I’ve seen lots of cycle tracks in city centers; but yesterday I was curious what would happen if I just kept on riding all the way out to the suburbs. Just how far do Copenhagen’s famous cycle tracks go? After getting a bit lost (not the cycle track’s fault), I ended up riding a great loop that introduced me to two of Copenhagen’s other bikeway types: a “Green Cycle Route” and a “Cycle Super Highway”.
I left my little studio in Nørrebro, hopped on Nørrebrogade and headed west. While the cycle track varied in width and style from time to time, it remained pretty much in-tact for about 5 miles. Just outside Nørrebro however, I did notice my first tricky right-hook intersection. Turns out the City has noticed it too and they placed a pavement marking on the ground to warn folks about it (by the way, I’ve also noticed a similar warning on the side of trucks).
As I continued on, I was impressed that the cycle track did to0. Being used to Portland, where we might create a nice bike facility for a few blocks and then revert back to an old-school bike lane, the cycle track just kept going and going and going. For all but one little section through a grocery store parking lot that turned into a bike lane, the cycle track continued for at least five miles. And the quality and width stayed consistent throughout the trip.
Here’s an intersection with a big right turn lane (the sign directs traffic to the newest cycle super highway route — more on that later):
The land use changed as I got further away from the city, but the design standards of the cycle track stayed the same. I loved this scene of the bus stop, the cycle track, and the kids out taking a walk:
As the speed limit increases from 40 km/h (25 mph) on major city streets to 60 km/h (37 mph) further out, so too does the amount of separation:
As I reached my turnaround point, the surrounding roads began to feel more and more like what you’d see in Portland suburbs. There were larger driveways, industrial parks, and wider open spaces. The speed of cars and the size of intersections also increased. But, as a tourist beginning to feel lost, it was comforting to know that I had this piece of dedicated space where I felt safe.
On the way back I noticed a construction project ahead. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that crews had created a protected bikeway detour around the site:
Not wanting to go back the same way I came, I hopped on a “Green Cycle Route” — Copenhagen’s name for an off-street path intended mostly for recreational use. What a great connection this was. Smooth pavement and a separate (dirt) path for people to walk on so I didn’t have to worry about constantly ringing my bell at other path users:
When the path came to a cross-street, I was glad to find a signalized crossing and a painted crosswalk:
A few turns later I came across this scene, which really epitomizes what paths like this are all about:
Adjacent to the path was a ton of green space, little trails to explore and places to enjoy lunch at a picnic table. At one point I rode by a grade school and noticed this little dirt pump track!
The Green Cycle Route was quite nice; but I needed to get back to the city for an appointment. Lucky for me I happened to be near the new “Cycle Super Highway”. This is a new program for the City of Copenhagen. The first one opened in April 2012 and the one I tried opened just a few months ago. The idea with the super highways is to increase the number of long distance commuters. Currently, only 20% of people who commute from more than three miles away go by bike. They want to raise that number to over 30%. “We want to spoil bike commuters,” reads a City of Copenhagen brochure about the program, “We want people to perceive the routes as a serious alternative to a bus, car, or train.”
The section I rode on was adjacent to a major motorway and it definitely felt like a cycling highway:
I also think there’s something very symbolic about having a quality bike path right next to a motorway. It says that bicycling is on equal footing with driving:
Eventually, the cycle super highway joined with the motorway:
As you can see in the photos, the cycle super highway isn’t really on par with a motor vehicle highway; but it’s a start. This is a new concept that is just gaining steam in Denmark and in other EU nations.
Taken together, these three types of bikeways show Copenhagen’s commitment to making bicycling comfortable, efficient, and safe no matter what type of trip you need to take.