Utne Blogs > Environment

Lesson from Copenhagen: Ride Bikes

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, climate change, Copenhagen, bicycling, urban planning, Bike Portland, Streetsblog, Democracy Now, Keith Goetzman,

Copenhagen bikerAttendees at the Copenhagen climate change conference should take a cue from their host city’s bicycle-friendly nature, writes editor Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org:

Copenhagen just happens to be the City of Cyclists, and its dedication to providing streets that make biking a viable option for its citizens has already had an incalculable impact on many cities. . . . The lessons and experiences of Copenhagen are also putting pressure on the field of bike planning in America. It’s Copenhagen’s example that has provided the impetus for a broad coalition of large U.S. cities to push bike planning innovation further, faster than existing U.S. federal highway standards will allow.

As the case against auto dependence grows more each day, it’s becoming even clearer that making our cities more amenable to bike traffic is a winning strategy. I just hope COP15 attendees step out of their meetings and presentations long enough to let the Copenhagenizing take hold.

Of course, Denmark hasn’t come off especially well in the last few days, having been pilloried by developing countries for its ill-considered behind-the-scenes dealmaking in the lead-up to the conference. And it’s quite clear that it will take a whole lot more than bike lanes and chain guards to tackle the climate change mess. Still, it’s worth taking a moment to remember that when the rubber hits the road, the Danes have done some good for the environment.

L.A. Streetsblog notes that the point was not lost on Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, who interviewed Hickenlooper in Copenhagen:

Hickenlooper: Thirty-seven percent of the people in this city, when they go to work in the metropolitan area, ride a bicycle to work. I mean, it’s remarkable.  I met yesterday for an hour with the deputy mayor of the environment and transportation, Klaus Bondam, and he described how their next goal is to hit 50 percent. I mean, to have half your population, when they go to work on bicycles, they’re healthier, the air is cleaner, there’s less carbon emissions, you save money. I mean, the benefits are dramatic, and you can see the difference just when you walk down the street.

Goodman: I mean, we were just in the city council last night at like 10:30, 11:00. The whole bottom floor of this century-old building is filled with not only bicycle racks, but bicycles that fill them.

Hickenlooper: Right.

Goodman: And city council members, the guards, everyone are riding in and out of the city council on their bicycles.

Hickenlooper: Yeah. When I flew in, the fellow next to me on the plane is a hotshot young technology expert, makes a huge amount of money—doesn’t own a car, rides his bike. You know, he says, “It’s healthier. It’s more fashionable.” You know, it’s what his friends do. And I think that’s the whole thing that—when you get to public sentiment, I mean, what Lincoln was talking about. We need to change our public sentiment so people want to do these things. And it’s not government coming down and being punitive, but it’s creating a change, a transformation in our attitudes.

See the full transcript at Democracy Now.

Source: BikePortland.org, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Democracy Now

Image by malouette, licensed under Creative Commons.