The city where half of all commuters travel by bike

by Rebecca Macfie / 14 February, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Copenhagen bike nz

A bike-share rack in Copenhagen. Photo/Getty Images

In Denmark’s capital, half of all commuters travel by bicycle every day, compared to 2.9% of New Zealanders.

In the 2013 Census, 2.9% of New Zealanders who travelled to work reported riding a bicycle – up slightly from 2.5% at the previous census. More than 80% went by car, truck or van.

In Copenhagen, 50% of citizens commute by bike every day, despite the short winter days and the often-harsh weather. Two-thirds of politicians routinely bike to work at the Danish Parliament. How did the city achieve this level of bicycle use?

Marianne Weinreich is from the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, a network of cycling professionals, local authorities and non-governmental organisations that encourages cycling around the world. She says cars dominated Danish roads in the 1970s, and there was talk of removing long-standing cycle paths. Cyclists took to the streets in protest, gathering in huge demonstrations outside city hall in Copenhagen.

Since then the city has allocated funding for cycling and, throughout the country, cycling infrastructure is built into municipal budgets and backed by street-design standards stipulating where protected cycleways are required.

Separation of cyclists from traffic is essential on high-volume roads, she says. “It is a question of political will. The space is there. It’s a question of how politicians choose to distribute that space to the different users or different modes of transport.”

Marianne Weinreich.

When car lanes are narrowed to create cycleways, people complain it will create congestion and slow down the traffic, but she says the evidence refutes that. “Cities like New York, that have made these changes, have shown travel times for cars do not increase, because the whole flow works better.”

The “carrot” of cycle lanes is not enough, however. “There also needs to be some stick,” Weinreich says. Car parking is scarce and expensive in Copenhagen and smaller cities, including her home town of Aarhus. “I don’t have a car any more, because I spent so much time finding a park.”

Residents pay a high price for parking permits, although she doubts it represents the true value of the street space taken up by stationary cars.

Allocating space for parked cars “is not smart, and we want smart cities. The smartest choice you can make in the city is to use your bike and walk. It’s fast and healthy … And cycling is good for business. Many business owners seem to think it’s a car that buys things. But people buy things, and the more people who can get to the shop, the better. And in many cases where you make streets car free and bring in people, they shop. Parked cars don’t shop.”

For more on why more people don't cycle in New Zealand, despite its potential to make us healthier and happier, and our cities less congested and polluted, pick up a copy of the new Listener magazine.

Latest

Breaking bread with The Dusty Apron: The secret to the perfect loaf
Does the Norton Core router deliver? Plus 5 tips for home network security
96675 2018-09-21 00:00:00Z Tech

Does the Norton Core router deliver? Plus 5 tips f…

by Peter Griffin

A look at the Norton Core secure router, and five tips for home network security.

Read more
Labour MP Meka Whaitiri stripped of ministerial portfolios
96626 2018-09-20 15:50:21Z Politics

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri stripped of ministerial po…

by Jo Moir

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has been stripped of her ministerial portfolios but remains an MP.

Read more
Is the Government all talk, no action?
96616 2018-09-20 14:22:42Z Politics

Is the Government all talk, no action?

by The Listener

The Ardern Administration knows that consultation and risk-assessment are vital, but there’s such a thing as too much homework.

Read more
Fixing youth mental health is going to take more than money
96608 2018-09-20 12:38:53Z Social issues

Fixing youth mental health is going to take more t…

by Aaron Hendry

You can throw money at the system all you want, but until our youth mental health services are designed to put rangatahi at the centre, they'll fail.

Read more
A new look Mint Cakery brings sweet treats to Ellerslie
96602 2018-09-20 11:38:14Z Auckland Eats

A new look Mint Cakery brings sweet treats to Elle…

by Alex Blackwood

Mint Cakery gets bigger and better, moving from Pt Chev to a sunny space in Ellerslie.

Read more
Golfer Bryson DeChambeau's scientific quest for a consistent swing
96600 2018-09-20 11:33:10Z Sport

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau's scientific quest for a …

by Paul Thomas

Bryson DeChambeau has put himself in the top spot for the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake with a single-minded drive to simplify the game.

Read more
Housing NZ to reimburse hundreds evicted on flawed meth testing
96594 2018-09-20 10:03:55Z Politics

Housing NZ to reimburse hundreds evicted on flawed…

by Jo Moir

Housing NZ has committed to compensating hundreds of tenants it evicted from state homes based on bogus meth testing, some of whom were made homeless.

Read more