Danish story, video and comments on the Albertslund-Copenhagen “bicycle superhighway”

A reader pointed me to a news story on the politiken.dk blog about the Copenhagen/Albertslund “bicycle superhighway” which is getting attention and publicity. The reader’s comments on my previous post read:

Yeah, its kind of joke, but to be fair they are not called superhighways in Danish but Super bicycle tracks, and even then most agree that they are not really that super. There is a video of the entire route here if you scroll down a bit:

http://politiken.dk/debat/skrivdebat/ECE1615543/er-koebenhavns-nye-cykelsti-virkeligsuper/

The two next ones which will open are another story though, as they mostly have their own right of way, and use viaducts or bridges to cross streets.

So, better things may be on their way, but…I ran the article through the Google translator, and it appears in the link below in (sort of) English. The page includes the sped-up video of the entire route.

http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fpolitiken.dk%2Fdebat%2Fskrivdebat%2FECE1615543%2Fer-koebenhavns-nye-cykelsti-virkelig-super%2F&act=url

Here’s the video — warning, Shell diesel fuel ad at start, and you can only stop the video when you click on it, see the ad again and click on it to open a bigger ad! This workaround was needed to make the video visible on this page.

The one unifying factor of this route is an orange line painted lengthwise to identify it. The first part of the route is relatively tame. Barriers, unprotected intersections and other hazards pile up near the end.

Some representative quotes (I’ve translated from Googlish to English, thanks to an online dictionary and my knowledge of the neighbor language, German.):

From the article:

“I did not expect that I just had to detour on ordinary roads in residential neighborhoods. I did not see much of the green wave that is supposed to be in town. I do not think you can call it a super bike path,” the [politiken dk test rider] concluded.

From comments on the article:

- The section of tunnel under Motorring 3 is dark and miserably lighted. There are many riding schools (which, incidentally, should be forced to close and move out into a rural area!). The tunnel is usually filled with horse s***, and because you can not see in these tunnels due to poor lighting, you can only hope that you do not ride through any of it.

*****

- In the westbound direction, at the pitch-dark tunnels, you have to negotiate two sets of barriers. The point of these, other than to impede traffic, I do not know. But when you have to use all your mental energy to get through these, they constitute more of a hazard than a safety precaution.

*****

I have commuted between Roskilde and the northwest part of Copenhagen 2-3 times a week on a recumbent trike with an electric assist motor for 6 months (http://ing.dk/blogs/pedalbilen). When I used the “super path” the trip was about 3 km and 15 minutes longer. Especially the part of the route in Albertslund is very indirect and inconvenient. There are detours, barriers and ramps in most places, and it will for example not be possible to ride in a velomobile, as far as I can judge. The new route is comfortable and free of exhaust, but as commuter route it gets a failing grade compared with Roskildevej [a parallel, 4-lane divided but not limited-access highway with one-way sidepaths].

*****

- I didn’t see anything which shows that cyclists have priority over the other traffic. Unfortunately, the only thing new that I see is approximately 100 meters of new asphalt in two places near Rødovre, so that it is easy going. There are simply no real improvements for cyclists in relation to other road users! You can still find barriers, sharp turns, bumps and traffic lights. Why is there no new cycle path, e.g. along the western forest road, so you do not have to drive through neighborhoods with pedestrians and children playing? Why are barriers not turned 90 degrees, so users of the route have right of way?

Even if there were brand new asphalt on the entire route it would never merit the title “super”. Only when a route enables more or less continuous travel at high average speed (which motorists know from motorways) does it, in my opinion, deserve the massive marketing it is currently getting.

*****

…Bus passengers cross the bikeway. It seems quite unreasonable that there are no islands at bus stops where passengers have to wait when they get on and off. Thus cyclists must stop, and so, so much for the “super bike path”.

9 Responses to Danish story, video and comments on the Albertslund-Copenhagen “bicycle superhighway”

  1. Dwight Kingsbury

    Unfortunately the original webpage has disappeared, and therefore the Google translation at the link has also disappeared.

  2. Well, this is a breath of fresh air! The way some infrastructure advocates tell it, bike facilities are universally loved on mainland Europe. I know, from my (barely working) knowledge of German, that that’s not the case in Germany and Austria, and I got a sense from some of the studies done in Denmark that there was at least some questioning of the ‘facilities are always good’ ideology in that country, but I had not seen any translated criticisms from Danish cyclists themselves.

    It’s good to know that criticism of poor infrastructure is not just a weird aberration, limited to countries where English is spoken. I was beginning to think that the desire to cycle efficiently had its root in Chaucer or Shakespeare, or that it was some particularly English eccentricity, like ‘ferret legging’ (stuffing a pair of weasels down one’s trousers) or ‘shin kicking’ (which is exactly what it sounds like).

  3. Or Goethe or Schiller might have said it this way. „Das Gras ist immer grüner auf der anderen Seite der Zaune!“ (I’m sure you can figure that out, as German is close to English.) But, not knowing Danish, I’m not sure what Hans Christian Andersen or the Little Mermaid would say.

  4. Dwight Kingsbury

    Yes, the links now work for me (temporary problem with my Internet connection?). Danish commenters complain about zig-zag gates on the path, traffic lights, and the horse shit in the tunnel by the riding schools. Don’t suppose the authorities could do much about the last problem, but perhaps more lighting would be helpful? (“Natsorte”=”nat sorte”=night black.)

  5. So as the commenter in question, I would like to point out that the criticism is not pointed towards segregated facilities, I honestly and truly believe you would be hard pressed to find a single cyclist in Copenhagen that would move towards vehicular cyclism, neither has a single person has advocated this in the articles comment page. The big road people refer to (Roskildevej) has segregated cycle tracks along its entire route.

    Rather, the criticism is that the improvements along the route are not big enough to warrant the super cycle track label, let alone the English term slapped on it. This is not a bicycle super highway, on that we completely agree, and so and I think the current coverage is one big distortion of reality, but twisting that into Copenhageners would prefer to be forced onto the car lanes on busy streets instead is just as big a distortion

    • Stefan Ertmann: Thanks for your comment. I don’t think that I said anything about Copenhageners’ preferences in my article; indeed, I indicated that the Roskildvej is a divided highway with one-way sidepaths. In the earlier, companion post, I included a Google Street view of it, with a link so people can see other views.

      In other articles, I have indeed criticized Copenhagen facilities, but I do not presume to read people’s minds. It seems that your comment is in response to the other comment by Ian Cooper, and I welcome the dialogue. I would also welcome any description of Copenhageners’ preferences which is based on data. I do note that I have seen videos in which some Copenhagen cyclists are avoiding the special bicycle facilities, and I welcome your thoughts about that.

  6. That video was interesting. I wonder how long it took the guy to actually film the whole thing.

    Although there are some hazards on the bike route I would definitely choose that over the abundant lack of bike specific areas we have here in the Texas. If I try to ride my bike for more than just entertainment purposes and as a valid means of transportation its not long until car almost runs me off the road. We really need more protected biking paths here in the US.

    Thanks for the info.

    • The route is about 13 km long, and estimating an average speed of 20 km/hr (about 12 mph), then the travel time is a little over an hour. The video runs for 5 minutes and a few seconds, and probably at the standard European video rate of 25 frames per second. That makes a total of around 1600 frames and suggests that the video was shot at approximately 2 frames per second. One of the filenames indicates that it was shot on an iPhone, which may have that time-lapse setting, but I don’t have an iPhone so I don’t know. The video also could have been sped up in software after downloading to a computer.

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