26 April 2011

50% On Bike By 2012! No... 2015! No... 2025!!

Spring Sunshine 39

ADDENDUM - 09 MAY 2011
The head of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office, Andreas Røhl, sent us a comment about the above article. It's at the end of this article.


On April 16 there was an article in Politiken, a national newspaper, about some visionary new goals for cycling in Copenhagen.

The current mayor in charge of the Technical & Environmental Administration (DoT), Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, is quoted as saying the following soundbites:

"If you don't dare to be ambitious, you don't get anywhere".

The journalist, who apparently suffers from short and medium term memory loss, wrote this:

"It is daring. The goal is that 50% of all trips to work or education in the city of Copenhagen will be on bicycles by 2025."

He happily quotes the mayor's press release (Ctrl+C - Ctrl+V is, of course, the New Journalism):

Aiming High
Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard admits that it is a high goal to aim for.
"We haven't seen cities that can reach 50%. It's an ambitious project and one must ask one's self if it the target can be reached," explains Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard. (who has obviously never heard of Groningen in Holland...)

If you know nothing about it it sounds great! Wow. How visionary of this Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard.

Here's the problem. Here's why this is Newspeak in a silver (tinfoil, actually) lining.

In the City of Copenhagen's Cycling Strategy 2006-2010 there was the declared goal that 50% of all trips to work and education should be by bicycle by... 2012.

Here's a screengrab of the visionary goals from the City's website:

That was back when the mayor in charge of our DoT was Klaus Bondam and he, together with the then Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard, found 250 million extra kroner to work towards the goals.

Bjerregaard later took the piggy bank away from Bondam in order to go to bed with the right-wing parties so that she could try and win the next election, leaving Bondam's visions out in the cold. What a smack in the face THAT was.

Then, a couple of years later, the visionary goals returned, slightly readjusted. This time wrapped up in a package called Miljømetropol (Environmental Metropolis). The declared goals looked like this:

50% of of all trips to work and education should be by bicycle by... 2015. A three year extension. It IS a tricky goal, especially when bicycle helmet promotion reared it's ugly head in early 2008 and rebranded cycling negatively for the first time, as well as causing cycling levels to fall in Copenhagen. But three years... I could almost live with that.

Here's a screengrab from the City's website with the 2015 goal:

And now the new mayor has just extended the deadline by a DECADE. 2025. Without admitting that A. the goals aren't even his vision and B. He has failed as a bicycle-friendly politician.

He prefers putting money into electric cars even when Copenhageners don't want them, prefering more bicycle infrastructure investment and more Metro instead.

You simply cannot 'communicate' yourself to 50% of all trips by bicycle. Posters, websites and recycled spin will not achieve that.

You need money. More than the €10 million annual budget for Bicycle Office. 250 million kroner could have been an excellent start. But the visionary bicycle-friendly politician has left the building. Leaving us in an increasingly car-centric vacuum in the nation's capital.

Copenhageners can discuss - often heatedly - the former mayor, Klaus Bondam, but one thing is certain. As far as making the City of Cyclists even more bicycle-friendly, Bondam was a once-in-a-generation visionary and he accomplished more in his first week on the job that Kjeldgaard has in his first 18 months.

ADDENDUM - 09 MAY 2011
The head of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office, Andreas Røhl, sent us a comment about the above article:

"1) The goal of 50% wasn't part of the bicycle strategy for 2002-2012 and thereby has never been a goal for 2012. In the Bicycle Strategy for 2012 there was a goal of 40% - which we started to edge closer to with 37% in a snow-free year (2009) . Therefore that goal was adjusted to 50% by the end of 2015 in connection with the City Council's 2007 decision that Copenhagen should become a Miljømetropol (Environmental Metropolis), including the world's best bicycle city.

2) In addition, it doesn't say in the new Bicycle Strategy that the goal has been veiled for 2015. It merely says that it is extremely ambitious and that if we don't reach it in 2015 we will continue to work towards it in 2025.

Also, part of reaching the 50% goal presupposed congestion charges, which the national government hasn't allowed the City of Copenhagen to initiate."

Thanks for your input, Andreas.

