The bicycle capitals of the world: Amsterdam and Copenhagen

פורסם: 6 באוג׳ 2011, 11:37 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 20 באוג׳ 2011, 2:11 ]
The article was published by Fietsberaad, and excerpt by Eran Shchori, Israel Bicycle Association ('Israel Bishvil Ofanaim')

1. Introduction

‘Continuous’ and ‘integral’. These two words together reflect the essence of explanations for high degrees of bicycle use at a local level, as has become apparent from various studies in recent years. Continuous, consistent bicycle policies. Policies incorporated into a wider policy context of locally deeply-felt objectives.

1.1 Continuous and integral municipal bicycle policies

The above-mentioned words, with the emphasis on continuous, have already been the subject of a 1999 study by Stichting Historie der Techniek (SHT), attempting to explain differences in the development of bicycle use in a number of European cities.

Reconstructed trend lines of bicycle percentages in total number of trips by car, bicycle, moped and public transport, 1920-1995 (in %)
bicycle precentage in total number of trips by car

The emphasis on ‘integral’ traffic policy is readily apparent in recent studies attempting to statistically explain the differences in bicycle use between cities. On behalf of Fietsberaad Research voor Beleid has drawn up an explanatory model of municipal bicycle use in 2006, on the basis of previous attempts. The explanatory model, encompassing 11 different factors, has in statistical terms an R2 of 0.726, indicating its explanatory value. That means that almost 73% of the variance in bicycle use between cities is explained by these factors. That is very high and we may therefore consider this a model with a high explanatory value. More than one third of the explanatory value of this model is provided by the four factors representing elements of ‘integral traffic policy’ (travel time ratio between bicycle and car, car parking fees, percentages of bus, tram, underground and surface built-up area).

1.2 Cycling cities in Europe
Bicycle use in ten European 'cycling cities'

2. Copenhagen: city (full) of bicycles
Trends in bicycle use in Copenhagen: cyclists towards the town centre over inner city cordon, morning peak hour 1950-2005:
trends in bicycle use in Copenhagen
The figure clearly demonstrates the essence of the Copenhagen story: over the past 30 years the number of cyclists visible in the confines of the quite compact inner city has quadrupled in the morning rush hour; and doubled over the past 15 years…
bicycle share copenhagen Amsterdam

Overwhelming bicycle use – and a particular cycling culture
One thing stands out immediately: Copenhagen truly is a ‘city of bicycles’ – in the sense that bicycle use is overwhelming. On the busiest routes more than 30,000 cyclists a day.

To a Dutchman these numbers are impressive, but so are the characteristics of the cyclists themselves, as these differ greatly from what is common in the Netherlands:
- highly visible: considerable numbers of cyclists are wearing a helmet; approximately 1 in 6.
- the bicycles are almost without exception nice, well-maintained, new – and often the sporty type.
- the manner of cycling is sporty as well. A considerable number of people pedal at a fierce pace. At traffic lights almost  half of all cyclists are actually panting.
- certainly the morning rush hour consists nearly completely out of commuters and hardly any children on their way to secondary schools.
- cyclists obey traffic regulations quite well. In Copenhagen people do not feel this way, as other road users complain in considerable and increasing numbers about cyclists’ behaviour. But compared to cycling in the Netherlands, everything is extremely tidy and disciplined. Over 90% of cyclists stop at a red light. Riding three abreast, with passengers on the back, mobile phone in use – rare occurrences. Choosing your own route across any type of public space, as long as it is a shortcut from X to Y – is compared to the Dutch cyclists’ behaviour almost never to be seen.

Behaviour of cyclists crucial??

The conclusion is: ‘Cyclist education should be taken seriously if Copenhagen is to continue to improve as a city for cyclists.’

