Copenhagen is world famous for its biking culture and now officially the first Bike City in the World
Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark has set a new record. There are more bicycles than the cars plying on city roads. In the last year, 35,080 more bikes have joined the daily roll, bringing the total number to 265,700, compared to 252,600 cars. Last year, Copenhagen city has also been voted as ‘Best city for cyclists’ and ‘World’s most inhabitable city’.
In 1970, there were 351,133 cars and 100,071 bikes. The municipality of Copenhagen has been carrying out manual traffic counts at various city centers since then. The city launched its first electric bicycle counter in 2009 that had free air pump and other facilities for bicycle riders.
It had a sensor line in the asphalt on the bike lane a few meters in front of the counter which registered the cyclists and a SIM-card in the counters so the information was automatically sent to the City of Copenhagen’s Center for Traffic. All this was done to promote the usage of bicycle over car.
The efforts of the city have started paying off. Bicycle traffic has increased by 68% in the last 20 years. The former technical and environmental mayor, Klaus Bondam who is now head of the Danish Cycling Federation says that a sheer political will and strong leadership are the reasons behind the cycle revolution. “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,” he was quoted as saying in ‘The Guardian’. A new focus on urbanism and the new sustainability agenda broke all the traditional nuances when it came to cycling. The city really is biking heaven for the cyclist in Copenhagen with over 390 kilometres of designated bike lanes.
Since 2005, 1 billion Danish kroner (£115m) have been invested in cycling infrastructure. Several new bike and pedestrian only- bridges such as Cykelslangen (the Cycle Snake) and the recently opened Kissing Bridge, have made cycling an everyday affair. Morten Kabell, the current mayor of technical and environmental affairs, says that for him the most important thing is to have “green transport system”. He is striving for 50 % commutes to be made by bicycle. For him making City Hall and Kongens Nytorv areas car-free zone within a decade, is the agenda. Given that the number has already gone up to 41 %, the goal does not seem lofty.
His department recently invited suggestions from Copenhageners to identify areas where bike lanes are missing, are too narrow, or are heavily congested. In just 12 days more than ten thousand people shared their views on an online map. The data will be used to develop Cycle Track Priority Plan for 2017-2025 and will be tabled for the annual budget negotiations.
The next step for Kabell is to provide good alternatives to the cars. “We’re expanding the metro trains and investing in bike infrastructure. Give people options and then slowly take away space from cars and give it to bikes.” he says adding “It is cheaper too. The last 12 years of bicycle investments only amount to half the cost of a single vehicle bypass in the north of the city.”
Experts argue that making the city more bicycle friendly pays you back quadruple of the amount invested on bicycle infrastructure in terms of less hospitalization, lesser cases of heavy injuries and road accidents, less work related sickness absence etc.
While economy has one argument favoring bicycles, health is another. Cycling has a great association with health. It is one of the best ways for keeping good health. For example, cycling reduces the risk of serious medical conditions such as heart disease, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and the most common form of diabetes.
As far as India is concerned there is high enthusiasm in people for improved city design and infrastructure for non-motorized transport here. People want active transportation, better health and livability but it does not reflect in the infrastructure. There are only a few bicycle tracks. High speed vehicles are other impediments. The speed limit in most pedestrian and cycling-friendly cities in the world is about 30kmph. Better infrastructure and strict enforcement of laws to prevent encroachment of cycling lanes are the key to make the country bicycle friendly. Mindset of people also needs an alteration. The fear that riding bicycle will turn them into nobody urges people to use cars and motor transports. The sight of a helmet and shorts clad cyclist on a fancy bike is still quite alien to many onlookers and motorists.
However few initiatives such as rented bicycle from certain metro stations and a few cycling lane show Delhi in good light but there is a harsh reality that according to a report a cyclist is killed every eight days on an average.
Copenhagen has set example by making it as bicycle paradise. Are other cities listening?
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