The Copenhagen bike lane

I recently watched Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized, a pretty broad documentary about the design of cities. In it, I discovered the Copenhagen bike lane.

In many cities, including San Francisco and Sydney, there are bike lanes throughout the city. They are arranged as part of the road, so bicycles ride next to cars.


This puts cyclists less than half a meter from cars moving at 50kph+, but even more dangerously, as seen in the photo above, cars often have to cross the bike lane to make turns. Anecdotally, this happens to me on my bicycle in San Francisco about once a week: some lady in a Porsche fails to notice my existence and attempts to change lanes through me and my bike. Cue glowering stares and menacing body language.

Copenhagen’s ridiculously simple innovation was to swap the parked cars and the bike lane, so instead of bikes between parked cars and moving ones, they’re between pedestrians and parked cars.


Obviously, this is a much safer arrangement, and it takes up no extra space. You can see in the photo of Copenhagen that none of the cyclists is wearing a helmet. In Copenhagen, 50% of people commute to work by bike (source). 50%!

I’ve no idea why bike lanes aren’t always arranged this way, everywhere.

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