Extremely utilitarian
But the most striking feature is that Copenhagen appears to possess quite a specific cycling culture. Maybe basically different from the predominant cycling culture in the Netherlands.
Two catchwords appear to apply to Copenhagen cyclists:
- conscious: the conscious choice of a proud adult.
- rational: a deliberate choice, based on the clear advantages of bicycle use. There is a good reason for Copenhagen cyclists to say they cycle mainly because it is fast, simple and healthy.
The word lifestyle may be highly appropriate, since this refers more or less to a conscious decision by individuals, whereas the word culture refers more to an individual’s environment. The very word lifestyle is frequently used by policymakers and people connected to the Copenhagen bicycle scene.

In recent years bicycle use has grown particularly among the elderly. Cyclists are evenly distributed over all income categories, unlike car owners (mainly higher incomes) and public transport users (mainly lower incomes). Cycling is simple ‘socially accepted’. In Copenhagen it is pointed out that it is not unusual to see ministers and local authorities cycling to work.

Effecting a bicycle lifestyle
Officially cycling policies are a mature and particularly independent issue. Copenhagen possesses a bicycle team of currently 6 people. Projects are implemented everywhere in the organisation; the bicycle team is a clear and well-known information and co-ordination point. And within the bicycle team cycling culture, lifestyle and promotion of
Copenhagen as bicycle town is an important issue.

Witness the presentations, among them by manager Andreas Røhl, on cycling in Copenhagen: mainly dealing with the position of the bicycle in Copenhagen – and much less with the details of cycling infrastructure. The main emphasis is on what cycling means for the city and its inhabitants.

Positioning Copenhagen as ‘a people approach’: urban design specifically for people. Gehl Architects uses to this end the striking images of streets full of cyclists versus empty streets or streets full of cars. And catchy slogans: A city full of bicyclists is a friendly city – a people city.

(…) To meet these demands, the City of Copenhagen has set off a new campaign based on the brand “I bike CPH”. This brand communicates positivity, participation and ownership - and a sense of community that is as flexible as the bicycle culture out on the streets. The campaign includes happenings on street level as well as an interactive web 2.0 community.”

Pro-cycling politics
in local politics cycling policy is very much an item. To a certain degree it was a political issue in the latest local elections. Andreas Røhl provides several reasons for political support for cycling. The well-known social advantages (less congestion, environmental concerns, health, urban life) but he also mentions the possibility of some more inherently political motives: projects can often be implemented within a single term in office; bicycle policies are relatively inexpensive and highly visible. And finally, emphatically: 60% of voters has a bicycle as their main mode of daily transport…

This stronger political drive behind local bicycle policies goes with radical and clear objectives that are communicated as much as possible. In 2015, an emphatic and major element in a larger ambition: becoming the world’s eco-metropolis.

Perfect monitoring
The attention paid to interaction with the inhabitants in Copenhagen cycling policy is matched by heavy monitoring of that policy. In the Bicycle Account biennial developments in bicycle use and safety have been recorded since 1996, as well as
facts about the immediate results of municipal cycling policy. However, the most important and most frequently used part of the Bicycle Account is a standard bicycle satisfaction survey. There cyclists award scores on eight essential elements of cycling policy. The data in Bicycle Account 2008 (published in 2009):
Scores awarded by cyclists on eight essential elements of Copenhagen bicycle policy, 1996-2008

Raised adjoining bicycle paths
Copenhagen has almost no bicycle lanes separated from car lanes by markings only (18 km of bicycle lanes compared to 338 km of bicycle paths). Standard the bicycle paths, on either side of the road, are at least 2 metres, often 2,5 metres wide. A typically Copenhagen phenomenon is that these are usually ‘(raised) adjoining bicycle paths’, according to Dutch terminology. The Dutch ‘separate bicycle paths’, with a clear distance/verge between car lane and bicycle path, are rare in Copenhagen. And ‘solitary bicycle paths’, with their own route, can occasionally be found, but then emphatically as part of a specific network, the green routes.

The raised adjoining bicycle paths are a success in Copenhagen. No one is advocating fundamentally different types of facilities. Which is remarkable, particularly when combined with high numbers of cyclists.

The best standard solutions are looked for in intersections, just like along the stretches of road (with raised adjoining bicycle paths). Where ‘best’ usually translates into ‘safest’.

