Danish History: How Copenhagen became bike-friendly again


Jens Loft Rasmussen and Mai-Britt Kristensen.

When I visited Copenhagen last July, I was wowed by the seamless bicycle infrastructure and the many car-free streets and plazas. But the Danish capital wasn’t always a pedaler’s paradise. In the postwar era the city pursued American-style, auto-centric urban planning, but the 1973 oil crisis caused Copenhagen residents to rethink their transportation priorities. Over the course of several decades they rebuilt their city into the sustainable transportation Mecca it is today. As efforts to reallocate public space from cars to greener modes gain momentum in Chicago, Copenhagen’s story is an encouraging one.

While I was in town I stopped by the headquarters of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation and met with director Jens Loft Rasmussen and project manager Mai-Britt Kristensen. Over coffee and Danish pastry in their office’s lovely courtyard, they told me about how Copenhagen succeeded in changing course and what lies on the horizon. Jens also offered a bit of advice to Mayor Emanuel for creating a bike-friendly Chicago.

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