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Cycling advocate wants the world ´Copenhagenized´

Danish-Canadian cycling ambassador wants visitors to adopt the Copenhagen model: And when they get home, they should get back on the saddle

Over 50 per cent of Copenhageners use a bike once a day. Only 29 per cent own a car. And 1.5 billion kroner is claimed to be saved every year in Danish public health care because of the positive effect of cycling.

It’s no wonder that urban planners in Paris, Barcelona, New York and cities across the world are pushing the model. The word ‘Copenhagenize’ is even common among urban planners, referring to cities becoming more bike-friendly.

Mikael Colville-Andersen is a Danish-Canadian urban mobility expert, the CEO of consultancy company Copenhagen Design Co., and the man behind the style blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic. He wowed a packed audience of 100 mostly American students, and a number of professors and future city planners at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad DIS in Copenhagen last week. He discussed the facts, and spoke about sustainability, safety and urban planning.

Not ‘reinventing the wheel’

Although the health and environmental benefits of a daily bike ride are acknowledged, Mikael stressed that the ‘Copenhagenize’ movement isn’t primarily focused on these issues.

It is not a ‘high concept’ idea, he said.

Cycling is second nature in Denmark’s capital city; a simple, sustainable, cost efficient way of getting to work in the morning, taking a trip to the supermarket or going out with friends in the evening.

Would it work?

So, how can other world cities emulate Copenhagen? For Mikael it is all about design:

»The one language we all share is design. Everyone is a designer and everybody does it, from urban planners to choosing a new toothbrush.«

»All we have to do is design cycle-friendly roads and encourage people that cycling as transportation is the most rational way to move through busy cities.«

Read in-depth interview with one of Copenhagen’s original ‘bike city’ urban planners here.

Just too lazy

Despite the enthusiasm, audience members were not optimistic about ‘Copenhagenizing’ their home towns. During the after-lecture reception, Seattle-based sustainability student Caitlin suggested to the University Post that it just wouldn’t work.

»I’ve only been in Denmark for 10 days, but I already love the cycling culture here. The problem is that the average American is far too lazy to get on a bike and use it as a mode of transportation.«

»Even in cycle-friendly Seattle, cars still rule the roads.«

Works in flat cities

Environmental policy student Michael suggested that it might give you a fitness gain, but it could also paradoxically seriously damage your health:

»In my home college in Boston, I’ll never feel safe enough to cycle in the city. Not only because of the road rage, but the pollution from all the cars and buses too. Copenhagen is such a perfectly flat and small city that it works here, but exporting it to the States would be an endless battle.«

What do you think? Are there obstacles to other cities (your home town?) being ‘Copenhagenized’? Write your thoughts below.

Read our photo guide to Danish cycling etiquette here.

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