Since the bicycle path is so close to motor lanes, the most logical and common mechanism is essentially turning inwards at intersections. Making cyclists more visible. Copenhagen bicycle paths usually change into bicycle lanes a few metres before an intersection, lead straight across the intersection (since the 90’s often marked in blue with white bicycle symbols) and change back into bicycle paths beyond the intersection.

The search for the best solution is however still on regarding intersections with lengthened or shortened raised-adjoining bicycle paths. The solution for some of the conflicts is clear: cyclists meeting a red light should be positioned somewhat closer to the intersection than motorists waiting as well. Problems are caused by cyclists arriving at the intersection when
lights are green. And that happens a lot, due to the huge numbers of cyclists on those radials and the long green phases on those radials for bicycles and cars (together). That makes rightturn lanes for cars highly advisable anyway. At the busiest moments, however, the situation is visibly ‘wrong’. Motorists will eventually use even the tiniest gap in the rows of fast bicycles. In this respect it seems inevitable that increasingly a decision is made in favour of conflictfree
solutions between cyclists going straight ahead and cars turning right.

Network choices: traditional radials versus park routes
The convergence of bicycles and cars on those radials also explains most of the emphasis in Copenhagen bicycle policies. The large amount of attention to safe bicycle infrastructure on intersections is closely linked to the large numbers of intersections on those radials and their heavy load. And it is no more than fitting that Copenhagen should be one of the first cities to introduce green waves for cyclists. The first route where this was realised was a 2200-metre
stretch of road with no fewer than 12 traffic lights…

Green wave Nørrebrogade (2004)
Nørrebrogade is the main bicycle axis in Copenhagen. Near the town centre at the time 30,000 cyclists a day, alongside 17,000 cars. A little over 2 km further along there were 15,000 cyclists and 16,000 cars. The effects of the green wave along 12 traffic lights (with considerable green phases in the main direction anyway) with a standard speed of 20 km/h, could easily be demonstrated. In the morning rush hour towards the town centre the advantage to cyclists was 2.29 minutes (6 stops less); in the opposite direction 1 stop was gained as well as 35 seconds. Effects in the afternoon were more difficult to gauge, as there is no clear rush hour. The effect (out of the town centre) is smaller, but still clear: 1.13 minutes advantage thanks to 3 stops less.

Green routes
Literally green: to a large extent winding through parks and complete car-free areas.
The network of green routes is emphatically not meant to be utilitarian. Copenhagen states: “The green cycle routes are for recreation, bicycle exercise, running, walking, skateboarding and other games on wheels. In addition, they offer anybody cycling to their place of work or education the opportunity to cycle all or part of their daily journey through peaceful, green, car-free and bus-free surroundings.”

Inevitable network choices: low(er) car traffic
- if the numbers of cars and bicycles become prohibitive at the busiest intersections, the time has come for the best but also most expensive solution: different levels. Copenhagen has more or less started on this road.
The numbers of bicycle bridges and tunnels are still quite low, but increasing. As well as the realisation that this is necessary.
- if the numbers of cyclists on those busy radials outgrows the available room, additional room will have to be found. At the expense of motor vehicles. It is quite remarkable that this is already occurring in Copenhagen, and without too many problems: parking spaces are being sacrificed in favour of raised adjoining bicycle paths. All over the town the desire to decrease the number of lanes for car traffic will be growing. By now there is a precedent: Nørrebrogade has been closed to through traffic since 2008. This caused 40% fewer motor vehicles in rush hour, which pleased 67% of the local residents and added aprox. 5000 cyclists to the aprox. 30.000 that daily passed the most popular part of the street before the redesign.

Indirectly, without much ado and very cautiously, steps have been taken towards a kind of alternative network along low-traffic roads. Nørrebrogade is a first instance: closure for motor vehicles has shifted this route to some degree from the ‘convergence-radials network’ towards a ‘low-traffic network’.

Bicycle plan
The way in which the Bicycle Account is put to use is interesting. First of all there is a focus on present-day cyclists. After all, one-fifth of cyclists find Copenhagen not a pleasant place for cycling at all. Concrete improvements must prevent this group from giving up.

