Video: Copenhagen’s All-Weather Bike Infrastructure

In case you missed it in Friday’s headlines, here’s a video from Copenhagenize with some inspiration for this cold spell we’ve been having. The video shows Copenhageners — lots of ’em — making their way through the January snow. 

It’s an instant retort to the old claim that "no one uses bike lanes in the winter." Of course, in Copenhagen they come prepared. Check out the bike-lane-specific plows used to keep the city clear for cyclists even in a snowstorm.

In fact, if your city has good bike infrastructure and maintains it well, cold-weather biking can become the norm too. According to Mikael Colville Andersen, 80 percent of Copenhageners who bike keep cycling all through the winter. And many of the top cycling cities in the developed world are in Denmark and Sweden, neither of which is famous for balmy climes.

  • To be fair, the Gulf Stream makes climate in Copenhagen and other northern European biking havens fairly mild, compared to inland American cities like Madison or Chicago. In the video, it looks like the temperature is right around freezing, and there’s not enough snow to interfere with bike traction — even if the plows weren’t there.

    In comparison, check out this video — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRsNb5M88fw — of a five-mile bike commute at 6 below (F), the day after a 13 inch snowstorm. There aren’t many other bikes on the road, but perhaps that’s to be expected. Actually, I’ve read that about 20% of the fair-weather bike commuters continue to ride in the winter; they might take the bus (or even drive) to work when the temperature is near zero, but in milder winter weather there are lots of bikes around.

    Nonetheless, I don’t think there’s any way to get 80% of summer bikers to continue through an inland American winter, even if the bike infrastructure is lovingly maintained.

  • It’s much easier to bike in the winter (except during a storm) than it is in the summer in some cities.

    Phoenix, Vegas, Fresno…. when the daily LOW temperature is 85 and it’s still 99 when the sun is setting at 9pm, it’s hard to motivate people to bike. Can be dangerous too, especially when it’s around 110.

  • paulb

    Spellbinding.

  • zach

    I think the point is the Northeast Corridor, which has relatively similar winter to Copenhagen, and a large portion of the American urban population.

  • As advisor to the city, the NPCC predicts that the number of 90+ degree days in New York City will quadruple in this century.

    Those beautiful clear waters in the Caribbean are nice except that they cover essentially underwater deserts.

    Cold is good.

  • Planner

    I am dissapointed to see that the snow plow was not a bicycle. Shame on you Copenhagen.

  • jass, it’s much easier to cycle in the hot weather than you might think. I rode every day, summer and winter, when I was stationed in Al-Anbar Province, Iraq. It would get up to 120 or thereabouts in the hot season.

    As far as winter cycling goes, it’s much easier than treading by foot through those piles of slush that build up on streetcorners.

  • I for one would use protected bike lanes MORE in the winter. After three years of bike commuting, I’ve just started to try to bike through snow in Boston. I used to be draw the line at unplowed snow on the roads. I’m trying it now, but I worry one of the multi-ton vehicles flying by will hit some black ice….I’ve even started going way out of my way to take the MUP by the river.

  • Hint if you have glasses.  Get some gel toothpaste (non-abrasive) and rub it on your lenses then rinse off.
    It leaves just a tiny bit of residue that you won’t see, but it will prevent your lenses from fogging up as easily. 
    (Chicago has an active winter biking group that holds workshops to give you tips like this)

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