Danish Cyclists’ Federation was founded in 1905 when the growing number of Copenhagen cyclists needed a common voice as they struggled for space among the city’s many horse-drawn wagons and carriages. By Klaus Bondam, Danish Cyclists’ Federation Since then there have been several radical shift…Read article
Cycle Superhighways is a robust cooperation between 23 municipalities and the capital region of Denmark. In the course of a few years the partnership has realized the vision of a well- developed network of cycle superhighways that help limit congestion and increase sustainable transport.
By Klaus Bondam, Danish Cyclists’ Federation and Sidsel Birk Hjuler, Secretariat for Cycle Superhighways
The concept of cycle superhighways saw the light of day under a slightly different name during a Danish mobility debate around the year 2009. This was in response to the marked increase in congestion on the approach roads into the larger cities. The first cycle superhighway opened in 2012, and at present in 2019 there are a total of 8 cycle superhighways in the capital region of Denmark.
The cycle superhighways are long, cohesive cycle routes linking urban areas and work places across municipal borders. Obviously, this requires inter-municipal cooperation.
The cycling infrastructure was originally considered a matter for the individual municipality, especially after the abolition of the Danish administrative districts, because most cycling infrastructure was built on local roads. Consequently, much Danish cycling infrastructure has focused on the individual municipality’s local needs, and cohesiveness with the neighboring municipality has received lower priority.
The story of the cycle superhighways in the capital region of Denmark is thus the story of a new model of cycling infrastructure and a new type of cooperation among municipalities.
The capital region’s special needs
Many of the capital region’s inner municipalities cover a relatively small area. The 23 cycle superhighways municipalities cover roughly the equivalent of the combined areas of Aarhus, Skanderborg and Favrskov. Consequently, when the need arose for a cohesive network of cycle tracks across municipal borders, the municipalities had to invent new modes of cooperation.
The municipalities and the Capital Region of Denmark created a joint secretariat in order to facilitate the cycle superhighways partnership. In the course of a few years the partnership has created a well-developed cycle superhighway network. Currently in 2019 the cycle superhighway network links a total of 19 municipalities by means of 8 cycle superhighways. The partnership’s final vision is to create a network linking the municipalities of the entire region with a total of 45 routes, 750 km of super cycle track in all.
The total cycle superhighway network in the capital region of Denmark has the potential of providing substantial cost-benefit gains.
- 6 million additional, annual regional cycle trips
- 40,000 fewer annual regional sick days
- 1 million fewer annual car journeys
- An annual cost-benefit gain of DKK 5.7 billion
How the partnership is organized
The cycle superhighway organization consists of a steering group, a project group, an operations group, and a joint secretariat.
- The steering group is composed of heads of planning and traffic from each of the 23 member municipalities, a representative of the capital region of Denmark, and a representative of the Danish Road Directorate. The steering group decides what direction to take, and approves new projects and cycle superhighway routes.
- The project group is also composed of representatives from each of the 23 member municipalities, typically road and traffic planners who handle the concrete implementation of the municipal cycle superhighways on a daily basis. The project group helps develop and implement concrete solutions, and contributes professional knowhow.
- The operations group is also composed of representatives from each of the 23 municipalities, typically operations personnel who carry out the day- to- day maintenance and operations of municipal roads and paths. The operations group helps develop new cooperative solutions to ensure the coordination of operations.
- The Secretariat for Cycle Superhighways facilitates cooperation. This includes ensuring political anchorage, coordinating municipal cooperation during the screening, projecting, construction, and operational phases of the cycle superhighways. In addition, it collects and assesses joint data, documents the impact of cycle superhighways, and develops new solutions for improving cycling conditions.
The partnership including the secretariat is 75% funded by the Capital Region of Denmark and 25% funded by the municipalities. Construction is in principle funded by the municipality itself. However, all cycle superhighways to date have received 40-50% co-financing from the state. Operations and maintenance of the cycle superhighways are paid for by the municipalities.