The subjective perception of safety is taken very seriously in Copenhagen. Whether justified or not, a perception of danger results in fewer cyclists than possible. Objectively safety is improving.

Bicycle use and safety mutually reinforcing ("Safety in Numbers")
A phenomenon well-known in all bicycle towns and countries can clearly be discerned in Copenhagen as well: a  considerable increase in bicycle use is coupled with a considerable decrease in the number of casualties. Reducing the risks for cyclists even more. In Copenhagen from the late 90’s the number of serious casualties fell from over 200 a year to less than 100 a year from 2006 onwards.
Bicycle use and safety mutually reinforcing

Comfort requires a lot of attention as well, as demonstrated by the Bicycle Account: over half of all cyclists are dissatisfied about maintenance. Local authorities are therefore more than willing to tackle this issue in the bicycle plan.

A plan has been drawn up to also sweep at weekends the approximately 50 km of bicycle paths that appear to be littered fastest. Snow-clearing will occur earlier in the mornings, well before rush hour.

Bicycle parking is an issue that needs to be addressed more. In 2006 a start was made in removing abandoned bicyclesSimple parking facilities have been added in large numbers.

Guarded parking? This does not appear to be an issue in Copenhagen, partly due to the low risk of theft, and also in part due to the fact that on many locations bicycles may be parked indoors or on private property. In combination with public transport the issue is not so much surveillance to protect against theft either. The more so since it is allowed to carry bicycles along on trains and underground. But most certainly also because cyclists do not perceive the need. At the Copenhagen main stations, Central Station and Nørreport Station, hundreds of bicycles are visible, as well as far too few parking facilities. The need for racks is obvious, not so for surveillance.

What makes them cycle so much?
Copenhagen is still the cycling capital of Europe, even in percentage of cycling. The quality and quantity of the bicycle infrastructure clearly match this. In bicycle infrastructure Copenhagen is far less of a capital. And by no means is  Copenhagen the car-free capital.

So after all still a ‘culture’ or ‘lifestyle’ – whatever that may be? To a certain degree this may be so. But some more tangible factors can be discerned, particularly when compared to Dutch towns:
1. the low numbers of car ownership in Denmark, in particular Copenhagen, due to highpurchasing costs (almost twice as high as in the Netherlands). In the Netherlands car ownership per head is 21% higher than in Denmark. Amsterdam has 42 cars per 100 inhabitants, Copenhagen 22 – although it is not sure the data are comparable.
2. few opportunities for parking cars in the Copenhagen town centre. Of course this holds for visitors in many other towns as well. But Copenhagen appears to be exceptional: even employees struggle to find parking space. Major companies do not have private parking garages to a much lesser degree.
3. Low numbers of bicycle theft. Even in the Netherlands we know the spiral may be upward or downward: less theft, better bicycles, nicer to cycle, cycle more often, et cetera.

Yet it remains hard to explain. And the reality remains overwhelming: Copenhagen is indeed a city (full) of cyclists. And because it is so hard to explain and in several respects it appears the cycling climate may be improved a lot, a continued increase of bicycle use seems to be likely.
- provided cyclists will demand their rightful place, even in traffic behaviour…
- provided Copenhagen will reduce the role of cars near the town centre, as dozens of other towns in Europe have done…
- provided cycling will be even nicer and more relaxed by additional improvements in the network

3. Amsterdam: the blessings of bicycles

Modal split of Amsterdam residents, 1988-2007
which choices did travellers make – partly due to the implementation of traffic policy? Local authorities regularly and meticulously investigate this. It is clear that bicycle use is increasing at an amazing pace:
Modal split of Amsterdam residents, 1988-2007

Since 1990 bicycle use has increased from 21% of all trips to 28%.

There are considerable differences among districts. Residents of the district Centrum use their bicycles most often – no surprise there – (41% versus an average of 28%) and their cars least often (18% versus an average of 27%).

