Andreas Røhl, Bicycle Program Manager, City of Copenhagen

Darren Calabrese,
National Post 2012
Last Thursday afternoon, courtesy of Andy Hanshaw of the SDCBC*, SANDAG staff and members of the general public were treated to a talk by renowned cycling expert and Bicycle Program Manager for the City of Copenhagen, Andreas Røhl. A full video recording of Røhl’s talk, delivered at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, can be found here. Among the many topics covered by Røhl, one theme prevailed: the absolute normalcy of cycling for everyday transportation.

Stephen Yarwood, 2010

Riding a bike in Copenhagen does not inform one’s identity; riding a bike in Copenhagen is simply the most convenient, most enjoyable and cheapest way to get around. “Sometimes I compare it to brushing your teeth,” Røhl said, “…like you do not meet up in clubs, discussing how you brush your teeth. You don’t discuss cycling so much in Copenhagen, you just do it.”

Copenhagen’s story of becoming a cyclist’s eden is similar to those of many Dutch cities. By the 1970’s, cars had so encroached on the city and its quality of life, that the people of Copenhagen decided something had to be done. Protests, such as that pictured below, were held and demands for better cycling conditions were made. Since the late 70’s and early 80’s, the people of Copenhagen have insisted that planning decisions be made with cycling in mind and that convenient cycling be engineered into the city’s streets.

Copenhagen City Museum / Københavns Bymuseum
The convenience of cycling is evidenced by the whopping 37% of Copenhagen residents who choose to cycle for transportation. Still, planners are not resting on their laurels. Bicycle Programmers, like Andreas Røhl, are always looking for ways to make city cycling even better and hope to achieve a 50% mode share by 2015.

According to Røhl, if you want to promote cycling, you should remember the following three things:

1. Do not think of an elephant (in the case of cycling, that elephant is safety).

“If you speak too much about safety, when you speak about cycling, then a lot of people get suspicious.” He points out, for instance, that airline marketing is never based on safety and crash statistics, but rather images of beautiful women and cocktails.

2. All the way from A to B, even where it hurts.

Andreas Røhl, 2012

This means creating a fully coherent cycling network, rather than a little bit of infrastructure here and a little bit there. To the picture at right, Røhl said, “You would never see a highway like this, you would never accept this. You would never accept a highway where you said to car drivers, ‘please get out of your car, push it for 50 meters, get back in, and go on and it’s no problem. No big deal.’ You would never accept that.” Making it good, all the way from A to B also means making not only contiguous, but also high quality networks. It is a way of saying to all citizens, getting around by bicycle is a dignified and reasonable thing to do., 2010
To make the point of a little going a long way, Røhl showed a footrest for cyclist installed at an intersection (seen at left). This simple and inexpensive project received more praise than many major infrastructure projects.

3. Remember the marketing, the story of cycling.

Marketing materials should emphasize that cycling is for (nearly) everyone. Those already cycling can be made to feel appreciated by cheap programs such as the Good Karma program, where volunteers thank cyclist by handing out chocolate on the cycle paths (see video below).

City of Copenhagen, Official Website

*Røhl’s primary reason for visiting San Diego was to learn more from Hanshaw, and other involved parties, about the region’s Bike-Friendly Business District Initiative.