Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on December 8th, 2009 at 10:41 am
(Photo © Tom Miller)
As hundreds of leaders, politicians, scientists, experts, and advocates from around the world gather in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Conference, the most important thing they experience might not even be on the agenda. If any of them happen to walk the streets of Copenhagen, the solution to many of their problems will be right in front of them: Bicycles. Everywhere.
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.
In Portland, our local leaders and traffic engineers have made repeated visits to northern European cities (not just Copenhagen, but Amsterdam, Utrecht, Odense, and others). Each time, they’ve returned with inspiration and ideas that forever change their perspective on the power of the bicycle.
Our bike boxes, buffered bike lanes, and our cycle track on SW Broadway are all direct results of Portland leaders and City engineers traveling abroad and applying what they experienced to our local streets. Putting the practices of cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam “into an American context” (to coin a phrase from City of Portland bike coordinator Roger Geller), has made it easier for Portlanders to choose a bicycle for their daily transportation needs.
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.