In 1990 235,000 cars were registered entering and leaving the area a day. By 2006 that number had fallen to 172,000. Over the same period the numbers of bicycles passing that location grew from 86,000 to 140,000.

Traffic casualties
Traffic casualties

the overall picture over the past 20 years remains for cyclists, too, one of more or less constant numbers of serious casualties. Considering the growth in inhabitants, people in the streets, bicycle use and certainly car use as well, that constancy or limited decrease is no mean result anyway. Cycling is getting safer per kilometre, that is an undisputable fact.

Collaborating on bicycle network
In complete compliance with the lessons learned in the Netherlands (bicycle route network Delft!) the Amsterdam main network has as a matter of course a mesh size of only 300 by 300 metres.

Quality requirements have been drawn up for this main bicycle network. The most remarkable are:
- in the main network as few intersections as possible and as much as possible priority for cyclists at intersections;
- routes of the main network may run along neighbourhood connector roads (30 km/h) when car volumes do not exceed 3000 mv/24h;
- always a preference for bicycle paths in shopping streets (due to bustle and parking), even when these are neighbourhood connectors;
- in case of district connectors bicycle paths; bicycle lanes only under strict conditions and never in combination with parking;
- one-way bicycle paths should be at least 1.80 m wide in pre-war neighbourhoods and at least 2.00 m in post-war neighbourhoods; a width of 2.50 m is desirable – in order to allow two people cycling side by side to be overtaken by another cyclist;
- restraint in construction of two-way bicycle paths, because of their relative dangers, but in principle ‘2*2 for bicycle in case of 2*2 for cars’: two-way bicycle paths on either side of a road with twice two lanes for car traffic.
- average waiting time at traffic lights at most 30 seconds;
- radius of curve in bicycle paths at least 4 metres;
- gradient at most 1:10, preferably 1:20.

Of course Hoofdnet Fiets meets these quality requirements by no means everywhere, and the requirements are carried out to the letter by no means in all changes/redesigns, but this is the widely accepted and formal ambition. In this respect the Centrale Verkeerscommissie (CVC) is crucial. This commission consists of officials of the various (central) municipal departments – in particular DIVV. In addition a number of outside agencies receive the agenda and may send their reactions to CVC. These outside agencies are Fietsersbond, Fire Brigade and the Amsterdam Organisation for the Handicapped. CVC assesses all projects by the town districts – the road authorities – which may affect the main networks for cars, bicycles and public transport. According to the Leidraad CVC:
‘CVC is an official advisory body charged with providing to local authorities, through the alderman for Traffic, solicited or unsolicited advice on planned measures affecting these main networks or within their immediate sphere of influence.(..) The objective of Leidraad CVC is to provide third parties with information on the traffic engineering standards CVC applies.
Leidraad should be considered a manual for road authorities within the town of Amsterdam in order to obtain information into this assessment, prior to consideration in CVC.’

‘Smart district officials will of course visit DIVV at an early stage to find out which design has the best chance of being approved.

Green wave
Amsterdam intends to utilise dynamic traffic management for cyclists.
- a wave of green traffic lights for cyclists.

Achievements: Hoofdnet Fiets
Not so much because there are bicycle paths everywhere. No, the ultimate Amsterdam bicycle facility is a bollard in the road. A gradually ever more refined detailed system of car circulation, that accommodates car flow to a reasonable degree on the roads best suited, but mainly minimises inconvenience to others. Enormous amounts of streets closed to cars and
shortcuts specifically constructed for bicycles, including many bicycle bridges. In this light the Amsterdam bicycle climate is emphatically a successful demonstration of integral traffic policies, with its starting point in Duurzaam Veilig.

Various kinds of mopeds
In recent years the lowspeed ‘snorfiets’ moped (officially limited to 25 km/h, no obligatory helmet) has gained an unprecedented popularity. It is trendy, but also more or less a consequence of previous decisions in the Netherlands, to wit ‘moped on the car lane’. BOVAG trade association confirms: ‘A helmet is not necessary; it’s simply get up and go. In addition many people like being allowed on the bicycle path with their snorfiets. They don’t have to venture among the faster traffic in the car lanes, like a moped is obliged to, owing to its maximum speed of 45 km/h.’