The definition of a cycle superhighway
What a cycle superhighway is called and how it is defined depends on its location. The general definition of a cycle superhighway, however, is described in the Road Directorate’s handbook on cycle superhighways (PDF).
“Cycle superhighways should make cycling more attractive, especially on longer trips, thereby increasing the share of cyclists in daily transport by offering a high level of service with good connections between larger residential areas and workplaces or places of education.”
It should be borne in mind that a cycle superhighway does not necessarily mean a brand new cycle track. It’s usually simply an upgrade of an existing route so cyclists experience a uniform standard across municipal borders. Sometimes it may be necessary to invest in brand new infrastructure such as a bicycle bridge.
The cycle superhighway partnership in the capital region has drawn up a joint concept for cycle superhighways (PDF) defining cycle superhighways as a cohesive network of high class cycle routes in the capital region, whose primary target group is bicycle commuters, and whose primary objective is to make the bicycle a competitive transport mode for everyday commuting, including trips between 5-30km.
The joint concept also defines four quality objectives:
- Availablity: Cycle superhighways shall link concentrations of workplaces, places of study and residential areas and give access to collective transport hubs. They shall be cohesive, link all municipalities, and be easy for commuters to find.
- Accessibility: The cycle superhighways shall provide commuters with the fastest route between home and work or education. They shall be as direct as possible with as few impediments and stops as possible, and with enough space for the cyclist to maintain speed without delays.
- The cycle superhighways shall make the commuter’s bicycle trip to and from work or education an enjoyable experience. The routes shall have an even surface, a high level of maintenance, offer extra services, and enhance the cycling experience.
- Safety and a sense of security. The cycle superhighways shall provide the cyclist with safe cycling conditions in order to reduce the number of cyclist casualties on the cycle tracks.
Work is being done to improve cycling conditions on the cycle superhighways, including measures to ensure smooth road surfaces and wide cycle tracks, green waves, countdown traffic signals, service stations, better lighting, wayfinding signage and special route markings.
In addition, the partnership carried out a user survey to find out what super cycle track commuters consider important. They placed highest priority on :
- Even track surface
- Wide tracks with enough space for many cyclists traveling at different speeds
- Good flow without too many stops
- Good signage and marking along the route so it’s easy to find your way
- High service level along the tracks, for example footrests at traffic lights
The future of cycle superhighways
The success of the cycle superhighway partnership is partly due to a robust, joint communications initiative to make politicians understand the necessity of effective inter-municipal cooperation. The idea spread to other parts of Denmark including the two major cities of Aarhus and Odense, where cycle superhighways are being planned.
Concentrated work on regional cycle superhighway systems is also being done in other European countries, notably Holland, Belgium, England and Germany. For more information, click here.
The cycle superhighway partnership in the capital region of Denmark may extend to the entire Greater Copenhagen area since particularly Skåne county wishes to develop high class bicycle commuting routes.
National politicians are also beginning to understand that cycle superhighways may be a concrete part of the solution to congestion challenges in the larger Danish cities, especially since the increased sales of E-bikes and the introduction of faster speed pedelecs on Danish roads increases the target group significantly. This is encouraging since government support of inter-municipal cooperation is crucial to its success.
Both mayors and government officials involved in the cycle superhighway partnership have openly stated that co-financing is crucial to the partnership. However, others have declared that tight municipal budgets can make it difficult to prioritize regional cycling infrastructure. It’s interesting to note that other European countries and regions choose to co-finance with a much higher percentage share.
Inter-municipal cycle superhighway projects address regional challenges. Consequently, in the debate and in the development, it is important to ensure funding and at the same time ensure high quality infrastructure, which is equally important. In future it will not be enough merely to make the existing cycling infrastructure more cohesive over longer stretches. In order to derive the full benefit, investments must be made in new infrastructure including bicycle bridges, bicycle tunnels, new and wider cycle tracks, good connections with collective transport, park- and-ride facilities, etc.
There is thus still plenty of work to be done if the final vision of the cycle superhighway system is to be realized in the coming years.
Read more about the cycle superhighways on supercykelstier.dk