Take note Boris: this is what a cycle superhighway looks like

Copenhagen innovates to keep its cyclists safe

by Sarah Barth   July 24, 2012  

Cykelsuperstier photo credit Cycling Embassy of Denmark

Although most London cyclists welcomed the Cycle Superhighways with open arms, the reality has been less than perfect. Poorly designed junctions, delays at lights and forced interaction with pedestrians and traffic make a ride to work feel incredibly stressful still.

And yesterday we reported how Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, gave the misleading impression that the city’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways are “for indicative purposes,” suggesting that motorists are free to use them without breaking the law.

But there's no such confusion in Denmark. Copenhagen opened the first of 26 planned superhighways 11-mile path from Copenhagen to the suburb Alberslund that really put the cyclist first - from traffic lights to keep bikes moving, to providing footrests for tired riders to have a quick break.

Air pumps are available every 1.6 kilometres, and improved lighting has been installed along the route improved to make it safe to bike year round.

The traffic lights display a timer, so that approaching cyclists can adjust their speed to keep moving, rather than stop-starting and wasting energy.

The paths are also designed to be wide enough that everyone can cycle at a speed comfortable for their ability.

According to the Cycling Embassy of Denmark website, the cycle superhighways could increase the number of cyclists by 30 percent, adding 15,000 more cyclists to the superhighway network, saving 7000 tons of CO2 and 300 million Danish Krones in health costs per year.

Take a look, Boris - this is how it should be done.

28 user comments

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Very nice - but it is worth noting that London's human population is rather larger than Copenhagen's and that London also has a much larger number of registered vehicles. Land is far more expensive in London too and the city is also more built-up. It is all very well crowing on about how smaller and less population dense cities with lower traffic volumes such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam can cope with cycling. Relating those experiences to larger cities like London, Paris or New York is another thing altogether. The experiences from Copenhagen or Amsterdam in improving cycle facilities may be of use for the UK's smaller cities , such as Bristol, Edinburgh or York for example, but aren't really applicable to London.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2216 posts]
24th July 2012 - 9:03

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OldRidgeback wrote:
Very nice - but it is worth noting that London's human population is rather larger than Copenhagen's and that London also has a much larger number of registered vehicles. Land is far more expensive in London too and the city is also more built-up. It is all very well crowing on about how smaller and less population dense cities with lower traffic volumes such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam can cope with cycling. Relating those experiences to larger cities like London, Paris or New York is another thing altogether. The experiences from Copenhagen or Amsterdam in improving cycle facilities may be of use for the UK's smaller cities , such as Bristol, Edinburgh or York for example, but aren't really applicable to London.

Absolute rubbish. Of course its possible and one could argue easier than it was for Amsterdam to transform itself. The UK is densely populated similarly to that of NL and London is as well almost exactly as densely populated as Ansterdam.

In 2008 the average number of people per square kilometre in Britain was 253, rising to 395 in England.

Latest figures from Holland show that its population density was 395 a square kilometre in 2002 and 393 in 2005.

The densest area of population in NL is the region known as "Randstad Holland” in the west of the country, which comprises Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, with an average of 1,000 people per square kilometer.

If the Dutch can make this transformation why can't the British?

Are we British less intelligent than the Dutch? Or are they less capable than the Danes?

The fact is that it would be extraordinarily easy to transform London's infrastructure to accommodate cycling and cycling lanes to that experienced in Denmark or NL.

It could practically be done overnight if the political will were there.

posted by lokikontroll [51 posts]
24th July 2012 - 9:43

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Proper superhighways like that between cities, towns, outlying suburbs would be great, especially where people are currently given the choice between scary a-roads and fast & narrow country lanes.

I agree with OldRidgeback, harder in London/bigger cities. But the dutch and danish do some cool things within their cities that would be more appropriate here, you only need to look at the amount of space allocated to traffic islands and on-street car parking here to see that there is the room...

sparrow_h's picture

posted by sparrow_h [35 posts]
24th July 2012 - 9:49

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I've heard the population density argument put forward a few times. Is there really a substantial difference in population density between any major conurbation in the UK?

