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Copenhagen video shows Portland's dream

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 5th, 2006 at 6:25 am

If you've been wondering what the City of Portland means when they talk about "going Platinum", look no further than this fascinating video called "Copenhagen, City of Cyclists". It was sent to me by a reader whose wife works for PSU's Center for Transporation Studies.

This 22 minute video perfectly illustrates the goals and visions that Portland's bike advocates are striving for. Here are the links:

City of Copenhagen Bike Page
Watch it on Google Video

I forwarded the link to Roger Geller, Portland's Bicycle Coordinator, and here's what he thought: "I found it inspiring, not only in what can be achieved, but in the manner in which it can be achieved: focus, time, priorities."

If you dream about a city where bicycles are a safe, convenient and comfortable alternative to cars, this video will fuel your fire.

Here are a few stats I jotted down after watching it:

  • Copenhagen has 100 years of bike culture and planning.
  • 100,000 bike commuters every day.
  • 1,000,000 km per day are ridden
  • All taxis must carry bicycles.
  • 25% of the city's road budget goes toward bicycle facilities.

There's some talk of this video being shown at the opening of the upcoming Portland Bike Summit in June. If you're able to watch it I'd love to know what you think.

  • Can Portland really expect to ever be like Copenhagen?
  • If not, why not?
  • How long do you think it would take us to get there?

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  • Garlynn April 5, 2006 at 11:15 am

    Of course Portland can expect to be like Copenhagen. It's already closer to that goal than any other American city. Other cities look to Portland to provide the leadership in this area, and to prove that it can be done on this continent.

    In terms of the specific improvements -- the bicycle tracks everywhere, the free bikes for check-out (as opposed to Portland's yellow bikes) -- that have not yet been tried in Portland, these are good ideas that only take political will to implement. I'd love to see some of those bike tracks installed around the city, but the bike lane system is a very good first step, and not really all that different except for the width. As more bicyclists take to the streets of Portland, sheer volume will provide the demand that will cause the city to upgrade lanes to tracks.

    Portland already has laid down some blue paint to guide lanes through intersections; it should make more efforts to expand the blue paint intersections across the city, and experiment with bike-first signals at especially busy intersections.

    In terms of keeping bike lanes free of debris and bumps, I think Portland does a fair job on the latter, but needs work on the former. Perhaps a bike-lane-size streetsweeper or three should be purchased and deployed to drive the lanes full-time, removing gravel, glass and other debris on at least a weekly basis? Re-paving just the bicycle lane portion ot he roadway is also a great idea to encourage its use and make a statement about bicycling.

    Ten years. If Portland really wants to, it could get to where Copenhagen is in terms of bicyclign infrastructure within ten years. Just look how far the city has already come within the last ten years!! (Anybody remember bicycling in Portland in 1996... before most of the bike lanes were striped?)

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  • Todd Boulanger April 7, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the link to the Copenhagen video...it was amazing, not so much for what they have but for how far they have come since my last trip there in 1997. I was traveling between Amsterdam and Copenhagen to study their transportation facilities (& free bikes), and Copenhagen only impressed me as a pedestrian and not as a bicyclist.

    Their focus on policy WITH strong investment (~25% of the transportation budget) has produced this change.

    The questions that our leaders have to seriously ask are ...'do we want a society with zero collisions and healthy commuters' and ' if Portland's ciitizens have as many bicycles per capita as say Copenhagen, then why are they not being used...what policies and investments are being mismanaged...in the sense of missing their objective?'

    I work on many projects where automobile capacity and driver convenience (speed) trump most other characteristics (pedestrian safety, mode split, etc.) - though our plan policies would produce a different outcome if we were rigerous in matching them with our conflicted standard details and project benchmarks and our financial budget (means). And sadly we get what we design and maintain in the end.

    (Paris is another city which went rapidly from a bicyclist hell to gold level due to strong local political efforts over 2 terms.)

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  • mikkel April 22, 2006 at 10:09 am

    Hi,

    I'm a bicyclist from Copenhagen, and reading all this material and watching the video makes you think that we are priviliged with our biking opportunities.

    I don't especially like the term "bike culture" though, because we treat our bikes like shit. The rule is consume and disregard. My estimate is that about 40-50% of the bikes outside on the streets are abandoned in some way or form.

    A further criticism is that none of us use a helmet... I just read that 5% of danish biking population use a helmet. Not a lot...

    I was just in San Francisco a year ago, and there I saw a very different usage of bikes. They were used as part social status (fixies... who ride with helmets most of the time), and part as a fast transportation. There seemed to be a greater awareness around the biking culture than here. You could join clubs for bicyclists and there were no abandoned bikes. Very unlike Copenhagen.

    I am not saying san francisco is better than copenhagen, or vice versa, but copenhagen is no dreamland... as it is made out to be in the video.

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  • Ranz May 10, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Mikkel,

    Using a helmet in cycling is very suspect at best, so don't use it as a point against Copenhagen, or any other Euro city where cycling is substantial. The helmet phenomena really is only limited to Australia and and North America, and recreational(READ, weekend warriors that are most likely not as "experienced") riding is more common in the latter.

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  • Charmaine May 16, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    I watched this video and thought it was great - I wish that the U.S. would promote bicycling like this in cities - it CAN be done, if everyone participates. It shows what CAN be done and how everyone benefits.

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  • [...] I was glad to hear they’ve decided to show an edited version of the “Copenhagen, City of Cyclists” video that I posted about back in April. They also plan to close off Montgomery Street (near PSU) for a special performance by The Sprockettes. [...]

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  • [...] After watching an edited version of the amazing video about Copenhagen I posted about back in April, the Summit came to a close with City Commissioner Sam Adams. [...]

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  • Jan D January 13, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Can Portland really expect to ever be like Copenhagen? No. The elevation range in Copenhagen is from sea level to about 45 feet. The elevation range in Portland is what? Copenhagen is also more densely populated than Portland and workplaces are more evenly spread amongst living places. They\'ve had an urban growth boundary for much longer. It\'s unreasonable to imagine we\'ll ever have the percentages of the entire commuting population that Denmark or Davis have. Still, I think we should try.

    Also, if you read Danish you learn about the rotten counterpoint to the fairy tale ideal: \"125 cyklister kom alvorligt til skade og 5 blev dræbt. Det er et fald på 37% siden 1998. De høje ambitioner, vi har i København om at videreudvikle cykeltrafikken, skal kombineres med høje ambitioner for at øge sikkerheden for cyklister. \" (http://www.vejpark.kk.dk/byenstrafik/sikkerhed/tra_uheld_2004.aspx) My lousy Danish translates this to \"125 cyclists were seriously injured and 5 were killed [in 2004]. That is a decrease of 37% since 1998. The greater goals we have in mind for Copenhagen\'s transportation plainning will be combined with our goals for increasing bicycle safety.\" [I\'m not sure I got \"høje ambitioner\" right, but it\'s probably close.] In any case, Danish bicyclists get hit and killed, too.

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