For the first time ever there are now more bikes on the streets of Copenhagen than cars. Thanks to cycling-friendly measures and infrastructure, bicycle traffic has risen in the Danish capital by 68 per cent in the last 20 years.
According to an article in the Guardian, 35,080 more bikes joined the streets of Copenhagen in the last year, bringing the total number to 265,700 compared with 252,600 cars.
Back in 1970 when the city first began carrying out manual traffic counts in the city centre, there were 351,133 cars and 100,071 bikes. Thanks to concerted municipal efforts to create a cycling city – including bike and pedestrian-only bridges as well citizen-participation in improving the cycling infrastructure – bicycle traffic has risen by 68 per cent in the last 20 years.
“What really helped was a very strong political leadership; that was mainly Ritt Bjerregaard [the former lord mayor], who had a dedicated and authentic interest in cycling,” said Klaus Bondam, head of the Danish Cycling Federation, in the article. “Plus, a new focus on urbanism and the new sustainability agenda broke the glass roof when it came to cycling.”
In the past year alone, bicycle traffic increased by 15 per cent while vehicle traffic fell by 1 per cent. Part of this has to do with the population growing steadily in the inner city and the realisation that it is faster to get around town on a bicycle than in a car.
But when the city’s metro expansion opens in 2019, some urban experts predict that bicycle traffic will fall – which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, reports the Guardian.
“There’s no doubt it will take some of the bike traffic; but the important thing for me is to have a green transport system. As long as it’s fossil-free and alleviates congestion and air pollution, I’m cool with that,” said Morten Kabell, the current mayor of technical and environmental affairs.
The next step for him is to create good alternatives to the car. As he told the Guardian: “You can’t just prohibit cars and then deal with it … That’s why we’re expanding the metro and investing in bike infrastructure. Give people options and then slowly take away space from cars and give it to bikes.”