How Canadian Cities can Copy Copenhagen

“It’s colder here than anywhere else” is a popular myth that Canadians tell themselves which then leads to Canadians thinking that solutions used in the rest of the world won’t work in the country. This is not a good thing. The good thing is that Canadians are tepidly looking to other northern countries to see how common problems are solved. Copenhagen has similar weather to many cities in Canada and has alleviated traffic through good bicycle infrastructure. What’s most important is that Copenhagen supports their bicycles year-round unlike most Canadian cities.

And it pays off: According to one economic analysis, every kilometre driven in a car costs society 89 cents; by contrast, every kilometre driven on a bike saves 26 cents.

Most streets in the capital have four distinct lanes – a sidewalk, a cycling track, parking and a driving lane. The city notes that every time it adds a bike lane, cycling traffic increases by 20 per cent to 50 per cent along that route.


In fact, commuting time has fallen because the city built a network of “cycle super highways” from the suburbs and adopted a “green wave” policy, whereby traffic lights for bikes are synchronized for bikes travelling at 20 kilometres an hour and, if you maintain that speed, you rarely stop.

Canadians often dismiss cycling as impractical because of the weather. Copenhagen is certainly more temperate than Toronto (or Edmonton) but, when it does snow, bike lanes are cleared first. Copenhagen also gets a lot of rain – 177 days a year – but people dress for it.

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