Copenhagen’s growing pains

I’m sure you’re all aware of the tremendous cycling savvy of the people of Copenhagen, Denmark — one of the places that U.S. cities try to emulate when pushing for increased bicycle ridership. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 35% of Copenhagen’s residents use a bicycle to travel to and from work/school; contrast that with our own #1 bike city of Portland, Oregon, where only 6% of residents are bike commuters.

Copenhagen is discovering that they may have hit a “glass ceiling” when it comes to increasing the number of bike users, however.

Copenhageners are proud of their biking habits. “It’s like brushing your teeth — it’s something everyone does,” says Marie Brøndom Bay, a representative of the city’s bicycling division. But those numbers have been hard-won. And to Brøndom Bay and other city officials charged with minimizing car traffic and air pollution, and promoting public health, even a third of the populace on bikes is not nearly enough.

Greg Hanscom is in the midst of writing a short series on Grist about the city of Copenhagen and the bicycle highs and lows they are experiencing. The quote above comes from part 2, and part 1 is available by clicking here. Part 3 should be coming along soon.

The article series is a refreshing look at a city who seems to get everything right when it comes to transportational cycling, but the city has struggled at times to keep the spirit alive. Take a look at the articles; they are worth reading.


  1. Karen

    I appreciate Mikael’s reminder about the bicycle’s rather mundane place in Danish culture. It’s not brain surgery; it’s just a tool, albeit, a very romantic one, as his CCC blog portrays – but that’s good marketing, right? Nonetheless, I do treasure and pamper my bikes. Love my Brompton and still looking for the perfect, last I’ll ever purchase, full-sized bike.

    Glad to see more of a focus on looking at what is working in bike infrastructure in other countries. Portland is wonderful but, with only 6% ridership, they can’t be expected to be our model for great transportation cycling.

  2. Andrew

    “I’ve already decided what I’m giving the people of Copenhagen for a parting gift: a vat of chain lube…” G. Hanscom.

    That’ll be the day in the U.S. Ha.

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