If they can provide proper infrastructure in NYC, and they certainly seem to be trying, then I fail to see why they can't consider the same in London.

The big point for me is not that it's not possible, it's that the mechanism required is politically unpopular, because it involves taking space away from cars. And sadly the UK still sees cars in urban & suburban environments as a positive thing, rather than a sometimes necessary evil.

posted by thereandbackagain [155 posts]
24th July 2012 - 9:50

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You're talking about the Netherlands there, one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. The Randstad mega-city-conurbation of Rotterdam - Amsterdam - Den Haag - Utrecht has 7m odd people in it…

posted by Paul J [633 posts]
24th July 2012 - 10:09

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It's not rubbish Loki. I travel to Amsterdam for conferences and exhibitions regularly and know the city quite well. Its population is rather smaller than London and it is also a much smaller city with shorter commutes as well as having more people actually living close to the centre of the city. The main streets are broad and offer greater space for cycle lanes. I don't know Copenhagen so well and haven't been for a couple of years but from what I remember, it is more similar to Amsterdam.

London does not have the space for dedicated cycle lanes unfortunately and even its main streets can be comparatively narrow with few available lanes.

London's urban population is around 8.3 million and its metro population around 13.7 million and it is one of only three true 'mega' cities in Europe, along with Paris and Moscow. There is quite a bit of green space between Amsterdam and Rotterdam for instance, or for that matter between Cologne and Dusseldorf, another major population centre in Europe.

Amsterdam has an urban population of around 1.2 million people and a metro population of 2.3 million. Copenhagen's urban population is about 1.2 million also, while its metro population is 1.9 million or so. The experience of these smaller European cities may well be applicable to other UK cities, but not really to London.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2216 posts]
24th July 2012 - 10:13

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I don't think that there is the space fr this in London. London roads are, for the most part too narrow for this. We don't generally have 4 lane wide roads where one lane can be removed and dedicated to cyclists. Unlike in many european cities, NYC or even places like Melbourne which seemed to have a great network of cycle lanes, sperated from cars. Still we can dream of a day when it happens...

posted by md6 [156 posts]
24th July 2012 - 13:00

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There's plenty of room on most London streets... once you remove the parked cars.

Doctor Fegg's picture

posted by Doctor Fegg [137 posts]
24th July 2012 - 13:36

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The space is there.

The political fortitude; not so much.

Ok, none.

posted by Viro Indovina [79 posts]
24th July 2012 - 14:21

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many of the comments bring to mind the old question - which came first, the chicken or the egg? Fundamentally, the differences in geography, micro or macro, between London/UK and Amsterdam/NL or Copenhagen/DK are insignificant. The problem is that while Amsterdam and Copenhagen took action to address the hegemony of the car while it was not yet too late, here in the UK we have sleepwalked into the carsick nightmare we now face. The reason it is harder here is not that there is no space, or whatever, it is simply that the monster might have grown too powerful to defeat.

But hey, perhaps, like in "War of the Worlds" the invincible alien invader will eventually be exterminated by something as mundane as the Common Cold?

posted by Paul M [313 posts]
24th July 2012 - 15:13

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moving slight further afield than London, I wonder how many cycle superhighways could have been put in Edinburgh instead of the 775million quid trams, that are even yet to be finished.
mmmm covered cycleways, free bike hire.

build them , and they will come.

posted by a_to_the_j [78 posts]
24th July 2012 - 17:19

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One cycle superhighway would be nice!
What we have now are standard (rubbish) bike lanes painted blue to advertise a bank.

posted by fixer [23 posts]
24th July 2012 - 18:31

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OldRidgeback wrote:
It's not rubbish Loki. I travel to Amsterdam for conferences and exhibitions regularly and know the city quite well. Its population is rather smaller than London and it is also a much smaller city with shorter commutes as well as having more people actually living close to the centre of the city. The main streets are broad and offer greater space for cycle lanes. I don't know Copenhagen so well and haven't been for a couple of years but from what I remember, it is more similar to Amsterdam.

