Sunday, April 7, 2013

Copenhagen: Transportation Policy & History Overview

In the world of sustainable transportation planning, Copenhagen is often highly respected for its high levels of active and alternative transportation reflected in its commuter mode split. With 36% of city residents cycling to school or work, 28% using public transit, and 7% walking as of 2010, Copenhagen is definitely a world leader when it comes to minimizing automotive transportation (Copenhagen, 2011). In fact, the city has accomplished so much in regards to reducing automotive commuting that it is now focusing on getting people out of vehicles of all types—including public transit vehicles—in hopes of further increasing the use of active transportation. The city has implemented policy aimed at reducing cycling travel time, increasing cycling safety, and increasing comfort on cycling paths in an effort to reach the ambitious goal of having 50% of residents citywide commute by cycling by 2015.

Copenhagen’s dominance in the active transportation world may be rapidly growing, but it is by no means something new and trendy in the city. While many cities worldwide have been investing in active transportation infrastructure in recent years in an effort to help combat climate change and promote more healthy lifestyles, cycling in Copenhagen has been a tradition for generations. In the early 1800s, bikes flourished across many parts of the world, but their domination ceased once automobiles were introduced in the early 20th century (Santos Canals, 2006). In Copenhagen, however, the fact that automobiles were too pricey for the majority of residents combined with the rationing of petroleum that occurred in Copenhagen during WWII caused cycling to continue to grow and became a dominant part of Copenhagen culture (Santos Canals, 2006). The energy crisis and environmental movement that began in the 1970s hit Denmark harder than most countries, which led to the government instituting a “Car-Free Sunday” policy. This policy played a significant role in making cycling an even larger part of the Danish culture (Greenfield, 2012). Over time, cycling has become something residents take pride in and something that defines the cultural of the city. The introduction of the city-wide bike sharing program, innovative parking structures, and large investments in bike lanes and other bike infrastructure helped solidify Copenhagen’s spot as an innovative active transportation leader worldwide.

In addition to active transportation, Copenhagen has also invested in mass transit options for its residents. The S-Train network is a rapid transit system that serves the outer neighborhoods of the Copenhagen area, bringing residents in the metropolitan area to the city center. The Copenhagen Metro, also a rapid transit system, is a much newer addition that was added in 2002 (Metro). While the S-Train serves the outer areas of the metropolitan area, Metro helps connect the airport to the city center. A new addition that will open in 2018 will add 17 stations to the existing 22 to create a loop through the city center (Metro).

Although Copenhagen’s history made it a good candidate to become a leader in sustainable transportation, the mentioned policies and investments that were made over the years are the real reason why Copenhagen has made impressive transportation advancements.  The continuation of ambitious policies like the 50% cycling goal by 2015 set out in the Copenhagen Bicycle Strategy Plan will help Copenhagen remain an example to follow for cities across the world.


Denmark. City of Copenhagen. The Technical and Environmental Administration. The City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Strategy 2011-2025. 2011.

Greenfield, John. "Danish History: How Copenhagen Became Bike-friendly Again." Web log post. Grid Chicago. N.p., 6 Dec. 2012. Web. <>.

"Metro." Copenhagen Metro: About Us. N.p., 2013. Web. <!/om+metroen/facts+om+metroen/statistik>.

Santos Canals, Marc, Antoine Pinaud, and Thibaut Janneau. Copenhagen: How Bicycles Can Become an Efficient Means of Public Transportation
. Rosklide University, 2006. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. 

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