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Posts from the "Copenhagen" Category

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Where Cyclists Have the Power to Ride Straight Past Turning Motorists

Hey, so it turns out the all-powerful @BicycleLobby didn’t actually scale the Brooklyn Bridge and plant white American flags at the top. That was two all-powerful German artists.

But courtesy of Clarence Eckerson Jr., here’s some footage of raw bicyclist power in Copenhagen, where turning drivers defer to people on bikes at intersections. I guess this is what you would call “soft power.” So many people bike in Copenhagen that all these polite motorists are probably either cyclists themselves or know close friends and family who bike. Each person on a bike going by could be a neighbor, an aunt, or an old roommate.

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Journey Around Copenhagen’s Latest Bicycle Innovations

Copenhagen just keeps finding fun ways to make it easier and more convenient to bike. On a tour with Mikael Collville-Andersen, CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co, I was able to tour some new innovations that have been implemented since I was last in Copenhagen four years ago.

First: If you’ve seen my Streetfilm from the VeloCity Conference 2010 (yes, feel free to watch again here) there is a new busiest bicycle street in the world! The Knippelsbro Bridge boasts 40,700 riders per day! And speaking of bridges, Copenhagen is building six new bike/ped-only bridges to help its people get around easier.

Last month saw the debut of the Cykelslangen “Cycle Snake,” immensely popular with adults and kids alike. You’ll see loads of footage as we travelled back and forth over it. It is truly a handsome piece of infrastructure. Even going uphill seems easy!

You’ll see lots of other things in this Streetfilm that will make you happy — or angry your city isn’t doing more — including wastebaskets angled for cyclists, LED lights that indicate whether riders have to speed up to catch the green light, and a cool treatment for cobblestone streets that helps make biking easier.

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Market Bike Counter: 3,231 Cyclists in a Day — And That’s an Underestimate

The Market Street bicycle counter, seen here at about 10 a.m. on Bike to Work Day. Photo: Aaron Bialick

San Francisco’s first digital bicycle counter was activated on Bike to Work Day yesterday, and the day’s official total was 3,231 cyclists on Market Street. But that’s probably a significant underestimate, since many bike riders on that block choose to ride outside the bike lane where the ground sensors were installed. Many riders seem to prefer to ride in the adjacent traffic lane, which was closed to cars in 2009.

The SF Bicycle Coalition says Market is the busiest bike street west of the Mississippi. Meanwhile, Copenhagen claims the busiest bicycling street in the western world — Nørrebrogade, which sees over 36,000 bicyclists a day. So, can San Francisco catch up?

You don’t have to head to Market Street to keep track of the bicycle count — the SFMTA has a regularly-updated tracker online.

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To Become a Great Biking City, SF Needs to Stop Crawling and Start Running

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Our Streetfilm from 2010 documented the experience of North American transportation officials and advocates in Copenhagen during the latest Velo-City conference.

San Francisco doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” to become a bike-friendly place — the city need look no further than peers like Copenhagen, widely considered one of the world’s best cycling cities.

So said David Chiu, president of the SF Board of Supervisors, at a forum yesterday evening with the chief of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Program, Andreas Røhl. “We know what needs to get done,” said Chiu. “The answers are there — from segregated cycle tracks, to bike signaling, to more bike parking, to more bike safety, to bike anti-theft measures, to more bike education — these are the pillars of what have worked in other cities.”

Since Copenhagen’s political leadership began implementing measures like physically protected bike lanes and traffic-calmed streets in the 1970s, the amount of bicycling has steadily increased, and today it accounts for 36 percent of work trips in the metro area (and 50 percent within the city proper). Bicycling to virtually any destination is now so safe and convenient, the average citizen does it without thinking twice.

To reach that point, Copenhagen’s leaders overcame many of the same barriers that San Francisco currently faces. Most importantly, they mustered the political will to remove traffic lanes and car parking to make way for safe bike lanes, and they made bike infrastructure a funding priority.

To make bicycling easy and comfortable enough for everyone, said Røhl, a city must provide continuous, safe bicycling conditions on every route — “From point A to point B, even where it hurts.”

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San Francisco’s State of Cycling: Is It Falling Behind?

An increasing number of women are riding bikes in San Francisco, but bike advocates say the city still has a long way to go to make the streets inviting for less intrepid riders. Photos: Aaron Bialick

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency released its four-year State of Cycling Report [PDF] this week. While the findings in the report may not be new to those keeping an eye on the growth of bicycling in San Francisco — which has jumped 71 percent from 2006 to 2011 — bike advocates say it highlights the city’s faltering plans to roll out bike infrastructure in comparison to other cities.

