A city with more bicycles than inhabitants, that’s enough to attract the biggest cycling race in the world. With 745,000 cycles recorded for 620,000 administered, Copenhagen, which hosts the Grand Départ of the Tour de France on Friday July 1, prides itself on being “the most cycle-friendly city in the world”. The Danish capital intends to take advantage of the event to promote its culture of cycling, a means of transport that has become essential thanks to numerous developments.
In Copenhagen, before crossing, make sure that the passage is free without a car, but especially without a bicycle. In the Danish capital, bicycles are queens, and cyclists often have priority. “There isn’t really a right of way rule for bikes, but it’s in our culture to make it easy to get around”, says Mia Nygaard, deputy mayor of the capital in charge of culture and leisure. With the development of many cycle paths, the bicycle has become the favorite means of transport for the inhabitants of Copenhagen and its suburbs to get to work (35%), ahead of the car (32%).
The Queen Louise Bridge is one of the symbols of this cycling culture shared by Copenhageners. With 42,000 daily passages, it is considered one of the busiest cycle paths in the world, with a lane for cycles as wide as those for cars. Alen, a teacher, uses it very regularly and has become accustomed to pedal travel: “When I have less than ten kilometers to cover, I avoid the car. I feel safe, even in town, because so many of us have a bicycle, and I think that drivers who have their own bikes pay more attention.”
According to figures from the municipality of Copenhagen, 80% of cyclists, most of whom do not wear helmets, feel safe on the capital’s cycle lanes. It must be said that over the past fifteen years, more than 100 million euros have been invested in the construction of tracks and bridges reserved solely for bicycles. “Cycling is always taken into consideration in the construction of our cities and our roads, to ensure that the asphalt is compatible, or by marking the ground with colors to indicate cycle lanes for example”assures Mia Nygaard.
Twelve bicycle highways have notably emerged over the past ten years, over more than 200 kilometers spread over 31 municipalities around the capital. “These are coherent and uninterrupted cycle paths, which are the result of a collaboration between several municipalities, and which allow cyclists not to have to stop or cross crossroads at each change of municipality”explains Sidsel Birk Hjuler, head of the Copenhagen Area Cycle Highways office and board member of the Danish Cycling Embassy.
On these bicycle highways, everything is laid out for the comfort of cyclists, including footrests with traffic lights and streetlights since night falls early, around 4 p.m., in winter in Denmark. “Traffic lights are also coordinated so you can always turn green if you’re driving at an average of 20 km/h”, adds Sidsel Birk Hjuler. The portions converted into cycle highways have thus experienced a 38% increase in use after their development, and the average length of journeys made on these lanes is 13 kilometres: “Many might find it long, as it can take a little longer than on a regional train for example, but they gain free time since they no longer need to plan sports sessions after work”she adds.
Because beyond the environmental benefits and the reduction of CO2 emissions, these trips by bike also have positive consequences on the health of Danish pedallers. According to the authorities, cycling saves one million days off work annually.
The Ministry of Transport has also calculated that the healthcare system saves around one euro for every kilometer Danes cycle.Sidsel Birk Hjuler, head of the Cycle Highways office in Copenhagen
As the number of cyclists declines across Denmark, cycle highways in the Copenhagen area are expected to increase fivefold and cover almost 850 kilometers by 2045. So much so that the next challenge for the town hall is to widen the cycle paths which, at peak times, experience traffic jams of… bicycles.