Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inspiration from Denmark

I recently had a long chat with a friend of mine who moved to Denmark to be with his girlfriend (now wife). He was not a huge cyclist before moving to Copenhagen, but now he uses his bike all the time. He said that in the two years he has lived there, he only really needed to use a car once.

Before you say, "well, that's Europe for you", let me point out that Copenhagen wasn't always so easy to bike around. Streetsblog concisely sums up the history:

Copenhagen, Denmark is not a natural bicycling city. In the early 1960's it was very much of a car town. In 1962 the city created its first pedestrian street, the Stroget, and every year since then Copenhagen has allocated more and more of its public space to bicycles, pedestrians and people who just want to sit and take a load off. The result is a remarkably pleasant city. Danish urban designer Jan Gehl says that the single biggest key to the change has been the development of the city's extensive bicycle network and that the Copenhagen of great public spaces that we see today would not be possible without bicycles.

Indeed, there are bikes everywhere. Thirty-six percent of Copenhageners commute by bicycle. It's an astonishing number considering that this isn't exactly Miami Beach. It is cold and rainy for much of the year. The city is, however, extraordinarily flat.

Copenhagen has decided to permanently close many major arterials to motor vehicles, which reminds me of a certain controversy going on here in Waukesha right now. If you are opposed to closing the streets for Friday night live, watch the following video about Copenhagen from Streetfilms (7 minutes). If you watch it and are still opposed to the street closings, let us know why in the comments.

Copenhagen's Car-free streets & Slow-speed zones from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Hat tip to Dave S for the video.

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