Sustainable America Blog

The Bike Superhighways of Denmark

Today, cycling is part of Copenhagen’s culture. Bikes are everywhere! But there was a time when vehicle traffic clogged Denmark’s capital city’s roads. In the 1970s Denmark faced an energy crisis, a recession, and increasing car traffic congestion.1 The public demanded better transportation infrastructure and options. A now famous photo from the ’70s depicts a bicycle rally in Copenhagen’s City Hall Square calling for better mobility.

Since then, Copenhagen has done such a great job of building a bike-friendly infrastructure that it has inspired a new term: Copenhagenization. Cities all over the world look to Copenhagen as a model when they try to increase usage of this cheap, CO2-friendly means of transportation. Copenhagen’s public cycling strategies have been so successful that the city is now facing bicycle congestion problems.

Enter the country’s new Cycle Super Highway, the first of a network of 26 routes planned to connect commuting suburbanites to the city. Also known as the “bike-bahn,” the superhighway is “a bike lane that gives cyclists a safe, smooth ride and eliminates as many stops as possible…connecting downtown Copenhagen with the town of Albertslund, 22km outside the city,” according to the City of Copenhagen.

The route includes amenities like air pumps, safer intersections, and every bike commuter’s dream: traffic lights timed to average cycling speed, which minimize the number of stops so riders can cruise right into the city. The superhighway is intended to encourage more commuters to travel by bike, even if their commutes are longer than 10 km.

The City of Copenhagen conducts biannual surveys about cycling, and the 2010 survey provided some dazzling statistics we have incorporated into the graphic below.

One of the most interesting results from the survey revealed why people choose to cycle in Copenhagen. While a good percentage of residents say they bike because it’s a good way to start the day, it’s cheap, it’s healthy, etc., most respondents said they cycle because it’s more convenient and it’s faster. Now that sounds like something people around the world could appreciate!

Commuting or running errands by bike is just one more way to increase your fuel efficiency as an individual. See more Sustainable America posts on New York City’s communal bikes, ecodriving, and other ways to increase your fuel efficiency here!

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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