Friday, October 2, 2009

Bike Culture and Policies in Denmark

We attended the talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen entitled Cycle Chic-Bike Culture and Policies in Denmark sponsored by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, WABA and League of American Bicyclists on Wed. It was a wide-ranging talk that didn't focus much on the specifics of bike policies or infrastructure but was more about the culture of bicycling in Denmark.

Mikael made the point that bicycling is so integrated into Danish culture that cyclists don't consider themselves "bicyclists"; bicycles are just another tool that they use. They use them because they are a fast and easy way to get around Copenhagen. He said the best way to get more people in the U.S. to use bikes is to make them easy for people to use. With the opening of the Union Station bike station and the planned expansion of bike sharing in the area, cycling is becoming easier for people in this area (although not necessarily so in Fairfax).

Mikael's blog celebrates the fact that cycling in Copenhagen is very chic, done with style by all segments of society.

Mikael noted that often when bicycling is discussed in the U.S., the dangers are stressed rather than the many benefits. If cars were discussed in the same way, people might become more conscious of the many dangers associated with driving. The benefits of bicycling are 20 times greater than the risks. Bicycles should be marketed more like cars, stressing the many positive aspects.

Within a 1 km radius of Mikael's apartment in Copenhagen there are 22 bike shops. Most people don't bother doing repairs or fixing flats themselves, they go to a nearby shop.

Many immigrants to Denmark haven't learned how to ride a bike. It's such a basic part of Danish life that when immigrants learn the Dutch language, they can often learn to ride a bike at the same institution.

There was a good crowd for the talk, with many bikes parked on the sidewalk outside the building, several of which were cargo bikes.

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