Urban Europe looks to future without cars: Copenhagen: Bus lanes replace motorway schemes

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The Independent Online
The bicycle is at the centre of Copenhagen's successful strategy to reduce dependence on cars.

The city authorities see car use reduction not just as a way of improving the environment but as part or its programme to create a 'healthy city', an initiative of the World Health Organisation.

As far back as 1970, plans to build a series of urban motorways were scrapped and other road building schemes were stopped. Instead, a large number of bus priority lanes were introduced and a comprehensive network of segregated cycle paths was built.

The result has been that the trend of increasing car use has been reversed, with a 10 per cent fall in traffic since 1970. The city also has a remarkably low level of car ownership.

Bjarne Eir, head of Copenhagen's road planning office, said: 'The use of bicycles has increased by over 80 per cent since 1980 and we are now at a situation where one third of commuters use cars, one third public transport and one third bicycles.' Bicycle use declines in winter in favour of public transport, although a hardy 10 per cent use two-wheelers even in frost and snow.

Cycling accidents have reduced slightly despite the increase in mileage because of the network of cycle paths.

Mr Eir stressed that cars were damaging for health in a number of ways, including air pollution, noise and accidents. 'The bicycle is the ideal means of transport in terms of health and the environment,' he said.

This example of Copenhagen, a city of 1.7m people, shows that traffic increases can be halted but only by a comprehensive series of long-term measures. Although the road building was stopped in 1970, car use still increased in the 1970s and bicycle use declined.

Mr Eir said: 'You have to influence people's attitudes so that their behaviour is changed by making the alternatives to the car more attractive.'

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