COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — I’ve been struggling for days to figure out where to start with my experience in Copenhagen.
Over the first few days I was being impressed by the hour, and sometimes by the minute. For instance, as soon as I got off the plane I hopped onto a train, for about $10 Cdn, that whisked me into the downtown in about 15 minutes (including two stops at other stations along the way). As I walked out of the main train station I was greeted by thousands of parked bikes. Wherever I walked, hundreds of cyclists passed by in separate, dedicated lanes. Riders and walkers got advance green lights at intersections. A plethora of parents carried their kids or groceries in cargo bikes. My hostel was a few feet from a thriving public square connected to one of 18 booming pedestrian malls. Bus-only lanes dropped people off at subway stations. The metro station designs were gorgeous. Modern architecture seemed to sit nicely, if not beautifully, between centuries-old row houses. The former industrialized waterfront was teeming with life, signature architecture and cultural institutions.
As a friend noted on the Wall of my Facebook profile, my status updates and Twitter feed were similar to how an 8-year old would react at Disneyland. And it’s kinda true: this city is like a Spacing-themed amusement park. With eyes wide open (and a camera pointing in every direction), I tried to absorb as much as I could.
Now, I know I shouldn’t paint the city with such a wide, positive brush after only 10 days of visiting, and I’m fully aware that Copenhagen has its share of problems like any large metropolis. But most of those glitches don’t seem to be of the urban design or planning nature.
So, instead of making long-winded opinionated posts, I’ve decided to publish postcard-like entries of examples of infrastructure, planning and urban design elements that caught my attention. Today I’ll start with cycling, because everything Copenhagen seems to do all comes back to the soft traffic of two (and often three) wheels. (please note there about 18 photos after the continue reading link).
Thousands of parked bikes is impressive. But thousands of bikes parked outside of a subway station is even more spectacular. Its a symbol of integrated transportation, where riders have chosen to pragmatically split up their trip. At a few stations I even saw a room that stored bikes an escalator ride away from the platform.
In many parts of the city, bikes and public transit went hand-in-hand. Transit stops often doubled as a buffer between buses and bikes helping create a totally separate lane for each.
All over the city I saw riders using a variety of cargo bikes. Sometimes it was to transport kids, other times it was to move a large item. The city has a few styles in use, including the Christiania, Nihola, and the Bullitt.
The Bullitt cargo bike is used by couriers, for the most part. The strong suspension design at the front allows heavy objects to be moved at speeds up to 40km/h. The bike is sold at a store called Larry vs. Harry, and the above photo is actually Harry (real name Hans). I ran into him on the waterfront where he was modelling the bike for a Japanese fashion magazine.
On May 1st, Copenhagen installed a bike counter at the intersection just outside City Hall. The top number (in red) is the date, the middle number (also in red) is how many cyclists passed through that day, and the bottom number (in blue) is how many cyclists have passed since the counter was installed two weeks ago. I’d love to see something like this in Toronto at an intersection known for high bike traffic (feel free to make suggestions).
At numerous places where a public square, pedestrian mall/shared street, and bike lane intersect, attempts are made to indicate who goes where. This particular lane lead from a road with cars and a bike lane, through a square, and into a naked/shared street.
Many of the busiest roads with bike traffic have their own curbed lane, such as this example in the Norboro neighbourhood. These lanes are the first to be plowed during winter months since bikes are used more than motor vehicles or public transit on this corridor in and out of the downtown.
Check out the allocation of space on this right-of-way: pedestrians get about 3 metres, the bike lane is almost 4 metres, and cars get about 2.5 metres. This bike corridor is part of an experiment Copenhagen is trying out. Since cargo bikes are flourishing, there is a need for more space in the lanes. The City took away a lane of car traffic in each direction and added it to the bike lanes. The thinner, outside lane is now used by quicker riders and the wider lane is being called a “conversation lane” by local bike planners as it allows two cyclists to ride side-by-side and be social.
If Copenhagen has one problem with bikes it’s where to put them all. Bike parking is at a premium. In many places around the city, car parking has been replaced with bike racks (see below). Even more impressive is how little Copenhageners actually lock their bikes to anything. They use a lock installed near the bike tire and ignore the actual racks. The racks seem to just help keep things organized and the bikes balanced upright.
One of the more impressive pieces of bike infrastructure was the right- and left-turn lanes. When I came upon these examples it blew my mind.
In the small, separate city of Fredericksburg (imagine the Annex being its own city in Toronto), green LED lights have been installed to indicate the bike lanes on this cobbled and dark street. While this might seem slightly gimmicky, I kinda like it.
all photos by Matthew Blackett