Danes are avid cyclists—young people and old, business executives and students, in big cities and small towns. Copenhagen and other Danish cities, such as Århus, Odense and Aalborg, all have clearly designated bike lanes (that drivers observe!) and upgrades to infrastructure almost always include provisions for cyclists. It is estimated that 36 percent of Copenhageners—nearly half a million people—bike to work, to school, to the shops and to meet friends for dinner or a movie, collectively pedaling nearly 685,000 miles every day! The city’s goal is to raise that total to 50 percent of the population by 2015. One way Danish cities keep tallies of cyclists is with cykelbarometers that use sensors to count the bicycles passing a given point and display running daily and yearly totals. You’ll see them in Odense and Vejle —and this spring one was installed at Copenhagen’s Town Hall Square. (It also has a built-in pump for bike tires!)
With all of its collected cycling wisdom, it was only natural for Denmark to become home to a cycling think tank. The newly formed Cycling Embassy of Denmark (www.cycling-embassy.org) is an information clearinghouse on cycling and bike culture. Its resident experts include city planners, engineers, cycling promoters, equipment manufacturers and more who share their expertise with city planners, politicians, NGOs and others seeking to build bicycling culture in their locales.
Danish architect, urban planner and founding member of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, Jan Gehl (www.gehlarchitects.com) already has consulted on projects for cities as diverse as Melbourne, Australia; Mexico City and New York City to make them more sustainable and bike-friendly based on the Copenhagen model.
Copenhagen also will showcase its commitment to two-wheeled travel when it hosts the Velo-City Global bicycling conference in June 2010. (www.velo-city2010.com) Other upcoming cycling events include CSC Copenhagen Cycling on September 20.
Another project, called SmartBiking, will be implemented by the time Copenhagen hosts the United Nations Climate Change Conference, December 7-18. Developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), SmartBiking employs a “smart tag” system that allows cyclists to exchange information and relative position with each other, and to track the number of miles they pedal. It also corresponds with a Facebook social networking application called “I Crossed Your Path” for cyclists who want to connect with others they might pass on their usual bike routes.
Rolling Out the Message to Tourists
Tourists get in on the action as well, thanks to Copenhagen’s famous, free City Bikes—possibly the first program of its kind in a major city. (www.bycyklen.dk) From spring through fall, 110 bike racks throughout the city are filled with 2,000 colorful, customized City Bikes. By inserting a 20-kroner coin into the bike’s lock, a rider frees the bike from its chain and may then ride it anywhere within the city. When the bike is returned and relocked to any City Bikes rack, the rider’s 20-kroner coin is returned. Even famous visitors take advantage of City Bikes: When then-president Bill Clinton visited Copenhagen in 1997, he was presented with a bike dubbed “City Bike One”!
Several Copenhagen hotels, including the Hotel D’Angleterre (www.dangleterre.com) and the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel (www.admiralhotel.dk), have bikes available for guests’ use. Organized bike tours, such as City Safari (www.citysafari.dk), also are popular with visitors.
For those who wish to cycle long distance, Denmark has 11 national cycling routes totaling more than 4,000 km (nearly 2,500 miles), and a route recently was mapped out for the 391-mile journey between Copenhagen and Berlin. (www.bike-berlin-copenhagen.com)
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