractical, they make for great incentives to stay on a bike.

It's nice that Denmark is seen as the model for the bike culture, but the reality is that it's too expensive to drive - if other countries made car ownership this costly, they would be clamouring for bicycle superhighways, too.

Mikael said...

People don't cycle because they can't afford a car in Copenhagen. People cycle because there is infrastructure made available to them here in the world's safest cycling nation.

If you live in the provinces in Denmark, getting a car when you turn 18 is important to you. And you find the money for it. In Copenhagen, you simply don't need one.

Taxes on cars are high on purpose - environmental tax, weight tax, fuel tax, etc. Designed to encourage people to take public transport or to cycle. Brilliantly designed.

If you could choose between car congestion or bicycle congestion, what would you choose?

If someone cycles like a maniac in rush hour, sure it'll seem congested, but the majority just go with the flow.

It's all personal taste. I don't find it congested or dangerous at all. But I'm not trying to break landspeed records. I'm just going to work.

Anonymous said...

Lene, have you ever tried living in a city where at the traffic congestion is all car based? Have you any idea just how miserable that is? If you think Copenhagen is bad, try living and working somewhere like London, when you will know just how depressing and miserable life can get...

Anonymous said...

London's not that bad. I cycle there all the time and since Congestion Charging was introduced the centre is relatively quiet apart from one or two major roads. I never find traffic congestion much of a problem in fact the opposite. With less congestion what traffic there is tends to move much faster.

Peter said...

For Lene,

If you only knew how lucky you are. I live in Alabama, USA where there is ZERO bicycle infrastructure except for some "greenways" that don't take you anywhere.

What's worse is the attitude of motorists towards cyclists. It is embarrasing. To gain perspective, please look at the comments to following blog. I'm sorry to say that I live in this town. I certainly wish I had the types of problems of which you speak. At least you have a culture that is heading in the right direction.


Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pierre Phaneuf said...

Checking out that report, if one jumps straight to the conclusion (ahem), one can read this, at the very end: "These gains are much, much greater than the losses in health resulting from a slight decline in road safety."

Reading in more details, it says that it increased cycling by 18-20%, while increasing the accidents and injuries by 9-10%, listing a number of ways in which safety could be improved further. That number of accidents and injuries doesn't track the increase in ridership, no? That seems to tell me an overall safer situation, per capita, albeit with more accidents, in absolute numbers, which would make sense, since there's more people cycling.

Makes sense to me...

warren said...
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jhvu said...
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jhvu said...

Lene, I will gladly trade what you have with what we have in L.A. Here we each spend upwards of $8000 a year for the privilege of being stuck in traffic.

Sure, more bikes lead to more bike accidents, but would you rather have these be car accidents?

Mikael said...

more bicycles leads to LESS accidents, according to the research on the subject.

According to the Safety in Numbers principle, if you double the number of cyclists in a city, the number of accidents falls by over 30%.

Benjammin said...

Are there any figures available for how much it costs to implement these bike pathways per mile? I would really like to know so I can compare to the cost of light rail or streetcar projects (which I am sure are much more costly per mile). Thanks.