04 September 2010

Bike Lane to Germany Across the Sea?

The final negotiations are underway about the proposed bridge from Denmark to Germany - the Femern Belt Bridge between the Danish island of Lolland and the German island of Fehmarn. Copenhagenize is wondering if we'll be third-time lucky.

When the 17.5 km long Great Belt Fixed Link - linking the islands Zealand and Funen - was being planned in the 1990's, there was talk of adding bicycle infrastructure but it never gained any ground. When the bridge was completed in 1998, cyclists who previously could ride onto the ferry were then forced to take the train or a bus in order to cross between east and west Denmark.

The next massive bridge project was the 15 km long Öresund Fixed Link between Denmark and Sweden, completed in 2000.
Homeward Bound - Bridge The Future is Offshore
Again, there were voices in the wilderness calling for bicycle infrastructure to be added to the construction. Again, nothing came of it. Cyclists who could take their bicycles on ferries from Copenhagen and Malmö now had to take the train. It must be said that it is much easier taking bicycles from Copenhagen to Sweden than taking bicycles from Copenhagen to west Denmark. There are even seatbelts for bicycles on the trains:
Bike Seatbelt

Now the next project is the Femern Bridge. Once again there are voices calling for bicycle infrastructure to be added on the 19 km fixed link. The voices are louder and more insistent this time, it seems. A group of counties in the southern part of Denmark are itching for a bike path on the bridge. It would increase tourism to the region, in particular cycle tourism. Germany is a massive cycle tourism nation and while it's possible to cycle across the border to Denmark in Jutland, another route would be a brilliant addition.

Here at Copenhagenize we always try to highlight the importance of bicycle symbolism in increasing the profile of cycling and emphasizing the fact that the bicycle is back and here to stay.

The symbolic value of adding a bicycle path to the Femern Bridge is enormous. The existing cycle tourism market would benefit greatly and cycling over the bridge would be a tourist attraction for cycle tourists. You can see the t-shirts already; "I cycled the world's longest bicycle bridge!". I would bet you'd see Danes on cargo bikes heading across the sea to buy cheap beer and alcohol in Puttgarden, too. What a great ride.

The three counties of Lolland, Langeland and Svendborg are most active in pushing for a bike link to and from Germany. They have a chapter dedicated to it in a document they've prepared "From detour to shortcut"- in Danish - that features this illustration:

As they write:
"Bicycles and cyclists are generally very courteous to their surroundings. They don't generate noise, they don't cause accidents and they have a high daily consumer rate (cycle tourists) because there are limits to how much you can carry on a bicycle. Improving the national bicycle routes will also be beneficial to the local cyclists."

So what does it cost? Well, the bridge is budgetted for 35 billion kroner [€4.7 billion] and adding a bicycle path is estimated to add just 1% of that amount to the total. 350 million kroner [€47 million] for a bicycle lane 70 m above the waves with shields against the wind.

For inspiration we can look to that third great cycling nation, Japan, who have bicycle infrastructure on the Innoshima Bridge.

It remains to be seen whether the Femern Bridge will have bicycles crossing on it. There is only one political party backing the idea although other parties claim to be open to the idea and an analysis of the cost-efficiency, etc.

We're crossing our fingers for a chance to cross the Baltic Sea on our bicycles. The third big bridge in the Danish series surely deserves bicycle paths.

While we're in the neighbourhood, the idea of this bridge really pales in comparison to an idea proposed by one of our greatest architectural thinkers, Bjarke Ingels back in 2003. Creating a Baltic Super Harbour, right where this bridge will be placed. Check out the idea here. Far too visionary for modern politicians, though. Makes too much sense, too.

Of course there are other great bicycle ideas whose time has come. Like... um... the Bicycle Island.

Via: Danish newspaper Politiken - article Hvorfor ikke bare cykle over Østersøen? by Michael Rothenborg and own research.


SteveL said...

here in the UK the first Severn Bridge, from England to Wales, has a bike path on it; a nice way to get from one country to another. Not good in wet/windy weather though, and to get to it on the English side isn't great.

I've taken my son over it by bike though, to wales and back -he loved it. Which is another use of the bike path - a journey in itself

Frits B said...

The Innoshima bridge is only 1.4 km. There is a better examble nearby: the Dutch Afsluitdijk, the dam that closed the Zuiderzee in 1932. Not a bridge but seen as a connection over sea there's no essential difference. The dam is 32 km long and of course has a bicycle path. David Hembrow crossed it in 2008 and made this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCkTjtEiJ7c&feature=related

A more recent example, finished in 1976, is a second dam across the Zuiderzee called the Houtribdijk. This links the towns of Enkhuizen and Lelystad, and is again some 30 km long across open water (it's closed in case of storm to prevent cyclists from being blown into the sea).

The problem with these long distance cycle routes is that when they need resurfacing there is no alternative for cyclists but to make an enormous detour (seriously, when searching for Houtribdijk I found an announcement of the agency that maintains these road, which said that due to limited space available cyclists would have to take either the Afsluitdijk or the route along the South edge of the IJsselmeer, hundreds of km - for which they were sorry but resurfacing was really in the interests of the cyclists). At least cyclists are seen as serious road users :-).

Brent said...

I've been spending a lot of time on Google maps, especially in street view, planning out my October ride south from Copenhagen and into Germany. I had been hoping to ride the distance completely, but it soon became apparent that one would have to use motorized transport at some point, so I've opted to go due south to the ferry, just at the point you describe. It's rather nice to know that someday, perhaps, cycle tourists like me will be able to do the whole route under their own steam.

tschitschi said...

let's hope there will be a bicycle lane, it would make such a difference.

