How Can We Make It Easier To Cycle In American Cities?
Bicycle ridership in the US continues to rise but we still have a long way to go for lower carbon, human-friendly cities. Calls for better solutions to ensure a future of more bike friendly US cities often point to the global leader, Scandinavia, for inspiration. Scandinavia has four cities listed among the top 20 most cyclist friendly, and despite the cold climate has a culture that is synonymous with the humble bicycle. We have explored biking in the region with a number of schools and groups, visiting many cities and meeting with cycling enthusiasts and experts in the region.
On recent trips, we explored three cities; Copenhagen, Malmö and Stockholm, in order to understand how each faces their own unique issues as well as the region's ideas, policies, infrastructure and technologies can take the US into the future. Copenhagen, Denmark, is the most bike-friendly city in the world—50% of the city commutes via bike—yielding one of the world’s happiest and most sustainable cities. Neighboring Sweden is also leading the way with new cycle infrastructure and bike designs. We based ourselves in up-and-coming Malmö, a city with freedom to build its own bike friendly future. For contrast, we took the train north to historic Stockholm, to see how it's trying to pivot from its car-centric past.
Scandinavia is a region of the world we love, and love sharing with students, schools and other people with an interest in cycling, urban planning, design, and beyond. We have approached this trip from a design and urban planning perspective as well as from an engineering perspective where students spent hands on time tinkering with bikes as well. Of course in Scandinavia we had a chance to eat some delicious cinnamon buns and open-faced sandwiches as we enjoyed these incredible, well-designed cities and got to know new friends.
On our first full day we had an introduction to design and an immersive connection to cycling in Malmö, in order to see what makes the city work. Using Malmö as a home-base we were able to better connect with the cycling community, from getting hands-on at a cooperative cycle workshop to an infrastructure-research ride with local bike shop owners. We also tasted famous Swedish meatballs, were invited for a backyard barbecue and enjoyed a beautiful waterfront picnic in Dania park. And of course took the Oresund bridge across to Copenhagen for day trips and visited Tivoli too!
In Stockholm we were hosted for an afternoon Fika with some local friends who shared their experience biking in the city, indulged in Herman’s world-famous buffet and harbor views and sampled licorice ice cream. We went for a walk with a cycle policy expert who explained the city’s master plan for a cycle friendly future and finished our last day with a sunset cruise around the Stockholm Archipelago.
We approached Copenhagen the same way many locals do- on a bike. While we explored the historic palaces and modern architecture, we also put bike-specific transportation projects like the Inderhavnsbroen and the Bicycle Snake under the microscope. We rounded out our time with a mixture of work and play; collaborating on visions at a co-working space before a fun night at Tivoli Gardens.
Variations and Objectives:
Scandinavia is a region of the world we love to bring people too. From exploring art and design to ideas of liveable cities and, of course, cycling, we have a broad network and perspective on the region. We can adapt this itinerary for an expert audience or even for a city government looking to learn from some of the top cycle cities in the world through meetings with local experts in the region.
We can also adapt the itinerary to get even deeper into the issues or the region, adding stops in Gothenburg or even up further north in Oslo -- or heading to the other top cycle cities like Hamburg, Germany, or Amsterdam, Netherlands.
We can approach the outcome of this trip as a critical review of policies, an urban planning or bicycle design project, a new business research project, or something totally different.