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Bicycle Highways
December 20, 2009 12:45 AM   Subscribe

Copenhagen: Come see "the busiest bicycling street in the Western world", and lots of other you-gotta-see-them-to-believe-them features including bike counters (featuring digital readouts), LEDS, double bike lanes (for passing) and giant hot pink cars. Bicycle Highways may be coming to your town.

Copenhagenize, Amsterdamize, Via via
posted by hortense (44 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's beautiful. Those in charge of other cities need to know that the longer they submit to car culture, the more they'll be abandoned by the future.
posted by Sova at 12:58 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bicycle Highways may be coming to your town.

Our drivers have a hard enough time deciding which brand of empty beer bottle to throw at passing cyclists, let alone voting to make room for a bike lane next to parked cars.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:10 AM on December 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


>: Bicycle Highways may be coming to your town.

Bicycle highways are coming to Maine sometime after the Third Coming of Jesus.
Part of it is Maine's horrible provincial outlook on anything that's new, and part of it is because we've lost our downtowns. Nothing's laid out to be accessible by foot or by bike, so the only thing that'll make bike lanes or bike highways is if you carpet-bombed the strip malls.

Bike-accessible yoga practices and knick-knack shops do not constitute a working downtown, by the way.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:26 AM on December 20, 2009


(make bike lanes or bike highways work, that is.)
posted by dunkadunc at 1:32 AM on December 20, 2009


London's put in hundreds (maybe thousands) of miles of cycle lanes in the last few years. Trouble is - people are usually allowed to park their cars in them!! It's so frustrating.
posted by mr. strange at 2:05 AM on December 20, 2009


Having spent a weekend cycling around Copenhagen last year I must say, its simply awesome! There are more bicycles than cars for the most part.
posted by mary8nne at 3:13 AM on December 20, 2009


I would like this better if the bicycle "streets" were seperate from the automobile roads (I've seen examples of this elsewhere, too). I realize this is probably more problematic from a city-planning point of view (there's only so much space for roadways, after all, and it would require more blacktop, and you have to figure out a way for the bike roads to meet up with the auto roads in places that are convenient enough to make bicycling worthwhile), but I find that bicycles and automobiles traveling together on the same roads are a hazard for both.

On the other hand, from this video it seems as though Copenhagen's infrastructure for this sort of thing takes that into account a helluva lot better than they do in my hometown of Phoenix. I guess the best way to determine how safe they are would be to figure out how many car-bicycle collisions there are per capita in each city. If Copenhagen's is less than most cities then they're obviously doing something right.
posted by Target Practice at 3:28 AM on December 20, 2009


I would like this better if the bicycle "streets" were seperate from the automobile roads (I've seen examples of this elsewhere, too).

As in completely different right of ways, or simply physical separation between cars and bicycles? The latter can be done pretty cheaply. Portland has a "cycle track" on Broadway, where instead of cars parking on the curb, a bike lane next to that, and cars next, there's a bike lane, and then parked cars, and then cars. This gives riders a wall of cars as shields (and there's enough extra room for doors in the cars to open without getting into the bike lane.)
posted by floam at 3:46 AM on December 20, 2009


These bicycles on city streets are a menace to traditional forms of transportation.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:47 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


We won't have any real progress until bicycle streets replace automobile streets. Which leaves lots of room for, you know, gardens, trees, footpaths, etc.
posted by klanawa at 3:57 AM on December 20, 2009


As in completely different right of ways, or simply physical separation between cars and bicycles?

Ideally the former, but the latter would be an improvement from the bike lanes here.
posted by Target Practice at 4:20 AM on December 20, 2009


After riding in my city and surrounding cities for the last 5 years or so, there's kind of a sense of irrelevance I now have regarding "bike rights" or safer ways to travel in an environment of heavy car culture. Just to be clear, I'm not invalidating anyone's perspectives on safe riding, just pointing out that to this rider, extra lanes and redesigned infrastructure or new lights or separated lanes seem like more topics for a car vs. bike argument (or what people like to call "discussion".)

I've gotten used to what it's like out there, and since I don't view bicycle riding as soley a means of transport, I have a whole different set of rules about riding in different situations. Maybe I shouldn't have had to have come up with these rules, but they work.

