Why Copenhagen is wonderful for two wheels

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The Independent Online

What's a cyclist in Copenhagen to do about getting home after a night on the tiles? Or when the weather turns nasty, and the thought of getting drenched is too much to bear, should the cyclist just lock up his wheels?

The Danish answer to the cyclist's dilemma helps explain why Copenhagen is the world capital of cycling. The tipsy cyclist only has to hail a cab, and the bike is transported at no extra cost.

A metal attachment goes on the back of the cab to hold the bike and seconds later they are on their way. Imagine a London cabby getting out of his vehicle to hook up a bicycle rack.

There are many reasons why Copenhagen, a city of 1.8 million, is thronged with cyclists. But mostly it is because the bicycle holds the same status as public transport when it comes to planning and funding matters. Bike paths and routes are clearly marked and often separated from cars and white vans by raised kerbs. The bike lanes even have their own traffic signals and where they meet cars, bicycles have right of way.

Accidents involving bikes are rare despite the large number of two-wheel commuters.

City authorities go further than sticking up London-style "you're better off by bike" posters to encourage cycling. It is an integrated part of city planning. It was not always this way. During the 1970s, cycling in Copenhagen was at an all-time low. Then the oil crisis hit and local politicians ignored the motoring lobby and transformed their city. Since the 1970s, the city has reduced the road infrastructure.

They built protected bike paths - rather than just painting a stripe down the side of the road, installed traffic lights for cyclists and every new or reconstructed road has to have a cycle lane.A deliberate policy to favour the bike over the car has turned Copenhagen into a city where bike racks overflow and all ages and types find buzzing around on bikes is easy, safe and fun.

Some 32 per cent of workers cycle to work, a figure that traffic planners want to increase to 40 per cent.

For visitors or occasional cyclists there is the City Bikes programme, funded by advertising. Cyclists pay a refundable deposit to have unlimited use of a bike.