Cycling safety - what Copenhagen can teach global cities

A study from Lund University in Sweden has compared the role of urban cycling and transport planning in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden, and the results could serve as a guide for other cities struggling with cycling safety.

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One important conclusion from Till Koglin’s PhD thesis in Transport Planning from Lund University, is that key economic and historical factors have informed the power relations that affect the outcome of planning, something that creates vitally different everyday experiences of cycling in the two cities.

Some of the reasons Copenhagen evolved into a “better” cycling city than Stockholm were accidental, for example that the Danish economy was weaker than Sweden’s after World War II, leaving less resources for car infrastructure. Another one is Denmark’s lack of an automotive industry, and therefore relatively strong support for cycling amongst the general population.

The more recent divergent development of urban planning in both cities is largely due to Copenhagen’s conscious cycling strategies, allowing Denmark to build on the historical evolution that favoured cycling over car traffic. (VIDEO)

Overall, however, the study managed to show how cycling as a mode of transport is marginalised in urban space, and that urban space wars between cyclists and car drivers and among cyclists are fought in Copenhagen as well as in Stockholm.

“This thesis indicates that even in cities that are very good for cycling, like Copenhagen, the motorised modes of transport create many problems and are still dominating urban space”, concludes Till Koglin, the researcher behind the study.

Theoretical background:

The thesis brings a spatial dimension into the research on urban mobilities and connects the spatial dimension to the marginalisation of cyclists in urban space. This has been done by exploring the role of urban bicycling and transport planning in Copenhagen, Denmark and Stockholm, Sweden.

The study shows that urban bicycling is a good example of displaying the relation between space and mobilities, since cyclists often suffer from marginalised space in cities around the world. From s and questionnaire data it became clear that different more or less visible factors have influenced the thinking, planning and politics in two different directions in Stockholm and Copenhagen.