What makes the Copenhagen bicycle experience superb?(Part 1)

Copenhagen is a great bike city and lies up there with Amsterdam and other Danish cities as the most bikeable in the world. I often ponder what makes the Copenhagen biking experience so superb and I I’ve reached a conclusion. In this two parts series of posts I’m going to analyze what makes Copenhagen so friendly to our pedaling residents.

This first post is going to focus on the infrastructure of the city. Copenhagen’s infrastructure is designed for bikers. That doesn’t mean designed for bikers after it became trendy but designed for bikers from the beginning. Biking has long been a part of the Danish culture and this city reflects it. There are numerous things that you simply don’t see in any other city and I have to say, they make a difference.

1. Raised bike paths on both sides of the road.

Copenhagen raises their bike paths so that bikers are separated from drivers by about half a foot or 15 cm. This is crucial in making bikers feel safe and it forbids cars from using the lane as parking. To me this is a basic necessity in any bike city. I simply don’t feel safe riding on the road next to cars, one foul slip on your part or the driver’s and you’re toast.

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2. Traffic lights specifically for bikers.

Riding a bike in traffic can be confusing and sometimes you’re not sure which light to follow. In Copenhagen there is no confusion, we’re served by traffic lights all over the city and often given the right away in some places. The lights are even timed to follow a “green wave” pattern where biking at the right speed guarantees greens. The traffic lights make bikers feel important, valued and safe.

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3. Bike racks all over.

Everybody needs to park their bike once they’ve arrived at their destination. The city of Copenhagen in most cases has provided ample space for bike parking.

4. Bike pumps cleverly dispersed.

The time will come when you have to pump up your bike tires. In Copenhagen they are to be found all about the city and are operated with a step peddle. Now that’s sustainable!

5. The green wave.

A unique feature of Copenhagen is the timing of the lights or better known by the catchy term “The Green Wave”.  Some lights are cleverly timed to an average biker’s speed meaning that if you ride at the right speed then you’re sure to hit greens all the way! The presence of the wave is signified by this symbol.

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Despite being a great bike city, Copenhagen still has it’s faults. There’s room for improvement.

1. Wider bike paths.
There are super highways in a few areas but we could use wider bike paths in a lot of places. It’s inconvenient that you can’t ride next to somebody without having to move constantly. Of course, widening is tough if existing infrastructure is in the way.

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2. Bus passengers blocking bikers.
This is a huge issue. Bikers are constantly forced to stop and wait for bus passengers to load on and load off. This kills your groove and often the bus will be synced with your exact pace. The solution to this is more bus islands so passengers can get off and then cross when convenient. Currently, they’re being forced to get off onto the bike path. Here’s an example of a bus island on Nørrebro:

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And here is one that needs improvement:

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3. Community workshops for DIY repair/Bike maintenance classes.
I’m not sure how this would work but in Fort Collins, CO we had something called the bike co-op. You could come in and get your bike fixed for cheap or do it yourself. They would teach you all the ins and outs. I think it’s a great idea and could help students and low-income people.

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