Thanks to Lasse for the link.

A related criticism of the City's backpedalling on visionary projects - in Danish - at the Latterlig at... (Ridiculous that...) blog.


Erik Sandblom said...

How sad.

It's so transparent when politicians put their goals so far in the future that they become meaningless. They probably want the goals forgotten but why don't journalists call them on it? It's an easy question to ask: "How is a goal in 14 year's time going affect your work today? Where do you expect to be in 5 years?"

hamburgize.com said...

What a shame for Copenhagen - in the whole world. And what a bad model for all other cities in the world struggling for being better cycle cities, if Copenhagen does not keep up with the former promises.

jb said...

I was in Denmark 2 weeks ago and I was surprised how many more helmets I saw compared to just one year ago when I was last there.

kukupajtas said...

I love your city!
Fingers crossed for you in Budapest!
Higher percentages in CPH >>> stronger example for our activists (and politicians).

David Hembrow said...

There is a reason why I suggested back in 2009 that what Copenhagen needs is for it to be Groningenized. Higher cycle usage doesn't come due to creating lots of publicity while ignoring a declining cycling rate, and lack-lustre infrastructure certainly doesn't help either.

What is needed is genuinely good infrastructure. That costs a fair bit more than Denmark currently spends, but results are proportional to expenditure.

I know it's all a bit painful to face up to, but Denmark must face up to the problem, and do so as soon as possible. This is the only way that the decline can be reversed and the country have any chance of catching up with the Netherlands.

BTW, remember that Groningen is now claiming nearly 60% of all journeys by bike, not merely the much easier to achieve commuting figure.

Also, while I don't think that helmet promotion in 2008 has helped at all, the problem of a declining cycling rate has been quite clear since the early 1990s, so there are obviously also other factors at work.

Finally, good luck. It doesn't help anyone to see Copenhagen suffer. This also should serve a warning to other cities and countries, including the Netherlands. No place can afford to sit on its laurels.

Cycling is extremely fragile. It doesn't take much to make people stop cycling, and constant investment at a high rate is required merely to stand still.

Erik Sandblom said...

Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard says some nice things about improving the bike path network but it would be nice to see him look at the big picture. The reason we need bike paths is that there are too many cars going too fast, and one reason people drive is that there is parking available. If there's no convenient car parking, there's not much point in driving in a place like Copenhagen where you can easily bike or take public transit.

One of the Politiken.dk articles mentions that it's illegal to build buildings without car parking and that the regulations now also encompass bicycles. Since car parking is a cornerstone of car traffic, it's doubtful if this new regulation will really change anything, until developers are allowed to decide for themselves how much parking is needed (ie less than now).

I'm not sure about Copenhagen but in Stockholm, the cost of providing one garage spot is 20 000 - 40 000 euros. This high cost is the reason politicians feel the need to force developers to put in so much car parking. This is often referred to in English as parking minimums, and in Swedish as parkeringsnorm.

christhebull said...

Oh wait, isn't that the year London is meant to have 5% modal share?

didrik said...

We can't communicate our way to more cycling? But it's been working so well here in the States. Why, we've been telling people for years that cycling really isn't as dangerous as they think. Just take the lane like a car, wear a helmet, hi-vis vest, 10-15 blinking lights and you'll be safe. It's been working great! Our mode share is up to from 1% to just a bit more slightly higher than 1%.

tstreet said...

I wish there were a city in the U.S. who had half of Copenhagen's problems. Oy.

Zweiradler said...

Great comment, didrik :)

Green Idea Factory said...

Indeed, for the bike share design competition in 2009 which was started when Bondam was in charge of cycling, I got a strong sense that the future of cycling was very important in the view of the municipality (Our team won one of two first prizes and since they originally only planned one had to add about 30,000 EUR to the budget so they could award both with the previously-published amount for a first prize.)

Nice deconstruction, Mikael. Let's hope they see it as criticism with love

kfg said...

didrik - "mode share is up to from 1% to just a bit more slightly higher than 1%"

Which has been accomplished by getting fewer people to ride more often, the total number of people cycling being in decline for a couple of decades, so the picture isn't quite as rosy as you paint it.