When I travel the world, I have a preference for active travel, whether hiking, walking, bicycling or Nordic skiing, to name a few. It's not only a way to acquire an intimate contact with the land and its people, but I can stay in shape while having fun doing it. So, with the rising obesity rates in the U.S. -- among children, the obesity rates have tripled; and among adults, almost 40% are considered obese -- I wonder how some countries get their citizens to work out. Most notably I'm thinking about Denmark. Sure, when we think bicycle-friendly countries, The Netherlands always come to mind. But, in fact, after Holland, Denmark has the next highest rates of cycling in the world. I've bicycled all over Denmark and have found it a pleasure to ride in a country where the bike is king. I had little worry that a car would slam into me from the rear or cut in front of me as it made a right turn. I had no problems taking my bike on the trains nor any problem navigating Copenhagen's city center. Dedicated bike trails network across the country that has the most cyclists in not just Copenhagen but also Denmark's two other big cities: Odense and Aarhus. For example, Denmark is networked with over 6,000 miles of cycle routes and the city of Odense is covered with some 300 miles of bike paths. In Copenhagen, some 36% of people get to work by bicycle, compared with 29% by car and 28% by public transportation.
Then there's the problem with the out-of-control cyclists, most notably bike messengers or delivery people who ride on sidewalks or the wrong way on streets, or run the red lights (just as many cars do) which has resulted in a significant number of pedestrian accidents.
And, of course, there are plenty of cities in the U.S. -- Tampa, Florida, for one -- where cars rule and where even pedestrians take a risk crossing the street. No wonder it's hard to get people bicycling.
Copenhagen, Odense, and/or Aarhus, in particular, that encourage cycling:
1. Bicycle parking facilities are conveniently located near shops/main train stations; are covered; well lighted; have video surveillance cameras as well as bathrooms, water fountains and air pumps.
2. Bicycle racks are also conveniently located, with some installed beside kindergartens.
3. At intersections, bike lanes are painted with a bright blue bike icon to alert motorists.
4. Children not only learn how to ride a bike before first grade but safe cycling is part of some school curricula.
5. Bike lanes are preferentially de-iced and cleared of snow so that the citizens can bicycle in the winter.
6. Trouble-shooters are employed to traverse bike lanes and determine and report if there are potholes or other surface problems.
7. Cycling marketing/promotional campaigns are not just about print and television ads, but rather are quite innovative involving bike touring programs for seniors, having parents test out bike trails to haul their kids, partnering with businesses by giving them a fleet of bicycles their employees can use during the day for short business treks, giving out complementary bicycle lights that don't use batteries as well as seat covers and water bottles.
8. Copenhagen has an interesting way of dealing with people who illegally park their bicycle: The city employs what's referred to as Bike Butlers who pump up the tires and oil the chain of the offending bicycle. (It's seems to have been more successful than other punitive actions.)
9. Some traffic lights are timed to coordinate with the speed of cyclists, rather than cars, and there may be a special bike traffic light.
10. A GPS system is being utilized so that a stolen bicycle can be tracked.
11. Copenhagen has plans for bike-through shopping facilities; a new bike sharing program; more and wider cycle paths, including those where the car stop white line is way behind the cyclist which is favored when the light turns green.
12. Denmark promotes cycling by integrating the cooperation of governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations as well as private companies. It works because everyone knows that a city that respects their cyclists and where cyclists respect other citizens is a city that's more livable for all.