How to get more people cycling in Vancouver? Ask Copenhagen.
The City of Copenhagen claims that 30 minutes of cycling each day increases your mean life expectancy by one to two years. Its analysis indicates that regular cycling means fewer sick days and fewer medical expenses.
The health benefits of cycling in Copenhagen reportedly adds up to about $380 million USD per year. In a recent survey conducted by the City among Copenhagen residents, 58 per cent of cyclists said they found “enjoyment” when cycling around town, versus 34 per cent of people who said they enjoyed driving cars.
These are only two of the many reasons that City staff and politicians in Copenhagen want 50 per cent of the trips people make in the city to be made by bike by 2015. Currently, 36 per cent of trips to school or work are made by bike, which equals about 150,000 bike trips each day in the city.
Not bad for a city of about 300,000 people.
Like Copenhagen, Vancouver has made significant strides in its bike ridership. While our citywide cycle ridership is only at 4 per cent currently, we have increased cycling by 180 per cent since the mid 1990s. We’ve added significant infrastructure for cycling and are poised with the new transportation plan that is up for consultation, to make significant progress in the next few years.
There are a few key steps for Vancouver if we are going to achieve what Copenhagen has demonstrated is possible.
Here’s a few ideas from Copenhagen that might help us get there:
1. Create a cycling culture:
Copenhagenites of all types are into cycling. That’s rain or shine. And, it’s whether you’re dressed for work or for play. It’s how families get around too. With a great diversity of family lifestyle bikes, it’s easy for parents to take the kids around by bike. This culture is clearly not something that government alone can make happen. It’ll take everyone interested in cycling to make it a part of their daily routine, not just something to do on the weekend.
Here’s a food cart on a square where no cars or trucks are allowed to operate.
Delivery workers enjoy the sun between deliveries.
Mom covers the kids as the rain starts. There seem to be four kids on her bike.
2. Make cycling feel safer and more comfortable for all types of people, particularly fpr kids, women and the elderly:
Copenhagen's cycling infrastructure is quite amazing. Most bike lanes are separated from car traffic. Cyclists feel safer, and it also makes things easier for those in cars because bikes have their own space and don’t need to compete for the road with cyclists.
Here’s a cycle track that’s two lanes to accommodate faster and slower paced riders.
This simple metal hand and foot rail makes it easy to wait for the light to change and keeps pedestrians off the cycle track.
When the cycle track goes through an intersection, bright paint is used to delineate the space that’s dedicated to cyclists.
While most of the cycle tracks are separated from traffic by a simple and cheap curb, some of the tracks are fancier, such as this one, which is stone. (It’s separated from the sidewalk and the street with curbs).
3. Make cycling the convenient and faster option:
Convenience of cycling is king in Copenhagen. The City is building bike parking closer to destinations like transit stations and shops so that cyclists can dump their bikes and walk right in to their destination.
In some cases, this means closing roads next to transit stations to accommodate bikes. They're also making it easy to take your bike onto the train with dedicated bike trains. They're even going so far as to build new bridges and paths to create significant short cuts so cyclists get to their destinations faster.
4. Help cyclists obey traffic laws:
Because cyclists have their own lanes and their own signals, you see much less crazy cycling moves in which a cyclist breaks all of the traffic laws.
Cyclists stop at red lights and stay in their own lanes. Given the sheer number of cyclists, they can’t just go where and when they want. Like cars, they must obey traffic laws.
Cycle tracks in Copenhagen often direct cyclists into lanes for right or left turns, just like you find for cars in other cities
Cycle track traffic signals are clear and must be obeyed by bikes just as cars have to obey their signals.
No place is perfect...Among the many lessons learned
Install parking: Copenhagen residents, while quite happy with the cycling infrastructure are not happy with the lack of bike parking. Almost everywhere you look downtown, the spare space is taken up by bikes. The growth of cycling must be complimented with a growth of cycling parking.
A common sight in Copenhagen — imagine showing up at the end of the day and finding your bike trapped in your parking spot by other bikes.
Pick-up abandoned bikes: Make sure to routinely clean up discarded bikes. Each year the city collects over 400,000 discarded or abandoned bikes. Despite the city's efforts, a visitor can often find piles like this one of bikes that seem to be abandoned.