If this thing came to San Francisco? At least cars must follow a set of rules that I already know. You think riding in the street is scary? Recreational/commuter cyclists scare me more than cars do. Most feel inclined to do whatever the hell they want. It would suck for me as a cyclist trying to figure out what the hell this other dude on his bike thinks he's doing and trying not to hit him. Hell I already do that almost three times a week. At least while I'm in automobile traffic I know what my options are. In bike lanes there are no guidelines and people tend to drift all over the place while traveling at inconsistent speeds. The same is not true for cars.
posted by bam at 4:22 AM on December 20, 2009


Target Practice - Seperate bike and car lanes are the complete opposite of what you want, Seperate bike lanes are always less safe than road sharing lanes. This is for two important reasons.

Firstly, separate lanes have to cross house driveways and roads that merge from the left or right (depending on which side of the road you drive on in your country). However, unlike if you were on the main road, you won't have right of way over traffic merging from the left or right. This means that you are much more likely to be hit by cars coming out of houses and cars merging from the left or right, and your trip is extremely slow due to the constant stopping and starting involved in negotiating these significant hazards!

Secondly, there's the so-called critical mass effect. The more bicycle users there are on the road, the more car drivers get use to them. If you separate your bicycles and cars then this effect won't happen.
posted by munchbunch at 4:35 AM on December 20, 2009


We have the same in Malmö, "cykelbarometern" not only counts everyone biking past but there's a little air-pump there as well, in case your tires need a pump.
posted by dabitch at 5:01 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


So called, munchbunch? I don't know if it's happened here where I live, but many people ride, and many of the same people drive on other days. As a result, not only have car drivers gotten used to cyclists, but cyclists have also gotten used to car drivers, which is more important than you might think it is. (always exceptions of course)

On good days, you get to feel something I've come to call the Force. You may have heard it as something else, like the Zone or the Flow. It's sounding really weird to me now as I'm reading this, but anyway it's like you're becoming One with Traffic. Like knowing what type of cell you are in a city's bloodstream. I'm gonna stop writing now for I fear some horrible prose fighting my hands for the right to existence.
posted by bam at 5:05 AM on December 20, 2009


That is the happiest place on earth!
posted by cloeburner at 5:08 AM on December 20, 2009


Nice post. What a great city. I stuck a coin in a bike rack, grabbed a heavy, clunky rental bike, and had one of the best cycling experiences of my life.

When you guys resolve the on-street vs. off-street debate, would you let me know? Thanks. Because they are religious arguments, both sides are firmly entrenched, and no movement is possible.

See also hipsters vs. Hasids in Brooklyn, Philly bike crackdown, etc., etc.
posted by fixedgear at 5:37 AM on December 20, 2009


New Jersey DOT recently (this week, I think) adopted a Complete Streets policy, which I think is a pretty exciting change in thinking on how roads should be set up for bikes and pedestrians, as well as motorists. Previous metafilter thread on Complete Streets.

Here's a map of places in the United States that have already complete streets policy.
posted by katinka-katinka at 6:34 AM on December 20, 2009


Copenhagen's infrastructure for this sort of thing takes that into account a helluva lot better than they do in my hometown of Phoenix.

Well not to mention that Copenhagen is actually habitable w/o modern inventions such as A/C. I mean, not to be obnoxious, but it isn't even possible to bike in Phoenix in July w/o possibly dying of heatstroke. A bike infrastructure won't change that.
posted by xetere at 6:56 AM on December 20, 2009


I want to go the there.
posted by availablelight at 7:19 AM on December 20, 2009


Believe it or not, Pittsburgh is actually becoming a decent biking town. There are 21 miles of trails running through the city, mostly on the river banks, an active biking community and a dedicated full-time bike czar in the mayor's office. Can't do much about the impossible terrain, bad weather or the shitty attitudes of drivers but people are at least trying around here.

Oh, and you can bike from Pittsburgh to DC almost entirely on trails.
posted by octothorpe at 7:20 AM on December 20, 2009


The important ingredients to all this that is left out of any discussion of bringing something like this to America is:

1. Cars are taxed at 105% up to about $15,000 and at 180% over $15,000. So the $25,000 car you bought in the U.S. costs close to $60,000 in Denmark.

2. Income tax AVERAGE is around 50%.

These 2 things will never work in the United States. Especially #1.
posted by jckll at 7:55 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The best thing about all the bikes in Copenhagen is the girls that ride them. You won't know until you see them.
posted by flippant at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2009


Well, Sweden has high taxes as well, but not as high as Denmark, and here's an idea that I like; the Clearchannel owned bike-rental station in Stockholm.I shot that with my phone, amused that they managed to get that many ads on the bikes (and station). Stockholm, like Copenhagen, has plenty of bike roads, approx 46 miles of bike-roads maps here.
posted by dabitch at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2009


I mean, not to be obnoxious

And yet you manage!

but it isn't even possible to bike in Phoenix in July w/o possibly dying of heatstroke.

