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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Bike Race Footage Shows Climate Change

Bicycle

By watching an annual bicycle race researchers found evidence of climate change. The Liège–Bastogne–Liège one day race has been running for decades and filmed since at least the 1980s. Because the route covers much of the same ground every year some researchers figured that they could use it to witness how plants are reacting to our warming climate, so they watched a lot of races but watched the trees not the racers. This sort of research is really neat since it provides another way to visually analyze our planet and share that knowledge.

Co-author Lisa Van Langenhove sifted through more than 200 hours of television data of the race shot between 1981 and 2016. Though the route had changed over the years, the team selected 12 climbs and landmarks where they could pinpoint individual trees. They studied 46 trees in particular. Most of them were not native to the area and included magnolia, hawthorn and forsythia.

The researchers found that in the 1980s, there were virtually no leaves on trees. After 1990, however, many trees were already in full leaf.

The change was significant. When leaves begin to emerge on a tree branch, it’s referred to as flushing. The study found that between 2006 and 2016, 45 per cent of trees had begun to grow leaves. That’s compared to nearly zero in the 1980s.

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Cyclists Obey the Law More Than Drivers

Bicycle

Cyclists are law disobeying maniacs! At least that’s a common and all too nasty rumour in North American cities. It turns out that car drivers are the maniacs according to a study fresh out of Florida. The study, the largest of it’s kind, put sensors on cyclists which monitored their behaviour and that of cars near them. The drivers didn’t respect the space around cyclists while the cyclists obeyed the law nearly 90% of the time. What’s more, the study points out, is that the consequences of a driver disobeying traffic laws is far more dangerous than a cyclist.

Good on cyclists for being respectful road users and doing what they can to be safe!

If you drive a car please pay attention to what you’re doing and obey the rules of the road.

In the end, the results indicated that cyclists were compliant with the law 88 percent of the time during the day and 87 percent of the time after dark. The same study determined that drivers who interacted with the study subjects complied with the law 85 percent of the time. In other words, drivers were slightly naughtier than the cyclists—even without measuring speeding or distracted driving.

There was only one crash during the study period, and that too was caused by a negligent driver. In that case, a motorist rear-ended a cyclist as she waited to make a left turn. In the published study, researchers noted, “The driver was impatient and tried to pass at a relatively high speed since the oncoming traffic was about to stop for the bicyclist to turn.”

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Blossoming Bikelanes in Berlin

Bicycle

Berlin continues to impress environmentalists around the globe with the city’s efforts to adjust to the reality of the 21st century. Last year Berlin got attention for being a “sponge city” and this year will see the start of a bike lane network that rivals other cities. With car traffic snarling nearly every city on the planet most are turning to bike lanes to alleviate some of the pressure on roads, and Berlin is no exception.

By 2025, the city will also create 100,000 new bike parking spots, some of them in three multi-floor parking garages located at key commuter hubs. Meanwhile, the city’s existing bike-lane network—already extensive, but not always well segregated from car traffic—will be more rigorously protected by bollards. This more modest network of roadside lanes (as opposed to long-discussed specially constructed superhighways) will also be expanded to cover one-third of all city streets, a considerable expansion on its current total of 18 percent. Viewed from cities where it’s a struggle to introduce even basic bike infrastructure, Berlin’s plans seem inspiring, even utopian.

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Good Health Stems from Walking, Biking, and Transit

Regularly walking and biking are good for one’s health, but did you know taking public transit is too? That’s right just by not taking a car to work like most North Americans you can be healthier. A simple life change can have a large impact on your life, plus by not using a car you can save the lungs of your neighbours and improve your city. Urban designers and doctors are starting to take this into consideration when talking about personal health and cities.

An efficient, affordable transit network is one key to better health. This can be as basic as a solid bus service, or can include a plethora of enhanced bus options and rail. Whatever the system, people who use transit “get more than three times the amount of physical activity per day than those who don’t,” just by walking to and from it, according to TransLoc – 19 minutes of exercise daily versus six minutes for those who don’t use transit.

Transit also reduces air pollution, making everyone healthier. Not to mention that city buses today often have cleaner engines than do cars.

Public transit also causes fewer accidents than individual cars, is far safer, is known to reduce stress, and improves the quality of life for vulnerable populations.

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