How to get more people cycling in Vancouver? Ask Copenhagen.

Copenhagen cycling, biking Copenhagen
Flickr photo of cycling in Copenhagen by Franz-Michael S. Mellbin

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.

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