When Copenhagen started building a new network of separated bike lanes in the early 1980s, it quickly became a model of how to take a city back from cars. Now, more people bike than drive in the city center, and in the city as a whole, more people commute to work by bike than in the entire U.S. combined.
But the city is aiming for even more bike commuters, and keeps building new infrastructure to make cycling as easy as possible. The latest: An elevated roadway that speeds cyclists over an area that’s usually crowded with pedestrians.
“There was a missing link that forced bicycle users to use the stairs or make a huge detour around a shopping center,” says Mikael Colville-Anderson, Copenhagen-based urban design expert and CEO of Copenhagenize Design Company. “This solution provided a fast A-to-B from a bridge to a bicycle bridge on the harbor, while freeing up the harbor front for meandering pedestrians.”
It’s not only easier for bike commuters to use, but also more fun: In a city that’s flat, the long orange ramp offers a little bit of a hill to coast down, and cyclists can check out views of the harbor without worrying that they’re about to crash into a pedestrian around a blind corner.
The city doesn’t plan to build any other elevated ramps, since this one is intended only to solve a very specific problem. “Bicycles belong on cycle tracks on the streets, where they have been since the bicycle was invented,” argues Colville-Anderson, who has criticized Norman Foster’s plans for what he calls the “ridiculous” Skycycle in London.
“On streets, bicycles are contributing to the urban fabric of a city, as well as the commerce, traffic calming, etc.,” he adds. “Placing bicycles up on a shelf is a favorite idea of those who still believe that cars have a place in our cities and who do everything they can to keep the space. Rather old-fashioned thinking.”
Copenhagen does plan to build six new bike-pedestrian bridges over the harbor. “These will be a massive improvement for prioritizing the bicycle as transport,” says Colville-Anderson. “For designing cities for people instead of engineering them for cars.”