London does not have the space for dedicated cycle lanes unfortunately and even its main streets can be comparatively narrow with few available lanes.

London's urban population is around 8.3 million and its metro population around 13.7 million and it is one of only three true 'mega' cities in Europe, along with Paris and Moscow. There is quite a bit of green space between Amsterdam and Rotterdam for instance, or for that matter between Cologne and Dusseldorf, another major population centre in Europe.

Amsterdam has an urban population of around 1.2 million people and a metro population of 2.3 million. Copenhagen's urban population is about 1.2 million also, while its metro population is 1.9 million or so. The experience of these smaller European cities may well be applicable to other UK cities, but not really to London.

It most certainly is rubbish. I currently reside in Amsterdam (Jordaan) and have done so since 1997. UK statistics office proves your population density argument false. As does EU statistics. And in any event population size/density is irrelevant.

If London has room for all those cars and busses then it can make room for bicycles. This is precisely what Amsterdam had done. They made room for the cycles. Simple as that.

It is through pessimistic and closed-minded attitudes such as yours that will continue to ensure that England is the arm-pit of Europe. And completely backward as regards cycling. Cars will continue to rule the roadways because of reactionary positions like yours.

posted by lokikontroll [51 posts]
24th July 2012 - 19:04

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It never ceases to amaze me when I see the sheer number and range of excuses from a certain type of British cyclist as to why we could never achieve what has been achieved in The Netherlands or Denmark here, all of them utter tosh. Of course we could achieve exactly what they have here, although cyclists themselves insisting that we can't doesn't help the cause much. For more information see The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain website

posted by mr_colostomy [29 posts]
24th July 2012 - 19:31

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I have to agree with lokikontroll and the others - there is plenty of room in London and every other city to do this, we simply need to rebalance the road allocation across the differing modes of transport. Fundamentally we need to start closing roads to cars and trucks - they, especially cars (and I say this as a car enthusiast) are a very space/resource inefficient way of moving people around cities.

The catch is that Britain has worshipped the car for decades but they're a square peg in a round hole in our cities today.

Cycling won't really hit the mainstream until there is dedicated segregated cycle paths not the joke infrastructure there is now.

My cycling blog: http://girodilento.com/

posted by girodilento [31 posts]
24th July 2012 - 21:58

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Sigh - it's not the general population density. It's the sheer numbers of people going from here to there and then back again. Being a larger city, commuting distances are much longer on average than in smaller cities, like Amsterdam. London's metro population is 13.7 million, and that's a lot of commuters coming into the city and then going out again at the end of the working day. You don't get those numbers in Amsterdam or Copenhagen for that matter, only in Paris or Moscow as far as Europe's concerned, and I certainly wouldn't want to cycle anywhere in Moscow. Only the very affluent can afford to live in the centre of London by and large due to housing costs.

London's streets are quite narrow by and large and only a few are wide enough for dedicated cycle lanes. Most main streets have enough room for a bus lane and a lane for general vehicles. Kerbs are not generally wide like in many European cities. So where would the dedicated bicycle lanes be put?

The bus lane system is a compromise and, for much of the London road network, the only available option.

Paris has much wider streets thanks to Haussmann, who flattened much of the old city to make way for his boulevards. London retains its older layout, including the narrow kerbs, and that poses severe limitations on what can and can't be done.

The congestion charge scheme was another compromise intended to lower traffic volumes and, sort of, worked. It did help spur a major increase in cycle use, with another notable increase in cycling in the city following the 7/7 terrorist atrocities.

Yep, cars are space inefficient and I overtake enough of them on my commute on two wheels to know for sure that most London drivers are wasting time unnecessarily by taking the car. But London's public transport system is already coping with greater numbers than it was designed for, the tube especially. And look around, the UK's full of fatties who won't get off their behinds no matter how much you tell them it'll benefit their health.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2216 posts]
24th July 2012 - 22:38

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'armpit of Europe'? I say. Steady old boy. I'm sure Athens, Milan, and a host of other European cities could easily compete with London to be the most cycle unfriendly. Look st Venice for instance! Big Grin

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1064 posts]
24th July 2012 - 23:38

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this is hilarious:
I've now heard the argument both ways in one week.

