Forty years ago, London and Copenhagen had similar ratios of car to bicycle use, and both faced an exodus of workers moving out of the centre and into the suburbs. But after the energy crises of the 1970s, the two cities diverged. Danes were restricted in how much they could use their cars and commuters began to campaign for a better infrastructure for cyclists. Today, there are almost 200 miles of bicycle lanes in the city, and 40 per cent of its 1.8 million inhabitants cycle to work. The city has evolved cyclist-friendly policies, such as the Green Wave – a sequence of favourable traffic signals for cyclists at rush hour.
The key, it seems, is getting women cycling because only then has cycling become part of the mainstream. A recent poll by Sustrans, the UK cycling pressure group, asked women cyclists what would get them on to bikes and the answer was simple: better infrastructure, more bike lanes. Copenhagen’s separate, raised bike lanes with their own traffic signals are a must. And the lesson learnt from Gehl’s study is that infrastructure has to come first. Once it is in place, the message, says Colville-Andersen, is simple: “You don’t tell them it’s healthier to cycle, you don’t tell them they’re saving the planet, you just say that it is the fastest way from A to B. And they will come."
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