Are you serious? Yeah, it gets hot. And yeah, you probably wouldn't want to go twenty miles at a stretch when it's 110 degrees out, but I've known quite a few people who biked two or five or eight miles to work or school and back even in the middle of summer.

In fact, I think most people here would be less likely to bike or walk in the dead of winter. I mean, who wants to be out and about when it's a frigid 45 degrees out?
posted by Target Practice at 8:48 AM on December 20, 2009


In fact, I think most people here would be less likely to bike or walk in the dead of winter. I mean, who wants to be out and about when it's a frigid 45 degrees out?

well, not me, but when I lived in a city adjacent to Lake Michigan, it was frequently easier to bike to work in the snow and freezing weather because I didn't have to worry about whether my bike would start.

the main impediment to hot weather riding isn't so much the weather - if you're in good enough shape to commute by bike, you can heat-acclimate - but the corporate culture. I've only worked one place ever that had employee showers and changing rooms and guess what? It wasn't in the South.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2009


toodleydoodley

Well, yeah, that raises a good point. I guess I'm still thinking in the high school / college mentality where most jobs you'd get really don't care if your clothes are soaked with sweat.
posted by Target Practice at 8:59 AM on December 20, 2009


Yeah, but the politicians and scientists took cars and jets to the summit so they're total hypocrites and this doesn't count!
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:00 AM on December 20, 2009


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrW7MTwN9ss

This film is from 1937. It looks EXACTLY like Copenhagen today, it's amazing. Same number of bikes. Same fawning American incredulous at the number of bikes.
posted by Catfry at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


This film is from 1937.
"A people who have contributed much to the stability and progress of the white race."
Yikes! But otherwise pretty interesting!
posted by cccorlew at 9:47 AM on December 20, 2009


The best thing about all the bikes in Copenhagen is the girls that ride them.

Well, the average person certainly seems to be in much better shape in Denmark vs. my car-happy southern US town. Diet is probably part of it, but I gotta think riding a bike everywhere helps a lot.
posted by LordSludge at 10:24 AM on December 20, 2009


Wut?

After years of being put put down for saying bikes need a different set of traffic rules than cars by you group-think box-thinkers now you all want to hop on the bandwagon?
posted by HTuttle at 10:46 AM on December 20, 2009


Seperate bike and car lanes are the complete opposite of what you want

I don't know about that. It certainly looks like it is working in Copenhagen.

If were to be sarcastic, I would say that you are exactly right. Clearly it isn't working in Copenhagen. I didn't see a single bike rider wearing spandex.
posted by eye of newt at 10:52 AM on December 20, 2009


Seperate bike lanes are always less safe than road sharing lanes.

Nice blanket statement you've got there! In the Netherlands, one solution to this is having "sharks' teeth" at the (indeed many) intersections. They're basically just yield signs, but painted on the street (English link).

I can't speak for Denmark, but judging by that Wiki article (the only other language linked from the Dutch one) they have them as well, and they also call them sharks' teeth, albeit colloquially.

Off the top of my head, one extended stretch of (semi-suburban) bike path I frequently ride, maybe three-ish miles, intersects car lanes at three points: all of them have haaientanden on the car side. However, two of them also have lights for both, so when the bike light is red you're just going to have to wait. The third one is not at a major thoroughfare but it has no lights and comes directly after a short downhill stretch of the bike lane, so this can admittedly be a rather dangerous crossing if you're unfamiliar with the area, and I have had a few near-misses there over the years. Drivers are not as respectful of the sharks' teeth as we all would like to believe.

There are equally points where there are haaientanden for the cyclists: the first two points I noted above are at roads which merge onto a major artery, so if you were to cross the main road itself on bike then you would be in for a longer wait indeed. (These crossings tend to have lights on the bike side almost without exception, I believe.)

Lastly, it's a tired tautology but it must be noted that simply having a thriving bike culture promotes one and promotes the safety of cyclists: if the problem with cyclists' safety is crossing people's driveways, then yes this is not something you will solve overnight.