San Francisco’s bicycling rate, at 3.5 percent of work trips, ties for second among major American cities with Seattle, lagging only behind Portland’s at 6 percent. The city was also recently ranked the second-most “bikeable” city in the country by Walk Score, tying with Portland behind Minneapolis in first. And, no doubt, it has seen an unprecedented roll-out of bike improvements since the bike injunction was lifted two years ago.

But the success of San Francisco’s low-cost investments in improvements is all the more reason for the city to catch up to cities like Chicago and New York, which are setting the bar for rolling out protected bike lanes, said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

“The state of bicycling in San Francisco is indeed strong,” Shahum said in a statement, “but it can and should be much stronger by connecting our city more quickly with great bikeways and welcoming more people to biking with a robust bike-share program and great bike parking options. Making San Francisco a more bike-friendly place will help our city be even more successful in reaching our goals of growing jobs locally and improving our overall accessibility, sustainability and public health.”

The SFMTA is working on a strategy to reach the city’s goal of increasing bicycling to 20 percent of all trips by the year 2020, but its release seems to have been delayed for months. That goal, set by the Board of Supervisors in October 2010, has been criticized as lofty — as the SF Bay Guardian pointed out, it would require a 571 percent increase in ridership over the next seven years.

The expectations set in the SFMTA’s five-year Strategic Plan [PDF], approved in January, were more tempered, however. The agency’s goal is to increase all non-private automobile trips to 50 percent by 2018. Currently, that number is at 38 percent. While that “mode shift” would also come from walking, transit, car-share, and taxi use, “We think half of that can come from bicycle growth,” said Tim Papandreou, Deputy Director of Transportation Planning for the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division.

“We’re at [3.5 percent trips by bike] now, we could get to 8.5, 9.5 percent, which would make us the biggest bicycling mode share in North America,” he told Streetsblog. Still, that target would only meet the city’s “20 percent by 2020″ goal by roughly half.

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During Construction, the Safety of People on Bikes Is Dispensable

Photos: Aaron Bialick

We recently wrote about the benefits to bicycle riders that come from temporarily removing car parking at construction sites. But there are other times when construction can do just the opposite, throwing them into harm’s way.

At the very same construction site at 1844 Market Street, where we pointed out that parking removal had improved conditions for bicycle commuters climbing the hill to the Wiggle, crews last Friday set up a dangerous and perplexing labyrinth for evening rush hour bicycle traffic. To make room for what appeared to be a concrete pouring machine, the parking, bicycle, and right-most traffic lanes were closed, leaving no choice but to merge into a lane with car traffic and trolley tracks, or, as most bike commuters chose, to delicately negotiate the extremely narrow space between the trolley tracks and reflective road bumps.

Residents of any major city are used to putting up with inconveniences for construction. But in this all-too-common situation, people were thrown into dangerous conditions with virtually no guidance about how to pass safely aside from a sign reading, “Bikes allowed use of full lane” (even if the lane has tracks, that’s apparently all that’s required by law [PDF]). The sidewalk was also closed, with vague signage asking pedestrians to detour to the other side of the street, leading some to walk in the road.

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Learning From Other Cities, Planners Shop Early Visions for Market Street

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Image: Better Market Street

Planners presented early concepts for a new Market Street to the public yesterday, moving the discussion forward on revitalizing San Francisco’s grand boulevard with features like car-free zones, raised bike lanes, faster transit, and more inviting public spaces.

The ideas and visualizations, which are available on the Better Market Street website, were presented by planners as starting points to explore. Many of the concepts are hallmarks of the world’s greatest streets, and planners in the multi-agency effort are aiming to adapt them to Market using a swath of survey data about how the street is used.

The increasingly popular idea of removing private autos from lower Market could come in various forms, ranging from additional forced turns for cars in both directions, to a car-free zone near the Powell Street cable car turnaround, to a full ban on cars as far west as Octavia Boulevard.

Staff fielding public feedback said the proposals have met mostly with support, with concerns focused largely on how to best implement car prohibitions in ways that are enforceable and don’t shift traffic congestion problems to other streets.

Similar experiments have proven successful on New York City’s Broadway and Copenhagen’s Nørrebrogade, said Jeff Risom, a planner on the project with the Copenhagen-based Gehl Architects. Like Market’s forced turns at eastbound Sixth and Tenth Streets, officials in those two cities used pilot projects to find the best fit for car restrictions.

In the summer of 2009, the NYC Department of Transportation (with the help of Gehl Architects) removed cars from a section of Broadway in Times Square, turning it into a pedestrian plaza. As a result, Times Square became more of a public destination, increasing pedestrian usage and simplifying the flow of vehicle traffic in Midtown Manhattan. NYC now plans to construct a permanent redesign for the plaza.

A key similarity between Market and Broadway is that they both cut diagonally through a dense street grid.

