Copenhagenize Design Co.
Improving North America’s cycling infrastructure from Montreal
“The bicycle is the most powerful tool in our urban toolboxes to fix our cities,” says Mikael Colville-andersen, ceo of Copenhagenize Design Co. The company is a globally renowned urban-planning consultancy that advises cities and governments on how to become more bicycle-friendly through coaching, planning and communication. The company opened its Montreal office this past summer to better serve the North American market. While this continent is far behind in modernizing its cycling infrastructure, according to Colville-andersen, the momentum is here and it is not going anywhere.
He says the bicycle made a comeback as a means of mainstream transportation in North American cities somewhere around 2007 and is a response to many of the urban challenges we face. “We are currently working with Long Beach, Calif., and Detroit, coaching them on how to grow urban cycling through data gathering, how to mine it, how to interpret it as well as infrastructure design,” he says.
European cities, such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, have tried and tested the best forms of bicycle infrastructure for decades. All that is really standing in the way of adopting them in North America is political will. An a version to bold political action and a dominant “trafficengineering culture ,” according to Co lvi ll e-anders en, are the biggest hurdles to the implementation of safe networks of cycling infrastructure. “For the past 70 years, we’ve only asked one question of our traffic engineers, and that is, ‘How many cars can we fit down that street?’” he says. “We need to change the question to, ‘How many people can we get down that street using all of the things we’ve invented, using public transport, bikes and cars?’”
In Copenhagen, a 2.2-m-wide cycle track can move 5,900 people per hour. A car lane, that is wide enough for one vehicle, can transport 1,300 people per hour according to the company’s research. “The bicycle is a just a fastmoving pedestrian. All we want as human beings is to get from Point A to Point B the fastest way possible,” says Colville-andersen.
“All that is really standing in the way of adopting them in North America is political will.”
Many North American cities are starting to create more bicycle-friendly infrastructure, but Colville-andersen believes there is still a lot of work to be done in order to make them safe and enjoyable for everyone. Montreal has long been considered a bicycle mecca on the continent, with bicycle infrastructure in place since 1989. The infrastructure, however, is not connected or secure. “In Montreal, we’re seeing bike lanes on the wrong side of parked cars in the door zone instead of on the sidewalk, and they’re filled with snow,” says ColvilleAndersen. “We’re seeing a lot of bi-directional lanes, which are Band-aid solutions.” He argues that network is key; bits and pieces of unprotected infrastructure are of little value. It’s time to start designing our cities with the users’ experiences as the driving force. The City of Minneapolis bumped Montreal down to No. 20 in the last Copenhagenize Index ranking. It was the first U.S. city to make it onto the list back in 2013. The inventory, which comes out every two years, measures which cities worldwide are most bicycle-friendly based on performance. The next index is scheduled to come out in June. We may be seeing more North American cities start to pop in the rankings.