Many residents of Copenhagen have chosen the bicycle as their preferred mode of transport. The city has a significant network of cycle paths and most roads have a cycle lane.
This can be challenging for pedestrians who do not look carefully when crossing the road as these silent modes of transport are easily missed and before you know it, one is almost on top of you or you are hearing the annoyed 'ding' of the cyclist's bell.
Only a very few cyclists in Copenhagen wear bicycle helmets, but I did manage to find a dozen of them for these four photo collages.
OK, the guy on the right in the first photo isn't riding a bicycle, but he is wearing a helmet, so I decided to include him just to make it an even dozen. If he falls off his horse he will presumably have some degree of protection against head injuries, but that won't help him much if he is trampled to death, will it?
As I have said before, I consider bicycle helmets to be a sensible precaution especially for children and for us elderly folks, since we are the ones who are most likely to fall off our bicycles for no reason, but I am not in favor of compulsory helmet laws because they dissuade people from cycling -- and the damage caused by not cycling far outweighs any slight increase in safety that a helmet might provide.
I have discussed this in more detail in a tip on my Amsterdam page called Why the Dutch don't wear bicycle helmets.
Also I have written a tip called Why I still wear a bicycle helmet even though the Dutch don't.
Recently there has been an emotional advertizing campaign in Denmark to promote helmet wearing. Bicycle advocates claim that the use of bicycles has declined by 5% as a result.
The website Copenhagenize.com includes an article entitled Helmets or health? which is very critical of the pro-helmet campaign, saying that bicycle helmets "should be a private matter and a personal choice" - and that helmet promotion and legislation "are the greatest threats to bicycle culture since the dawn of the automobile age."
1. Three helmet-wearers in Copenhagen
2. Three more helmet-wearers
3. Another three
4. The last three
2. A circular bicycle stand
There are masses of bicycle stands in Copenhagen, but I was disappointed to see that most of them are of the old-fashioned rimkiller variety, so called because they only hold your bike by the front wheel, so if it happens to fall or be pushed over the front wheel could be bent out of shape.
Another disadvantage is that you can lock only the front wheel onto the stand, but not the frame of the bicycle, so if you are really unlucky you might come back to find the front wheel still there, but the rest of the bike gone.
A somewhat better solution is the circular bicycle stand in the second photo, because you can push your front wheel further in so it is less liable to be damaged. Also you could lock your frame to the stand, not that anyone in the photo has actually done so.
I found this circular bicycle stand on the square called Polititorvet, just opposite my hotel. (Polititorvet seems to mean "Police Square", if I have figured it out correctly.)
GPS 55°40'13.54" North; 12°34'14.47" East (Polititorvet)
1. "I'm going to stop."
2. Here she has in fact stopped.
Another category of accidents is on the increase in Copenhagen, namely collisions between two cyclists going the same direction.
To avoid such collisions, many Copenhagen cyclists give each other hand signals such as this one in the first photo, meaning "I'm going to stop."
In the second photo she has in fact stopped and is waiting for the light to change.
GPS 55°40'17.63" North; 12°34'3.48" East
1. Cyclists and bus passengers on a cycle track
2. No conflicts this time
3. A different arrangement in Frankfurt
On streets that have both a cycle track and a bus stop, the buses stop on the street and the passengers have to cross the cycle track to get on or off the bus.
Cyclists are of course supposed to stop when this happens, and most of them do, but apparently some cyclists don't stop or stop too late or start up again too soon. As a result, there has been an increase in collisions involving cyclists and bus passengers. Though these collisions seldom result in serious injuries, they are still annoying, and they create unnecessary antagonism between the two groups.
The third photo is from Frankfurt am Main and shows a different arrangement. Here the cycle track (one of the few that have been built in Frankfurt so far) is interrupted and the bus pulls over to the curb of the sidewalk, forcing slower cyclists to stop and allowing faster cyclists to overtake the bus on the left if traffic permits.
