Røhl has been working in Copenhagen to develop a culture of “civil cycling.” This open culture values convenience, inclusivity and quality of life, and welcomes new riders without regard for income or class. He feels that the “militant cycling” culture so often seen in North American cities, with its values of survival, sport, counter-culture, rebellion and environmental activism, creates barriers to new cyclists and much-needed political allies.
In Copenhagen, where cycling is seen as an integrated part of the mobility system, Røhl said, “Few people identify as a ‘cyclist.’ They just happen to be on a bike. …For them it’s a means to an end.”
Building an Integrated Network
Two policy changes in Vancouver, BC, over the past years have helped shift how people like Megan and me feel about cycling in the urban core. The first was creating locally controversial separated bikeways into the downtown, including routes over major bridges. These improved connections have measurably increased bike travel into and out of Vancouver’s populated downtown, but they’re are only the start of a modestly improved network – far too modest for Peñalosa, who called out the cycling-positive Vancouver mayor, Gregor Robertson, for not pushing a grander vision.
The second policy change is the regional transportation body TransLink’s push to improve cycling access by making it possible for people to bring their bikes on the entire regional transit system, though with some restrictions. “We have a large and diverse region, so we have to think about the region as a whole in making cycling accessible,” explained TransLink chair Nancy Olewiler. “If the goal is to have more than half of trips taken by transit, cycling or walking by 2040,” Olewiler said, “we need to remember that the adults of 2040 are children today.” These actions are ways to integrate cycling infrastructure into the urban fabric. Ultimately, this is the only way to make more humane, human-powered cities.
Both Røhl and Peñalosa attest that a rational network of defined and often separated cycle tracks is the key to promoting active transportation and making it an attractive choice. The connected network of cycle tracks in Copenhagen defines space for cycling. It connects with the regional transit system to allow commuters to get from door to door in a smooth, safe, comfortable, and above all, normal way.
To further promote the bicycle as a viable choice for commuting, Copenhagen is introducing new Cycle Super Highways, routes that connect the suburbs to the urban core and connect with the existing regional network of enhanced cycle tracks. Priority synchronized signals along the routes are timed for people on bikes, creating a “green wave” for cyclists traveling at 20 km/h. Many of these cycle tracks run parallel with or connect to transit routes and stations. “If you have a good combination of public transport with cycling, you have a more flexible daily life and more convenience,” says Røhl.
Jarrett Walker, transit systems expert and author of Human Transit, talks about the intrinsic potential for cooperation between cycling and transit. “The bicycle becomes an ideal tool for extending the reach of rapid transit stations [as exemplified in many European cities], reducing (but not eliminating) the need for slower bus and streetcar services. …Many cities and agencies are looking at how to expand the potential for these ‘cycle plus transit’ trips. These efforts include enhancing bicycle storage at stations as well as allowing cyclists to bring their bikes on board. These strategies have the potential to build the market for both cycling and public transit.”