WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN)—How common is biking in Copenhagen? “ To use a bike is like brushing your teeth,” said Andreas Rohl. “In Copenhagen, it’s nothing special to go by bike.” Rich, poor, male, female, young and old—they all can be seen riding around town.
Rohl, bicycle program manager for the Danish capital, spoke to a record-breaking crowd last night at the National Bike Summit about how bicycling has become a way of life in Copenhagen, which is home to 1 million people.
The ninth annual event, organized by the League of American Bicyclists, kicked off at the Ronald Reagan Building yesterday, bringing together bike advocates, industry suppliers and retailers for three days to learn about the issues affecting transportation policy and to make a case for expanding federal support of cycling at the nation’s capital.
Providing a model for the U.S., Rohl, along with Friis Arne Petersen, Denmark’s Ambassador to the United States, cited some staggering statistics on cycling’s mode share:
-36 percent of commuters in greater Copenhagen go by bike. About a third commute by car and another third use public transport.
-750,000 people ride their bike daily in the city
-55 percent of city dwellers use their bike to get to work
-Some 30,000 cyclists hit the busiest streets in Copenhagen every day
-Average bike trip is four miles
All these numbers point to a thriving bike city, but Rohl is quick to point out that no one sees themselves as cyclists. Cycling is simply considered the fastest, easiest and most efficient way of getting around, he said.
Petersen said local government has long been supportive of biking initiatives. “We have politicians at the local level that separate pedestrians, bikes and car traffic. Separation of different transportation modes is key to enjoying being a pedestrian, a biker or a driver,” Petersen said.
The ultimate goal is for biking to grow to 50 percent of mode share in Copenhagen, they said.
Copenhagen’s success story helped rally summit attendees as they prepare to meet with state legislators tomorrow on Capitol Hill.
More than 550 attendees hailing from 47 states, four countries and three Canadian provinces registered this year, surpassing last year’s record attendance of 535, according to Andy Clarke, president of the League.
Though the floundering economy has taken center stage over the past few months, “we knew the issues were on our side,” Clarke said.
After dinner, several awards were handed out to cap off the first night. Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) presented the Safe Routes Award to Bear Creek Elementary School in Boulder, Colorado, for its Car Free Commute Program. More than $370 million have been spent in 4,500 Safe Routes to School programs across the U.S., Oberstar said.
Clarke presented the Industry Advocacy Award to SRAM, citing the company’s leadership role over the past year, including the formation of the SRAM Cycling Fund last fall, which has disbursed $1 million so far to advocacy groups. The fund will disburse $10 million total over the next five years.
And Active Transportation Alliance’s Randy Neufeld, described as the “granddaddy of bicycle advocacy,” was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
PHOTO Caption: Congressman James Oberstar recognized Bear Creek Elementary School in Boulder, Colorado, for its innovative Car Free Commute Program.