Friday, July 4, 2008

Copenhagenize the Planet

KT and I consider Cambridge a cycling city, but it doesn't compare to Copenhagen. This article in the Guardian discusses Copenhagen cycling fashion and, more important, notes that bike madness there is relatively recent:

Copenhagen hasn't always been wall-to-wall bikes. Its first purpose-built, segregated cycle path was created only 25 years ago. Colville-Andersen says the city's bike culture was built almost from scratch. There was a political will to make it happen, funds were allocated. Funds are still allocated. "We're not bike-friendly because it's a flat city. We ride lots because of visionary political decisions."

These political decisions were unpopular at the time. Now Danes can't remember a time before mass bicycle culture. Cycle use in Copenhagen is 36% (the UK average is 2%). City officials want to see this rise to 50% by 2015, when it is hoped the city will become the world's environmental capital. To reach this target, Copenhagen is closing major thoroughfares to cars, creating bike motorways in their place. Thirty thousand bikes a day, and only 15,000 cars, use Nørrebro Street, making it a prime candidate for closure to cars. Copenhagen also operates a "green wave" system on some streets: if you ride at a steady speed, you'll hit green lights all the way. The city's vice-mayor has proposed that when the pollution levels rise too high, all the traffic lights at the edge of the city will turn red, stranding cars in official gridlock.

This makes me wonder whether our old home, Washington DC, could ever truly become a cycling city, as many mayors have promised. I sadly doubt it--those 100 degree plus humid summers are killers.--jt

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