Bicycle-friendly Copenhagen a model for big cities

Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:09am EST
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By Henriette Jacobsen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters Life!) - The world is gathered in Copenhagen for the U.N. climate summit, but Denmark`s bicycle-friendly capital has also given its name to a movement of cities trying to find a kinder way to commute.

Nearly 40 percent of Copenhagen's population cycle to work or school on ubiquitous paved cycle paths. Many residents take to their bikes year-round, braving rain and snow through the winter in a city where the bicycles outnumber the people.

"Only when there's half a meter of snow outside would I consider using the underground," said 24-year old student Louise Kristensen.

Amsterdam and Beijing too are known for their bicycles, but the Danish capital is where urban planners from around the world have been looking for ways to get their people out of cars and up onto bikes, an effort known as Copenhagenisation.

"We`re trying to strike a balance in our transportation network which means having streets that can accommodate everyone," New York Transport Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.

Klaus Bondam, Copenhagen's technical and environmental chief, calls himself a "mega cyclist" and says the bike's popularity stems partly from high taxes on cars which meant working-class Danes could not afford to drive in the 1930s and '40s.

"Today you'll meet everybody on the bicycle lanes -- women and men, rich and poor, old and young," Bondam said.

The municipality has during the last three years invested more than 250 million crowns ($49.42 million) in bicycle lanes and to make the traffic safer for bicyclists.   Continued...

<p>People walk past a large globe featuring an interactive display in central Copenhagen December 8, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong</p>