Should we copy Copenhagen?

Mobility connects people, urban centers and ideas. 200 years after the invention of the bicycle, we have arrived at a decisive crossroad: the start of a multi-mobile era. It will transform our cities.

Padestrians and bike riders on a bridge in Amsterdam

Should we copy Copenhagen?

Mobility connects people, urban centers and ideas. 200 years after the invention of the bicycle, we have arrived at a decisive crossroad: the start of a multi-mobile era. It will transform our cities.

Despite “only” being an urban planner, Mikael Colville-Andersen is often celebrated like a star. Admittedly, the Copenhagen resident is anything but ordinary. He is considered one of the most influential members of his guild worldwide. This is due to the fact that, jointly with Gehl Architects, the trained film maker has succeeded in making a miracle come true: there is hardly another city that promotes cycling in such an exemplary manner as Copenhagen. An increasing number of cities have started to follow suit – from Detroit and Berlin to Almetyevsk in the Russian region of Tartarstan, from Buenos Aires and Seville to Rome and Ljubljana.

The network of cycle paths in the Danish capital covers a total distance of 233 miles. Cyclists here cover 63.4 million each day, at an average speed of 10 miles per hour.

One thing is clear:

bicycles and eBikes offer unprecedented opportunities for society and the environment. In a study, the US Institute for Transportation and Development Policy analysed the global potential. If the share of bicycles were to treble worldwide by 2050, energy costs amounting to some 24 trillion dollars could be saved and the environmentally harmful CO2 emissions caused through urban vehicle and passenger transport could be reduced by eleven percent during this period. The transformation also has a favourable effect on the daily freight transport: The use of electric cargo bikes as means of transportation, for instance, helps to reduce the traffic load and the burden on the environment. One precondition for this is “a combination of investment and intelligent fiscal policy,” says Benedicte Swennen of the European Cyclists' Federation (ECF), which promotes cycling as sustainable and healthy means of transportation in society, business and politics, jointly with the Cycling Industry Club (CIC) and the support of Bosch eBike Systems.

Wolfgang Rid, professor at the Institute for Urban Development at Stuttgart University, believes that another factor also plays an important role in a new culture of mobility: “Because this involves a change in user behavior across all social classes, an intensive dialogue with citizens is required.” A well-conceived traffic management system is also vital: In 2016, more bicycles than cars were counted in downtown Copenhagen for the first time. As a result, there are also traffic jams on the cycle paths. The plan now is to introduce intelligent panels that use red and green arrows to signal whether a route is flowing freely or whether cyclists would be better off using alternative roads.

4 further examples from around Europe demonstrate how mobility solutions work:

Ruhr area

The RS1 high-speed bicycle roadway is progressing well: in June 2016, the groundbreaking ceremony for the next section was celebrated at Mühlheim central station. Apart from the high-speed bicycle roadway in Göttingen, this is the first high-speed bicycle roadway in Germany and is being constructed between Duisburg and Hamm over a length of 63 miles. It connects ten cities and four universities – largely without intersections, with sufficiently wide lanes in both directions and includes lighting and winter road clearance. The “cycle super highways” in Copenhagen, London and the Netherlands served as role models here. One section of the roadway uses the former freight line of the Rheinsche Bahn rail company. The project is due for completion by 2020 at the latest.


In the past, those wanting to ride through the city in the Spanish region of Andalusia by bicycle were considered foolhardy and reckless. This has changed. Within four years, the proportion of bicycles in road traffic has risen from zero to nine percent. “Our recipe for success was the networking a total of 43 miles of bicycle paths in two lanes as well as the speed of construction,” explains Ricardo Marques Sillero, one of the pioneers of the untypical cycling revolution in Spain. Today, more than 70,000 Sevillanos cycle on a daily basis. Now, some drive their cars to the edge of the city and then use one of the rental bikes provided at the 250 stations of the Sevici service.


With 22 million bicycles, the Netherlands already have five million more bikes than inhabitants. The country is exemplary for new urban concepts. This is partly due to websites like “Dutch Cycling Festival,” on which mobility and bicycle experts share their experiences with other cities and municipalities. During the Dutch Presidency of the European Council, the government invited all European ministers for traffic and the environment to Amsterdam in order to discuss intelligent and sustainable mobility – including best practices for the promotion of a cycling culture. In the city, which is considered one of the most bicycle-friendly worldwide, 38 percent of all travel is undertaken by bike today. The cycle path network covers 323 miles and virtually all main roads have bicycle lanes on both sides.


Norway is taking cycling seriously: The “National Traffic Plan” stipulates that by 2025, only electric vehicles can be registered as new cars. Now, the capital is to become the “next big thing” for new mobility applications worldwide. A ban on cars in the city center by 2019 has already been agreed. Last year, urban planners also presented a groundbreaking plan, which is known as “The Oslo Standard” among mobility experts. According to this plan, the share of bicycles in road traffic is to rise to at least 20 percent over the next few years and parking spaces for cars are to be removed to allow construction of more bicycle paths. Electric bikes will be eligible for state funding of up to €1,130 - while public transportation is also to be improved.