02 December 2009

Filling in the Blanks

Fill in the blanks
I live in a city called Frederiksberg, which is an independent enclave surrounded by Copenhagen. There's about 90,000 citizens in the city. The city has a well-developed bicycle infrastructure. You can't really not have it when you're surrounded by Copenhagen.

There are few streets left in the city that don't have separated bike lanes/cycle tracks/whatever you want to call them. One of the stretches is Thorvaldsensvej and the bike lane was finished just last week. It's pictured, above. Previously on this stretch there was a painted lane where there is now a physically separated lane.

With that said, it's certainly not every street that has separated bike lanes. The residential streets around our flat certainly don't. There isn't enough traffic to merit separation. It's only on streets that feature a certain numbers of cars each day. Normally, according to the Danish best practice guidelines for bicycle infrastructure a cycle track is implemented - replacing a painted bike lane - when the number of cars is over 6000 a day and the speed limit is 50 km/h. [If the speed limit is 30 km/h, 10,000 cars a day is the limit before separated cycle tracks are built]. What we're seeing, however, in many parts of Greater Copenhagen is that separated cycle tracks are being built even when the number of cars per day is lower.

This is a section of the city's plan for the Thorvaldsens street. For some strange reason many people seem to think that all of our cycle tracks continue up to the intersection. This isn't the case at all. It depends on traffic volume and the specific nature of the intersection in question.

On the plan you can see the cycle track on the right - the one that sweeps upward - ends well before the intersection and cars and bicycle mingle up to the light. The law in Denmark is that whoever gets there first decides. If a car is the first in the turn lane, the driver can choose to hug the curb or leave space for the cyclists. If it's curb-hugging, then the cyclists move around the car to wait on the left side. If cyclists get there first then it's obvious that they stick to the curb and motorists will wait to turn on the left side of the lane.

On the left side of the intersection the cycle track runs up to the intersection, although the stop line for cars is positioned five metres farther back, as it is in most intersections in Copenhagen. The number of cars turning right here is much lower than it is on the opposite side of the street.

Flere cykelstier
The City of Copenhagen isn't shy to let the citizens know when new cycle tracks are on the way. The sign reads,

"More cycle tracks in the world's best cycling city".

"It should be safe and secure to ride bicycles in Copenhagen. That's why we're building cycle tracks in Stormgade. If 50% of Copenhageners use the bicycle to get to work or school in 2015 we'll save 80,000 tonnes C02 each year."

At time of writing this there are 338 km of cycle tracks, 19 km of cycle lanes and 39 km of green cycling routes. More are on the way. Add to that all the shared space streets and residential streets that do not require infrastructure.

We're filling in the blanks.


Kevin Love said...

Why is this cycle path in the car door zones? It looks to me as if the door zone extends almost half way across the cycle path.

That is insanely dangerous. I expected better from Copenhagen. This is the sort of dangerous cycle path that I would expect from somewhere like (alas!) here in Toronto.

Martin said...

In Canberra,Australia we dream of cycle infrastructure like this we have several kilometer's of cycle paths(Greenways) but these are shared with pedestrians,no separation. With have on-road cycle lanes(painted lines) for our major arterial roads that have the highest amount of car traffic,and speed limits ranging from 60km/hr to 100km/hr with no physical separation what so ever. Only the Lycra wearing Nazis use these bike lanes. Not a Cycle chic in site!
We were privileged to have Jan Gehl in Canberra last Monday (30th of November) giving a lecture on city life and happened to mention the bicycle culture in Copenhagen. He had a go at our bike lanes saying there were two narrow and just a painted line which did nothing. The Director of Canberra Roads was siting behind me so hopefully he and his department got the message loud and clear.

Mikael said...

First of all, Kevin, the bike lane here is 2.5 m wide, which is more than enough to accomodate doors.

Secondly, getting 'doored' is a rare occurance here since most of the motorists are cyclists, too and they are used to seeing cyclists so everyone checks before opening the doors.

When you have kids, as I do, the phrase they hear most is "watch out for bikes" when they are getting out of cars.

2.5 m wide is the minimum standard here. Three cyclists can ride side by side by side and chat. How wide do you think they should be?

Anonymous said...

What about walking? Car parking is more important than pedestrians? This looks like an expensive version of a shared path in a Central or East European capital... where the actual main intention is to not sacrifice any space for driving.

William said...

Mikael, I just wanted to add that even though 2.5m is the minimum standard, there are non-standard lanes, like the one on the very old and heavily used Gammel Kongevej, where the lane is so narrow that overtaking feels.. hazardous? Or maybe just impolite.

Mikael said...

What about walking? The sidewalk here is just as wide as the cycle track. The level of pedestrian traffic is not high on this stretch so pedestrians have loads of room.

William, you're right. There are exceptions and they are in Frederiksberg, like on Gammel Kongevej. Generally the city of Copenhagen builds lanes wider than the current standard to accomodate future growth whereas Frederiksberg sticks to the standard. And on Gammel Kongevej they need to do a rethink. Although here's some bike parking on the street, taken away from cars.

George said...

Not a Cycle chic in site!

Hey! That's not fair! I dress very well on my Canberra bicycle!

Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy B from Jersey said...


I very much like your explanation of the roadway diagram you show. It is very informative and you do a good job pointing out the logic of the design.

However I too have concerns, like the others, about cycle tracks on low volume streets. From what little I've seen here it would seem to be mostly unnecessary and the cycle track could cause more hazards then the facility tries to solve. Is it so bad to make cars wait behind bicycles on such streets like is required on German Fahrradstrassen?

Also. Damn it, man! You blog way too much! I can barely keep up! But it's so damn good I've got to read it! Yours is one of the best bicycle blogs on the planet!

Mikael said...

It's quite simple. The citizens want the lanes and pressure the city hall to build them. And when they are implemented on such stretches cycle traffic increases 20% and car traffic decreases 10%.

The societal benefits are enormous. Better public health, less pollution, safer streets.

That's why we do it and keep on doing it.

Tim Beadle said...

Is the guy in the poster wearing _headphones_? He'd be called an "iPod Zombie" over here in the UK. (any excuse to hate cyclists...)