A few days ago someone was telling me that it only worked in Copenhagen because of the _high_ population density here.

The problem with OldRidgebacks position is that he seems to be saying: "if nothing else changes, then there isn't room for bikes". And that may well be true, but the whole point is that there must be fewer cars, that in and of itself would free up space. And the length-og-commute thing is also a red herring. People choose to have a long commute _because_ they feel they can drive.

Plus, figure a 25km max commute, and you can fit a hell of a lot of people in that roughly 7850 square kilometers (50km radius circle). This isn't taking into account multi-modal, for example bike-on-train for some distance, plus bike for last 1-5km.

posted by durrin [16 posts]
25th July 2012 - 8:24

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Ok, I'll make this simple. London's roads are narrow. Where would the dedicated cycle lanes be put?

Some other UK cities have wider streets and may benefit, like Nottingham or Leicester, Bristol or Glasgow.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2216 posts]
25th July 2012 - 10:15

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Not all of them are that narrow though OldRidgeback - the main arterial routes identified to run the Cycle Superhighways along are for much of their length pretty wide.

It's also true that commuting distances in to British cities are longer than those on the continent - something we've mentioned here before, but it's just not true to say that the road space on many of those routes in to cities, including London, from outlying suburbs doesn't exist - what is in short supply is the political will to use it effectively. Of course much of the road network in city centres is on narrow streets, but the same applies in many Northern European cities where they still manage to effectively integrate cyclists, cars and pedestrians, first by removing the primacy of cars and second by forcing everybody to show more consideratin for other road users - which includes cyclists showing more consideration for pedestrians.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4147 posts]
25th July 2012 - 10:28

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OldRidgeback, if you live in London you may have noticed that Park Lane for example has 6 lanes of traffic (although 2 of those 6 are bus lanes). From today the Olympic lanes have opened and have reduced those 6 to 4. If the number of lanes on Park Lane can be reduced for the Olympics why not permanently for a cycle super highway?

Everyday morning I cycle past thousands of cars with only 1 person in it. Attitudes to cars in the UK must change. If priority for cars changed, like reducing lanes, perhaps this will make these solo car commuters change their mind and get on a bike!

posted by nickjspain [6 posts]
25th July 2012 - 14:04

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Jeez - I've lived in London for years but come from elsewhere. Yes, Park Lane has loads of lanes. It is one of a very small number of routes in London like this. But since it's right next to Hyde Park with a rather nice cycle lane away from the traffic, most commuters would probably prefer that route, and I know I did when I used to ride that way on my 16km trip each morning, follwed by 16km on the way home. Yes, I pass many cars containing just one person also and I have never understood why people are so willing to waste so much time in a tin box in a traffic jam. They aren't going to change anytime soon alas.

Most of the routes for the cycle superhighways for example have two lanes of traffic in either direction, a bus lane and a lane for general use. The blue superhighways are painted onto the bus lanes in many areas and the buses drive over these, whether they are allowed to in certain stretches or not. So, apart from a very small percentage of routes that are wide enough, where would these dedicated cycle lanes be set out? They can't be set out in most existing roads. Lane sizes were designed for cars in the 70s. But cars are bigger than they were and widths have steadily increased over the years - a late 60s Ford Escort was 1.5m wide while the roughly comparable Ford Focus is now 1.8m wide - this is due to side impact protection and so on.

Closing certain links to all motor vehicle traffic but buses and taxis looks good on paper, but there has to be a transport alternative. The public transport system is near, at or even beyond (in the case of the underground) design capacity at peak periods. The overground trains into London in the morning aren't much better - a case of 'will you take your armpit out of my nose?' just go and watch the trains arrive at London Bridge in the morning.

So what's the alternative? Err, well we have the congestion charge already, and that helped, a bit. What's needed of course is an integrated transport policy so that as roads are closed to general traffic, public transport can be increased to cope, not just for London but for the UK as whole. And that's something we haven't had since, err, I don't know when. And it's something that we can expect, errr, never given the fact that the transport is partially privatised and only a very foolish MD would invest in new trains or buses without strong grounds provided by changes in government policy. And as the UK Government is full of politicosfocussed on being re-elected rather than taking a long term view of benefiting the country over the next 20+ years, forget it.

