A few small things that make a big difference in Copenhagen

A few small things that make a big difference in Copenhagen

Copenhagen Day 4-48-60

Riding in Copenhagen is so nice it’s even romantic.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

One thing I’ve learned on this trip is that it’s possible to vastly improve the cycling experience without spending millions on big and fancy projects. As I go through my photos and notes from each day, I’ve started a list of all the little things Copenhagen does to make cycling comfortable and easy.

I think several of these ideas could be adopted and/or expanded on in Portland.

As we build more cycle tracks and protected bike lanes, we will have to figure out a way to sweep them. Copenhagen uses mini-sweepers to keep the cycle tracks clear of debris (they also have mini snow plows):

Copenhagen Day 2-20

Copenhagen Day 2-19

Portland has a fair amount of stairs that happen to be a part of popular cycling routes. Stairs aren’t good for cycling of course; but wheel gutters can help make them tolerable. Unfortunately, we still use a very narrow product that isn’t easy to use. Recently we’ve discussed this issue here on the Front Page via the stairs on the new SW Gibbs Bridge and the stairs on the new Waud Bluff Trail.

Here in Copenhagen I didn’t expect to see many wheel gutters since they’re usually a sign of a lacking bicycle connection. But near the Fisketorvet Shopping Center in the Vesterbro area is perhaps one of the busiest wheel gutters in the world:

Copenhagen Day 2

It connects a new biking and walking bridge with nearly 11,000 bike trips per day with a cycle track (they’re working on a huge ramp project dubbed the “Bicycle Snake” that will connect the two, but it’s not done yet). While the wheel gutter isn’t ideal, at least the City of Copenhagen has installed one that is nice and wide. It works very well. I think we should rips ours out and order some of these…

Copenhagen Day 4-47-59

In order to make bicycling efficient, the City of Copenhagen has created a “grøn bølge” or green wave. This refers to the timing of bike signals. If you ride along at just over 12 mph on most main routes you can “surf a wave of green lights through the city without putting a foot down.” Portland has something similar on many downtown streets (using conventional signals of course), but I don’t think most people even know about it (there are no signs):

Copenhagen Day 4-32-44

Another thing you see a lot here are streets where people can ride bicycles in both directions on streets that are one-way only for driving. These contra-flow bike lanes add a huge amount of convenience to the system.


The sign reads “One Way – Except bikes”.
Elmegade shared and safe

One element of Copenhagen’s street network that I didn’t know anything about before coming here are “walking zones.” Many side-streets have areas that are designated “Gågade Zone” or “Walking Zone”. The few of these I’ve observed are very popular as cut-throughs for people riding bikes. I especially notice a lot of family biking groups riding through them. In Portland there are a lot of places we could make either completely or partially carfree while maintaining bike access. It could create much safer streets while not inhibiting mobility:

Copenhagen Day 4-23-35

Copenhagen Day 4-22-34

Blagardsgade, Norrebro

I realize there are several things missing from this list. On cycle tracks specifically, Copenhagen has built in a bunch of little tweaks that make them great. I’ll round those up in a separate post.

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