The Greatest Urban Experiment Right Now

Copenhagenize - 2 July, 2014 - 11:29

Right this minute, right here in Copenhagen, what might be the greatest urban transport experiment in the world is well underway. It wasn't planned but it's working handsomely.

Above is our simple traffic planning guide for liveable cities. Make cycling, walking and public transport the fastest way from A to B and make driving a pain in the ass and you have basically the most effective way to change the mobility paradigm for the better. It's that simple. All the campaigns for "ride a bike - it's good for you/it's green/it's healthy" are a complete waste of money if you don't follow the guide. This presupposes protected infrastructure for cycling, of course.

Right now in the City of Copenhagen, a new Metro Ring is under construction. We're not fans of the Metro Ring. A city this size doesn't need a metro - it needs tramways like so many other cities in Europe. We don't advocate shoving citizens underground. We want them on street level on foot, on bicycle and in trams. The Metro expansion is a fantastic waste of money. It is projected that cycling levels will fall by around 3% when it's done. Our colleagues around Europe - especially the Dutch - basically point and laugh when I tell them that we have bus routes with 50,000 passengers a day and the City is building a Metro instead of tramways.

The Metro is already falsely advertising the travel times. Advertising station to station, but not the first and last mile to and from the station. We did our own travel time survey using real world scenarios and the bike usually beats the Metro in Copenhagen.

Fine. We don't like the Metro but damn, right now, we love the Metro construction. The City is following the traffic planning guide for liveable cities to the letter. Copenhagen has 17 Metro stations under construction and this is having a massive effect on mobility patterns in the city. Driving is a pain in the ass.

What has happened?

Cycling levels have stagnated for years in Copenhagen. Hovering between 35% and 38%. Falling from 37% to 35% after intense helmet promotion.

Now there are new numbers from the Danish Technical University's Travel Survey.

Between 2012 and 2013, the modal share for bicycles (people arriving at work or education in the City of Copenhagen) exploded from 36% to 41%.

Forty-one percent. A leap of 5%.

The car's modal share fell from 27% to 24%.

But wait, there's more. The average trip length in Copenhagen rose 35% from 3.2 km to 4.2 km between 2012 and 2013. That means that the oft-quoted statistic about how Copenhageners cycle 1.2 million km a day need to be upgraded to 2,006,313 km per day.

Since 1990, by the way, the number of cyclists has risen 70% in Copenhagen. The number of car trips into the city centre has fallen from 350,000 to 260,000.

Okay, okay. But what does it all MEAN? When the results of the travel survey came out, journalists were scrambling for answers. Two researchers at DTU were "surprised". They were quoted in the Danish press as saying things like, "uh... the City's new bridges and traffic calming on certain streets seem to have worked. Giving cyclists carrots encourage cycling."

The detail they forgot was that the new cycling bridges aren't finished yet, nor is the traffic calming on Amagerbrogade. The Nørrebrogade stretch is from 2008. Cycling rose on that street by 15% but that was BEFORE 2012. Duh. Bascially, there hasn't been much carrot dangling in this city for a few years. So forget about THAT hastily thunk up theory. Things are happening NOW, in 2013 and 2014, sure, but that has nothing to do with the data from 2012 to 2013. Double Duh.

What HAS happened is that 17 huge construction sites fell out of the sky all at once. Not something that happens every day. In addition, most of central Copenhagen - between 2012 and 2013 - was under further construction because of the upgrading of district heating pipes under many streets that had to be ripped up.

Look at the guide at the top again. THAT is what has happened. Driving was rendered incredibly difficult. Copenhageners, being rational homo sapiens, chose other transport forms. Public transport has increased, too, but the bicycle is clearly the chariot of choice. It's no surprise at all why cycling is booming.

What is happening right now is a fantastic urban experiement. So much data and experience is and will become available.

Mark my words, however. When the Metro construction is finished in 2018... probably 2019... we will see a sharp drop in cycling levels, back to the standard levels we plateaued with for the past few years. You read it here first.

Unless, of course, the City of Copenhagen has the cajones to embrace this experiment and use it to finally make The Leap - as described by author Chris Turner - into the future of our city. Expanding and widening the cycle tracks. Reallocating space from falling car traffic to bicycles and public transport. The new BRT route in Copenhagen is a good step. Let's see how much farther we can go. Designing cities instead of engineering them. The citizens have shown us that they will be on our side if we do the right thing.