Unfortunately this particular street in Frankfurt gets very little bicycle traffic, so the arrangement has never really been put to the test, at least not here. (Frankfurt now has 14% bicycle traffic, by the way, which is a great improvement for us but nothing compared to Copenhagen's 37%.)
GPS 55°40'16.24" North; 12°34'0.18" East (Tietgensgade in Copenhagen, where I took the first and second photos).
1. Don't get doored!
2. Keeping her distance from parked cars
Another danger for city cyclists is getting hit by a car door that someone opens unexpectedly, or crashing into a car door that someone has just opened.
Copenhagen's solution to this problem is to make the cycle tracks and lanes wide enough that cyclists can keep their distance (one meter is recommended) from parked cars.
Some city planners purposely put a row of parked cars between the cycle track and the street, as a buffer between cyclists and moving motor vehicles. This does seem to reduce the danger of collisions, but increases the danger of getting doored.
As a long-term solution, I would like to see cars with outward-opening doors banned from city streets. Either they should have sliding doors or they should stay out in the countryside, in my opinion. (But this is admittedly a very long-term solution, and I don't know anyone who is actively pursuing it.)
Copenhagen has banned on-street parking on some streets, because parked cars take up valuable urban real estate that could better be used by humans. For instance they don't hesitate to eliminate a row of parked cars if the space is needed for a new cycle track.
But there is a downside to this. If motorists can't park on the main streets, they tend to drive around the block looking for a parking space, thus causing more accidents at intersections. A solution to this (implemented in Paris but not in Copenhagen) is to eliminate free on-street parking in the entire city, so motorists know they have no chance of parking for free and head straight for the nearest parking garage instead -- or they refrain from driving into the city in the first place, which is what the mayor of Paris intended.
For advice on how to avoid getting doored, have a look at "Collision Type #2" in the website below:
1. Blue stripe at an intersection
2. Cyclists on the blue stripe
3. Blue stripe, blue bike, blue sweater
4. Cyclists on a long blue stripe on H C Andersens Boulevard
5. More cyclists on a blue stripe
Another solution to the problem of cyclists being hit by right-turning vehicles is to paint blue stripes on the street at dangerous crossings.
These blue stripes in Copenhagen are the equivalent of the dark red stripes in parts of Germany, Belgium and Switzerland, and the white arrows on the streets and squares of Paris.
The city of Copenhagen has commissioned research into the effectiveness of these blue stripes. The conclusion is that there should be one and only one blue stripe per intersection. One blue stripe effectively reduces accidents, but two or more blue stripes are counter-productive because they confuse car drivers.
In the first and second photos the blue stripe extends only halfway across the intersection, only through the most dangerous area where cyclists are liable to be hit by right-turning vehicles.
1. Separate traffic lights for cars and bikes
2. Cars stop, bikes go
One of the greatest dangers for cyclists in any city is the risk of being run over at intersections by right-turning motor vehicles. (Left-turning in the UK.)
Copenhagen has come up with a good solution to this problem. At a few intersections (only a few so far!) they have installed separate traffic lights which are set to make right-turning cars stop while bicycles go straight ahead, and visa-versa.
This is no doubt more expensive that just letting cyclists be squashed to death, but the expense is totally justified and in any case is just a small fraction of the huge amounts routinely spent on infrastructure for motor vehicles.
Copenhagen is a very safe place. The only times I felt in "danger" in Copenhagen is when I was walking in a cycle path by mistake. At the beginning I did not know these were cycle paths unless there were bicycles there (usually many of them around!). So, in some quieter areas I was walking on these and I was nearly run over.
So, if you've not cycle paths on your city, or you're used to them being clearly marked (in my city they have a bike painted every some meters) be aware that these dark lanes besides the pavement are NOT for pedestrians!
Between the sidewalk and road we offen have a bicycle path. If you are getting of a tourist bus you are offen put rigth out to danger! Allways watch out for bicycles when this happens and also when you are just crossing it on your tour in the city.
Bicycles are a good way to get around ...as farst as the car in Copenhagen if you are fit. So look out for it as you look out for cars!! Hospital is no place for a vacation.
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