I am aware of how much this has to do with not just culture but existing city planning in the US, especially in suburban areas. But I'm hopeful that America is going to figure it out some day, if only because it pretty much has to. It might take major investments and legislative efforts on the federal and/or state level to do so, or an intervening crisis of sorts. But those emissions cuts are gonna have to come from somewhere.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2009


This Slate article on "vehicularists" vs "facilitators" really changed my thinking on this subject. It is a bit of a religious debate, how bikes & cars & pedestrians should relate in U.S. cities. But not everyone is a religious fanatic about this. Some of us are in the middle & just not interested in participating in the inevitable, predictable, tedious Metafilter debates on this topic. ("I'm more scared of rogue bicyclists than cars! Fuck you! No, fuck you!") But silence != apathy.
posted by jcruelty at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2009


Seattle has a number of bike trails (which were converted a few decades ago from disused railroad rights of way) which are effectively the city's bicycle arterials. They work quite well.

There has also been a bunch of work on adding bike lanes, etc., to city streets lately, and although a few of them work, in most cases I agree quite strongly with munchbunch. Both as a bicyclist and as a car driver, bike lanes often feel much more dangerous than traditional bikes-use-the-road-like-cars-do behavior. The lanes weave across each other at intersections, move in unpredictable and low-visibility ways, etc.
posted by hattifattener at 2:12 PM on December 20, 2009


Target Practice: "who wants to be out and about when it's a frigid 45 degrees out"

I don't know - last week here (Calgary) it was snowy and -25 C or so (-13 F). There were lots of people cycling. Our bike parking cage at work holds around 400 (?) bikes, and it was 1/3 full.

So, clearly somebody wants to be out. It's too cold for me to ride to work - I'm not able to stay warm and ride safely. But riding at 45 F is pretty comfortable, in my book.
posted by sneebler at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2009


Psst, sneebler:

That was meant to be a joke (and sort of a sardonic response to the guy I was replying to). I'm well aware that 45 degrees F is positively balmy winter weather to pretty much anyone north of Phoenix or L.A..
posted by Target Practice at 7:28 PM on December 20, 2009


Luckily the fast and cheap method of building strip malls also gives them a relatively short lifespan. It seems a perfect opportunity to replace them with something better.

I think something else that would be really useful is for there to be a standard way to design bike lanes. They are usually a retrofit in America and even within a city the design of an intersection, for example, will change drastically. Some will have you go on a short stretch of sidewalk, some will put you in the far right hand lane and some will have you cross into a central lane. Not only are two of these designs really dangerous, but they make bicycle behavior seem (more) erratic.

Once drivers start to expect bike lanes and integrate it into their driving skills, they won't even have to pay attention to them anymore and they can go back to zombie driving land.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:13 AM on December 21, 2009


I mean, who wants to be out and about when it's a frigid 45 degrees out?

Actually, I think 45 F is much easier to bike or exercise in than 110 F. I mean no matter how in shape you are, you generate a lot of waste heat, which if it is already hot, makes you miserable. Hence the reason why the New York marathon is in November, and not July.

Yeah, Target Practice I did manage to be obnoxious, my wife tells me when I say 'not to be obnoxious' that watch out for some pretty obnoxious stuff, but still my point is that extremes of either heat or cold (and having to wear a coat when you are out and about doesn't qualify for extreme) will affect bike-ability. Copenhagen, even in January is rarely extremely cold. Phoenix in July, well it just is.
posted by xetere at 9:35 AM on December 21, 2009


Target Practice: "who wants to be out and about when it's a frigid 45 degrees out"

It's 45 degrees here in Atlanta today. It was 28 when I rode in this morning. I personally consider 45 degrees to be the pitch perfect temperature for cycling. Little bit of cold to bite at you, but not warm enough to make you sweat. It's beautiful.
posted by toekneebullard at 11:44 AM on December 21, 2009


Poor Target Practice. Apparently everyone's sarcasm meters are broken. As a fellow Phoenician, i got the joke. I do agree with ToodleyDoodley - lack of shower facilities is the main obstacle to my riding to work. I wouldn't mind the heat if I could clean up after.
posted by Chris4d at 11:57 AM on December 21, 2009


I mean, who wants to be out and about when it's a frigid 45 degrees out?

I'm not sure what part of the world considers 45F to be frigid but around here I wear t-shirts and shorts when it's that warm.
posted by octothorpe at 2:38 PM on December 21, 2009


Ooops, I didn't see that Target Practice was joking.
posted by octothorpe at 2:51 PM on December 21, 2009


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