Anonymous said...

Michael - I echo what Mackenzie has said regarding your bicycling blog - it's exciting and inspirational... and on the subject of inspiration, i would imagine you've come across Danny MacAskill, a fellow Scottish bicyclist?

If not you're in for a REAL treat. Have a look at this:


Almost 20,000,000 views!
And if you have seen this, here's another wee short that you probably haven't, filmed right outside my flat in Edinburgh; Danny bikes & dances on the recycling bins!


Thanks again for fuelling inspiration. Here's to fresh air and FREEDOM from the infernal combustion engine!

Best Regards from Bonnie Scotland!

Simon B

Green Idea Factory said...

Curious, how is this bridge going to increase private automobile traffic on both sides?

Anyway, a related interesting anecdote: As many know, the Golden Gate Bridge between San Francisco and Marin County is a notorious suicide spot. Currently, or at least recently, as a way to deter suicides the main shared path was closed at night to pedestrians, but not to cyclists.

The stated reason was that it was transport infrastructure for cyclists, but I joked that it was a statement by the State that cyclists were less suicidal than pedestrians.

These days, I would not make that kind of stupid self-righteous joke about cyclists vs. pedestrians, and I wonder how much that Femern bridge would cost without road vehicle infrastructure or of course converting part of the planned road to bike use.

Frits B said...

@GIF: At present there is a busy ferry at the "location" of this bridge as it is part of the main route from Northern Germany to Copenhagen. Would there be any reason why traffic might increase if there were a bridge instead of a ferry?

Green Idea Factory said...

Frits: I am sure there are projections which show the differences. I would say for sure that more cars can go this way, as it is faster, seems more "free" etc. compared to the ferry.

So, one question is that IF a cycle path is created will its benefits be undermined by more car traffic, both in environmental terms and road safety.

Speaking generally, I would support a ferry to bridge conversion which included easy bikes-on-trains but no self-propelled* private car access over a conversion which allowed self-propelled cars and included a cycle path. Of course better would be no car access at all.

*As opposed to some capability to put cars on trains.

Frits B said...

GIF: Like the present ferry, the bridge will not be free; its construction will have to be recouped by tolls. This will initially not keep people from using the bridge somewhat more frequently than before but as the novelty wears off and each crossing continues to cost money, traffic will certainly stabilize at about the present level. Cyclists on the other hand will have to pay much less - which may be one reason why the builders seem reluctant to include a bike path: it brings in less revenue.
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fehmarn_Belt_bridge

Green Idea Factory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Green Idea Factory said...

Frits: "traffic will certainly stabilize at about the present level"? Based on what info, some reference in the related links? Again, a general increase seems obvious that if there is more capacity and it is faster and not much more expensive.

According to the Wikipedia page, for the Hamburg-Copenhagen route there will only be one passenger train per hour though it will cut travel time by a bit over 25% compared to now. Will this help some change from plane to train for this journey? The plane is still about 45 min. to an hour faster, center to center with PT to or from airports.

Anyway, the best thing for cycling in Denmark would be for all road bridges to be cut and no bike imports since deaths equal births and bikes can just be recycled... this means less shipping but YES the truth is that re-used junk bikes in Denmark are from the estates of deceased persons, rather than stuff left on the street or stolen and unclaimed.

In fact I heard that Mikael is a consultant on a new film, a re-make of a dystopian sci-fi classic by Lars Von Trier called "Soylent Green Bike".

Henrik B. said...

If I remember correctly (not from the time when the decision was made, but from some post-construction literature), the one of the reasons for leaving out the bicycle lanes on the Great Belt Bridge, was that nobody could agree on the pricing. I think I read it was debated to be anywhere between free and 120 DKR pr. bicycle. As no agreement was ever made, the idea was disbanded.

Matty P said...


I noticed your discussion on the bridge lacking a cyclepath, and was amazed that this would happen in Denmark.

In Australia, we recently finished the Ted Smout, with a 2.7km long, 4.5m wide pedestrian and cycle path linking 2 intermediate sized population centres.

There is even a large fishing facility attached to the cycle path that only bikes and pedestrians have access to. (it is 1.7Km down the bridge and access is primarily by bike for the aged residents in the area.)

We did this with a cycling mode share of about 1%, and I'm amazed that your country and other countries dont have more things like this.


I've just noticed that there are no pictures of this stuff on wikipedia, I might take some if anyone is interested.

Mr Colostomy said...

Is it not legal to just ride on the road on the bridges where the government was too short sighted to provide bicycle infrastructure?

Frits B said...

Mr. Colostomy: Depends on the country I suppose. I don't know the rule in Denmark but in Germany and the Netherlands roads like this would only be open to cars, so no tractors or other slow vehicles as they would cause long tailbacks. Bicycles being slow vehicles in this respect, they would not be allowed.

Henrik B. said...

Mr Colostomy: The Great Belt Bridge (and the Øresund Bridge for that matter) has status of expressway ("motorvej" in Danish). The Danish Traffic Statute states that only engine-powered vehicles, that are able to maintain a speed of at least 40 kph on a horizontal road are to be driven on expressways, so that's a no for bicycles.

Daniel Sparing said...

Here are a couple more pictures of the mentioned Houtribdijk bike path between Flevoland and Noord Holland: