Monday, 16 July 2012

Copenhagen - not quite so wonderful for bikers

This is one  of several vehicles, that pick up approximately 13,000 abandoned bicycles on public streets in Copenhagen each year.(wikipedia)
Copenhagen´s socialist mayor Frank Jensen has been on a high carbon foot print trip to Peking in order to promote biking. Jensen had this message to his communist colleagues in the Chinese capital:  
Half of all Copenhagen residents bike to work every day and the city is now expanding its cycle network by 30 percent, in a move to reduce emissions by 7,000 tonnes per year. This will also cut the city’s healthcare expenditure bill by 300 million kroner annually, owing to improved health of commuters.
Jensen himself bikes to his office at City Hall every morning, and told Xinhua it was “the most efficient way to commute in Copenhagen”, ranking above the city’s bus and underground rail network.
He added that biking is less stressful than driving, builds a sense of community in a big city, and is a great social leveller.
“In Copenhagen, all kinds of people go by bike: cabinet members, deputy mayors, businessmen. It is not only for poor people. It is also for people in prestigious positions,” Jensen said.
Jensen´s talk about biking as a "great social leveller" should of course be taken with a pinch of salt. Danish cabinet members and other politicians bike to work mainly because it is the politically correct thing to do - every politician in Denmark wants to look "green". A pinch of salt is also needed in order to believe the 300 million saving Jensen is boasting about. 
And anybody who has lived in Copenhagen knows that Jensen´s PR speak differs somewhat from the reality
According to the Danish Cyclists' Federation and Wonderful Copenhagen, the official tourism organisation for Denmark, the sheer success of the drive to get more locals and tourists on bikes is creating a dangerous, intimidating and unpleasant climate for cyclists in the city.
"In Copenhagen, we have quite extraordinary problems around cycling congestion," said Aneh Hajdu, of Wonderful Copenhagen. "I don't take my children on their bikes into Copenhagen at rush hour any more. It's too dangerous and scary. I just wouldn't risk it."
It is not just the locals who are, according to Hajdu, finding the sheer crush of cyclists in Copenhagen an ordeal. "I went on a cycling trip around Copenhagen with a friend visiting from London recently, and she was terrified by the mass of cyclists and the aggressive way they behaved," said Hadju. "She found them so overwhelming that she burst into tears. She was too scared to get back on her bike. We had to put it in a taxi and drive back home."
As numbers increase in the cycle lanes, says Hadju, so behaviour deteriorates, with jostling and cutting-up becoming more frequent. "The locals rush past the foreigners, who are often uncertain on their bikes and going slowly," she said. "The locals get impatient and therefore become more threatening."
Frits Bredal, of the Danish Cyclists' Federation adds: 
"In rush hour, there are enormous numbers of cyclists fighting for space on Copenhagen's bike paths, which become cramped and packed.
"As numbers grow and they fight for space, cyclists are becoming more aggressive and reckless in traffic. I increasingly see people bringing themselves and others into dangerous situations," he adds. "They break the laws and use their bikes in completely reckless ways."
And finally a word of warning: 
If you planning to rent a car while visiting Copenhagen, be aware of the fact there is nothing more arrogant and aggressive, from a driver´s point of view, than a Danish biker!

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