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Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Good Cities for Bicycling

Bicyclists on their way through the city are part of city life. They can, with ease, switch between being bicyclists and pedestrians. Photos by Jan Gehl.

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in our series this week featuring Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the book, courtesy of Island Press.

Bicyclists represent a different and somewhat rapid form of foot traffic, but in terms of sensory experiences, life and movement, they are part of the rest of city life. Naturally, bicyclists are welcome in support of the goal to promote lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities. The following is about planning good cities for bicyclists, and is handled relatively narrowly and in direct relation to a discussion on the human dimension in city planning.

Around the world there are numerous cities where bicycles and bicycle traffic would be unrealistic. It is too cold and icy for bicycles in some areas, too hot in others. In some places the topography is too mountainous and steep for bicycles. Bicycle traffic is simply not a realistic option in those situations. Then there are surprises like San Francisco, where you might think bicycling would be impractical due to all the hills. However, the city has a strong and dedicated bicycle culture. Bicycling is also popular in many of the coldest and warmest cities, because, all things considered, even they have a great number of good bicycling days throughout the year.

The fact remains that a considerable number of cities worldwide have a structure, terrain and climate well suited for bicycle traffic. Over the years, many of these cities have thrown their lot in with traffic policies that prioritized car traffic and made bicycle traffic dangerous or completely impossible. In some places extensive car traffic has kept bicycle traffic from even getting started.

In many cities, bicycle traffic continues to be not much more than political sweet talk, and bicycle infrastructure typically consists of unconnected stretches of paths here and there rather than the object of a genuine, wholehearted and useful approach. The invitation to bicycle is far from convincing. Typically in these cities only one or two percent of daily trips to the city are by bicycle, and bicycle traffic is dominated by young, athletic men on racing bikes. There is a yawning gap from that situation to a dedicated bicycle city like Copenhagen, where 37 percent of traffic to and from work or school is by bicycle. Here bicycle traffic is more sedate, bicycles are more comfortable, the majority of cyclists are women, and bicycle traffic includes all age groups from school children to senior citizens.

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Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Good Cities for Walking

There is more to walking than walking. Photos by Jan Gehl.

Editor’s note: Streetsblog San Francisco is thrilled to present a three-part series this week by renowned Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. This is part two. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the book, courtesy of Island Press.

It is a big day when at about one year of age a child takes that first step. The child’s eye level moves from the vantage point of the crawler (about 1 foot) above the floor to about 2.6 feet.

The little walker can see much more and move faster. From now on everything in the child’s world — field of vision, perspective, overview, pace, flexibility and opportunities — will move on a higher, faster plane. All of life’s important moments will hereafter be experienced on foot at standing and walking pace.

While walking is basically a linear movement that brings the walker from place to place, it is also much more. Walkers can effortlessly stop underway to change direction, maneuver, speed up or slow down or switch to a different type of activity such as standing, sitting, running, dancing, climbing or lying down.

A city walk illustrates its many variations: the quick goal-oriented walk from A to B, the slow stroll to enjoy city life or a sunset, children’s zig-zagging, and senior citizens’ determined walk to get fresh air and exercise or do an errand. Regardless of the purpose, a walk in city space is a “forum” for the social activities that take place along the way as an integral part of pedestrian activities. Heads move from side to side, walkers turn or stop to see everything, or to greet or talk with others. Walking is a form of transport, but it is also a potential beginning or an occasion for many other activities.

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Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Cities for People: The Safe City

Sibelius Park, a housing complex in Copenhagen, has cooperated with the Danish Crime Prevention Council to carefully define private, semiprivate, semipublic and public territories in the complex. Subsequent studies have shown that there is less crime and greater security than in other similar developments. Photos: Jan Gehl

Editor’s note: Streetsblog San Francisco is thrilled to launch a three-part series today by renowned Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts are from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the book, courtesy of Island Press. Visit the Island Press website to find many more great titles by the nation’s leading publisher of books on environmental issues.

Feeling safe is crucial if we hope to have people embrace city space. In general, life and people themselves make the city more inviting and safe in terms of both experienced and perceived security.

In this section we deal with the safe city issue with the goal of ensuring good cities by inviting walking, biking and staying. Our discussion will focus on two important sectors where targeted efforts can satisfy the requirement for safety in city space: traffic safety and crime prevention.

Throughout the entire period of car encroachment, cities have tried to remove bicycle traffic from their streets. The risk of accident to pedestrians and bicyclists has been great throughout the rise in car traffic, and the fear of accident even greater.

Many European countries and North America experienced the car invasion early on and have watched city quality deteriorate year by year. There have been numerous counter reactions and an incipient development of new traffic planning principles in response. In other countries whose economies have developed more slowly and modestly, cars have only begun to invade cities more recently. In every case the result is a dramatic worsening of conditions for pedestrians and bicycle traffic.

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