In Amsterdam this is a major problem. Many citizens complain about scooters, in particular the noise and speeding on bicycle paths. Ria: ‘These are simply too wide and too fast for our busy bicycle paths. This is a real problem.’

Achievements: Bicycle parking
The division of responsibilities between Centrale Stad and the various town districts regarding Hoofdnet Fiets has become more clear and structured over the years. Centrale Stad takes care of determination of the network and quality assessment of the projects; town districts ensure implementation and funding – as well as management and maintenance, of course.

in Amsterdam streets there are no fewer than 200,000 bicycle parking places in dedicated facilities! Numbers beyond
belief, demonstrating the efforts town districts have undertaken in this matter. Large parts of the town do show incredible numbers of bicycles in public space – but in a reasonably orderly way, because there is sufficient capacity at so many locations.

Bicycle parking ‘in the street’ is a matter for the districts, although there is a ‘policy framework’ provided by Centrale
Stad/DIVV, describing among other things duties and responsibilities of districts and Centrale Stad. Centrale Stad (DIVV) is responsible for realisation and operation of (free!) guarded parking facilities at sites in the town centre.

Preventing bicycle theft
At Fietsdepot all bicycles that have been forcibly removed or found are gathered, registered and checked for theft. In addition the engraving team is employed all over Amsterdam to supply a unique code to bicycles at no charge. Inspectors also check the books of the numerous shops selling second-hand bicycles: are these legitimate or stolen?

Measures in Meerjarenbeleidsplan Fiets 2007-2010
Amsterdam records the intended bicycle policies, as outlined above, in Meerjarenplan Fiets which is periodically updated. The current long-range plan 2007-2010 succinctly describes the bottlenecks in the Amsterdam bicycle climate – and what the measures should be aimed at. The enumeration of these bottlenecks matches the satisfaction scores of residents – and provide a new, remarkable ranking to bicycle policy:
1. great shortage of bicycle parking facilities;
2. bicycle theft;
3. Hoofdnet Fiets not yet finished;
4. traffic safety for cyclists.

Expenditure on traffic safety measures is not allocated to bicycle policy, but to safety. Overall some F 10 million is annually spent on traffic safety, a major part of which benefits cyclists directly or indirectly as well.

Objectives in Meerjarenbeleidsplan Fiets 2007-2010: monitoring

The Meerjarenbeleidsplan also earmarks considerable budgets for non-infrastructural issues, image/communication and research/organisation.

Cyclists’ satisfaction has really only been measured annually by identical questions since 2006. Many questions in the annual survey concern bicycle use and reasons to cycle or not to cycle; the crucial question concerns the scores for various aspects of bicycle policy – clearly inspired by the Copenhagen Bicycle Account:
Amsterdam Bicycle Account

The multitude of questions, down-to-a-decimal accuracy and the limited amount of publicity make this rather less attractive to the outside world than the nicely designed Copenhagen Bicycle Account. But no one knows what the future holds in store.

Promotion – alignment and means
Attention to promotion in Amsterdam is clearly growing. Partly as an element in city marketing: ‘selling’ Amsterdam as a bicycle capital internationally as well. Partly as a necessary part of policies aimed at local residents: ensure that as many people as possible cycle at least to some extent, that as many people as possible belong to ‘the cycling’.

Amsterdam has also initiated simple reward campaigns: distributing gifts to cyclists at the IJ ferries during the Week of Progress.

Action plan Bicycle promotion
In Amsterdam awareness is growing that something fundamental has to change in cycling propensities, particularly among the young. At the initiative of the local branch of Fietsersbond and at the request of the town council non-infrastructural measures for bicycle promotion are being prepared. Initially these will concentrate on teaching cycling skills; being able to cycle is a prior condition. There are numerous initiatives in this field all over town and local authorities intend to coordinate these more emphatically.

Source: The bicycle capitals of the world: Amsterdam and Copenhagen

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