Otherwise, this rich petri dish experiment will just rot and be forgotten.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
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ibikelondon's top tips on where to see the Tour de France in London

ibikelondon - 2 July, 2014 - 08:30

I'm sure it won't have escaped your attention that the 3rd stage of the 101st Tour de France will sweep from Cambridge through London on Monday.  You've booked your day's holiday - or concocted a suitably tall tale of sickness - so where is best to catch the race?

There will be official Tour de France Fan Parks in Canary Wharf, Green Park and Trafalgar Square with free entry, big screens relaying the action, live music, food stalls and film screenings open all weekend, and an additional big screen in London's Olympic Park in Stratford which the peloton will race past.

But if you want to get really up close and personal with the action, where should you go?

You've got all weekend to ride the route of the Tour yourself if you wish, and the Telegraph's Nicholas Crane points out how surprisingly rural much of the ride is from Cambridge to Epping Forest.

In London you won't be allowed to ride any of the route on Monday after most streets close at 10AM and before the arrival of the publicity Caravanne and the peloton according to the special Transport for London Tour website, but you may have more success riding on the roads closed from Epping and out in to the Essex fringes.  If you're using a train to get out of town, be sure it will accept your bike on the day, or consider taking it out over the weekend and locking it somewhere safe.


The city of gowns and bicycles hosts the start of the stage, so could be an option for a family day out, especially if you want a glimpse of riders preparing.  The city is asking people to try and arrive by bicycle or public transport, so do book your train ticket in advance if you can.  There will be a French market from 8:30AM and the city will be bedecked in bunting.  Riders depart around noon.  Check out the Cambridge City Council website for details.

North Weald Airfield

Monday's stage is paper flat compared to the rolling ride through the Dales the peloton will encounter on Saturday and Sunday, but that's not to say there aren't occasional inclines to slow the race down.  The crest of the second hill on the day is by North Weald Airfield, where the stage passes below the M11.  It's about 45 minutes walk from Epping station (the end of the Central Line) or you can take a vintage bus from Epping to North Weald, and then a heritage train service to Ongar on the Epping Ongar Railway and back for a morning excursion if you wish.  The peloton will pass around 2.30PM.


On the Mall itself crowds will be many people thick and the riders will pass in a flash, put the atmosphere will be red hot!  Standing room will be hotly contested for a great view from Duke of York steps.  There's more room on the Embankment, and river panoramas to boot, and the pedestrian tracks on Hungerford Bridge will offer a fantastic vantage point to those who get there early enough to claim it.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park offers more space, phenomenal public transport connections for an easy escape afterwards plus a big screen to watch the race reach the Mall once it has passed.  There's also lots of secure bicycle parking within the park itself so you can safely leave your bike tied up.

There's a ninety degree turn just outside the park by Marshall Road just before the A12, and another in the south of the park where it joins Stratford High Street and a hair pin bend further up in to West Ham Lane.  The turns offer the opportunity to see some tight bicycle racing, perhaps even a crash, and the tighter the turn the slower the peloton will pass meaning you'll see more than just a flash of lycra.  Choose your spot wisely!

Rain, rain, go away...

This being Britain, and summer, rain is of course a possibility for the day.  If standing around on windswept road corners in a downpour waiting for a few seconds' glimpse of a bike race isn't your thing, then you can enjoy big screen coverage from the warmth of Look Mum No Hands! on Old Street throughout the Tour.

Getting about town by bike on race day

Maybe you couldn't give a monkeys about the Tour de France, but still need to get to work on Monday by bike...  Be aware that road closures will be implemented from around 6AM, with most roads re-opening about an hour after the peloton has passed, but the Mall and surrounding environs remaining closed until late in the evening.  Traffic is likely to be heavy throughout the day so allow extra time to complete your journey.  

Tower, Southwark and Westminster bridges will remain closed throughout the day - but not to pedestrians if you're prepared to get off and push! Check for predicted disruption here.

For a run down of the Caravanne and peloton passing times, plus the nearest train stations to key spectator points, see here.

For a map of the Stage 3 route see here

Download the Green Park Fan Hub entertainment schedule here.  They are open all weekend and the free open air screening of a movie about the Rwandan cycling team bidding to reach the London Olympics (Sunday evening) looks particularly good.

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