Copenhagen opened the first ‘Cycle Superhighway’ with a lot of hype last month. I was really looking forward to seeing proper images of it. But I didn’t find any. I think I know why, now that I did. Let’s put it plain and simple, in my opinion this cycle route is not good enough.
Newspaper “Politiken” filmed the almost 18 kilometer route and shows it in 5 minutes. In the article “Is Copenhagen’s new cycle highway really super?” their “testcyklist” came to the same conclusion I did: you simply cannot call this a “super highway”.
Perhaps if you come from a country without any cycling infrastructure this may look impressive. But I don’t come from such a country and neither do the locals. Denmark has sometimes decent cycle infrastructure and this is more of that, but nothing special.
With Dutch specifications in mind (can now be read in the comment by Marc/Amsterdamize) this is what I see:
- The width of the tracks in this route is not consistent and too narrow for most of it
- There are parts that are two-directional that are just as narrow as the one-directional parts
- There are parts shared with pedestrians without proper separation
- The track disappears completely in towns and twists and winds through ordinary streets with parking on both sides.
- There is no cycle track at busy junctions
- At junctions the cycle lane is shared with right turning motorised traffic
- The underpasses lack a feeling of social safety
- big gates block the cycle path at several points
- There is no priority on crossings (what you would expect for a ‘super’ highway)
That’s just from looking at the video. But the comments of the locals are even more telling:
- The route is not direct enough (there is a more direct route that has cycle paths all along it)
- The route is not marked well enough (one commenter got lost with some other cyclists in one of the towns)
- The green wave does not work as promised
- The surface is not smooth enough (“feels like riding a washboard” (!) says one, apparently only some potholes were finally repaired.)
But what can you expect? The budget for this almost 18 kilometer route was 13.4 million Kroner (€1.8/US$2.4 million). To compare, the Dutch spend about one million euro per kilometer, ten times as much!
So what is the verdict? It is really not a bad route. As one of the locals says: a nice alternative if you have more time to spare to the busy and rather sad existing straight route next to a busy road. But that is not what most people will think of when they hear the word “Cycle super highway” now is it? It has to be better than ordinary routes and this seems a collection of ordinary routes. Also it was supposed to be for the commuter: “The whole purpose of the Cycle Super Highways is to create better conditions for commuter cyclists, and thus encourage more people to choose the bike over the car” but that target group is clearly not impressed by ordinary cycle paths with some extra pumps and an orange line in the gutter. One is very clear: “this will not get more people on their bikes“. One final and very telling quote from the comments: “This project seems more like populism than a genuine attempt to encourage more people to commute by bike from the suburbs.”
So this really only is more hype. Copenhagen has been rightly criticized for this before and London, the only other city advertising ‘superhighways’, has not delivered either.
Compare the Danish Super route with 30 year old Dutch design (video above from my earlier post). And it is obvious which is better.
But the Dutch designs have evolved and the Netherlands has routes like this now.
(The route starts 2:10 minutes into the video). From my earlier post.
I will publish a further example of a new intercity route in the Netherlands this coming Monday.
Copenhagen has ambitious plans for 25 more routes. I really hope they will do better than this first one. Don’t let the words “Cycle Superhighway” become synonymous with disappointing designs.