Copenhageners: they’re just like us!

Everyone knows that Copenhagen is one of the world’s best cities for cycling, with bicycling making up a higher mode share there (about one-third) than any other large European city except Amsterdam. It has citywide dedicated infrastructure city, bike-only bridges, fairly good bike parking, and a culture in which cycling for transportation is fully normalized.

But this guest column (paywall) in a major Danish newspaper makes clear that even with all the city’s advantages, Copenhageners on bikes deal with many of the same challenges that we do here in New York.

The author is a lawyer and former bureaucrat (at the national tax agency) who says he’s biked to work for 50 years (!) from a waterfront suburb about 10 miles from the center city, making 10,000 round trips. So he should know what’s up. And here are some of the problems he calls out:

(1) Car drivers bully bike riders, constantly close-passing and right- and left-hooking them on wide turns. (Truck drivers are more careful.) He says video evidence of a close pass should result in a one-year suspended license.

(2) Traffic lights are timed for car speeds. He says he spends 4 minutes each way on his commute waiting at lights. (Three years ago, Manhattan CB6 asked the DOT to study “green wave” timing on the heavily used 1 Av and 2 Av bike corridors in our district, to give priority to bike traffic. As far as we know, nothing has happened.)

(3) Too many long traffic lights at low-traffic intersections. Some intersections would be safer without them, because bike riders naturally proceed on red when the street looks clear — and sometimes get hit by cross traffic who trust the green.

(4) Whatever this is, it should be allowed: crossing to the left side with the pedestrian signal, then making a left when the through light turns green. Apparently this is illegal in Copenhagen, even at major intersections when it would save a lot of time. (I’m pretty sure this isn’t contemplated in the NYC traffic law, so is legal by default, and it’s never enforced — I do this kind of thing all the time.)

(5) No provision of detours. It sounds like the situation there may be worse than here, since at least we have a law (an imperfect law, imperfectly followed) requiring cycle detours for construction under some circumstances. He calls for a $15,000 fine if detours are not provided and maintained.

(6) Mopeds on the bike paths. Enough said.

(7) Hostile property owners. Apparently they have “bikes removed without notice” signs placed on public property by adjacent owners, too

Amazing. They’re just like us!