I have not had the opportunity to visit Copenhagen, but definitely have it on my list for a future vacation after reading Copenhagenize by Mikael Colville-Anderson. It would be incredible to bike in a city that has made a commitment to more than just providing some bike infrastructure, but making a citywide network of separated and prioritized biking infrastructure. American cities set speed limits based on what cars do, whereas cities like Copenhagen set limits based on pedestrian and bike safety. It just shows that in order to have a truly equal transportation platform in a city, the way decisions are made needs to change.
Copenhagenize is written with the central theme that design can change human behavior, but it does not need to be over complicated nor does it have to be a new idea. Cities that started the urban biking revolution in the 1970’s have paved the way for cities just getting started today. The wheel does not need to be reinvented because the best bike infrastructure has been tested and proven for the past 40 years (pun intended). If designed properly, the infrastructure can change human behavior and encourage more people to bike as part of their everyday activities, as Dutch cities have proven. It can be transformed into more than a tool for speed and commuting to include daily life so long as it is direct and simple.
Most people forget that bikes were huge in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. They were the dominant transportation method once, before the car took over all of the available right-of-way. So the argument that bike advocates are trying to take over space from cars is inaccurate. They are just trying to carve out a little more space that was theirs to begin with. When you consider it, the car has a disproportional amount of space in the road. What is interesting is the author does not like “share the road” campaigns because they are an admission that the car has won. He also states that the better than nothing mentality is lazy and has no vision. Painting a sharrow will not encourage a timid person to take up cycling to work, but a completely separated path might.
Some final take away’s from the book are that its not about building for the current needs, but to entice more people to bike and anticipate future need. Networks are vital and baby steps wont work. I have seen first hand how a disconnected network discourages people to start biking. The goal should not be how many cars can be moved, but how many people. There are dozens of graphics out there showing that half the space is needed to transport the same number of people on bikes versus cars. It’s all about designing the right amount of bike infrastructure in the right locations and changing the narrative from squeezing in bikes to making them a priority.