At the moment UK transport policy is about making do with less (because we're massively in debt), apart from the occasional flagship project like Crossrail and the high speed rail link, which still might not get the go-ahead.

A co-ordinated transport policy that involves encouraging people to increase cycle use just isn't going to happen, beyond a few roads with blue painted strips and some mealy-mouthed politico announcing £2.53 that was found down the back of a sofa in Westminster is now being invested in bike racks at a major railway station.

London is a very big city with a metro population greater than that of the population of a number of European countries. Transport porgrammes are vastly complicated. And cycling is so far down the political agenda in terms of priority, it's about level with the fluff on the carpet. Apart from the blue Boris lanes and the Barclay's bikes or the occasional 3m of bike lane painted on a pavement and with a street light in the middle, we can expect minimal change benefiting cycling as a whole.

If I sound cynical, that's because I am. London's 13.7 million metro population is, incidentally, greater than that of Holland (6.06 million) and Denmark (5.54 million) combined.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2216 posts]
25th July 2012 - 16:01

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So, what this boils down to is:

(a) there is, physically, space for wide bike lanes on a lot of London roads - a large number of main roads have at least one lane for traffic and one bus lane in each direction; but

(b) to create wide bike lanes with no buses in them, you'd have to either make buses share a lane with the cars or close the car lane and have one bus lane and one bike lane.

Neither of these options is politically viable - now or, likely, for many years to come.

That's a shame, because if we could get lots of people cycling we'd actually have less of an issue with buses and cars sharing space. The solution to the current problem (no bike lanes) would create a temporary problem (more car and bus congestion) that would, probably, solve itself, but the original solution would never be implemented because of said problem. Simple Big Grin

posted by step-hent [685 posts]
25th July 2012 - 16:25

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step-hent wrote:

(b) to create wide bike lanes with no buses in them, you'd have to either make buses share a lane with the cars or close the car lane and have one bus lane and one bike lane.

Oddly, this is more or less what was proposed for Oxford Road in Manchester, as I recall - the layout might have been somewhat different, but the proposal was definitely to exclude private cars from the road.

Given that London has a far greater number of cyclists than Manchester (they now outnumber private cars on some routes) and that such a proposal there wouldn't be bundled with the introduction of a congestion charge as it was here, there might be more chance of success than you think.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
26th July 2012 - 8:06

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Oh, a quick addendum, it's probably worth someone making the point that, to quote our illustrious leader, "We can't go on like this". Filling the available space with ever more vehicles that use it dreadfully inefficiently (whilst simultaneously intimidating those who would use the space more efficiently) lacks sense, to say the least.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
26th July 2012 - 8:32

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Ok, to those that say London streets are too narrow:

http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/the-physical-constra...

To those that say journey distances are too long in London:

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/london-travel-demand-survey.pdf

Streets are wide enough.

Journeys by car can be replaced by cycling or walking (average less than 5km).

The political will is not there to do it. We could all live in a much more pleasant city if we wanted to.

posted by markyjl [8 posts]
26th July 2012 - 10:02

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The road space is there for cycle lanes. The problem is how road space is allocated and whether the current allocation makes the most efficient use of it.

Likewise there is money to pay for highways engineering changes – the issue is prioritisation of public spending.

Public health research has estimated the cost to the NHS of non-communicable diseases (CVD, type II diabetes, cancers and obesity), mostly caused by physical inactivity, at £17 billion per annum in the UK.

Where the UK is different from other European countries is that its spatial planning policy has encouraged car dependency – edge of town superstores; town and city centres dominated by commercial use, etc.

If the UK could find £10 billion for a month's Olympic jamboree it could find a big chunk of cash to transform our roads if the vision and will were there.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
26th July 2012 - 11:43

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Where there's a will there's a . . cycle super highway

Sudor

posted by Sudor [182 posts]
11th October 2012 - 12:03

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