What's Behind Copenhagen's Success as a Cycling City?

Denmark's capital is a model city in terms of biking, but the reasons that bikes rule go beyond political leadership and robust infrastructure.

Read Time: 1 minute

August 22, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Copenhagen Bikes

William Perugini / Shutterstock

Joe Cortright explores the factors that have put Copenhagen at the forefront of cycling. Strong political support for biking and huge investments in infrastructure are significant, but policies related to driving and housing have also helped make biking the mode of choice.

Cortright points out that Denmark has a high gas tax as well as an excise tax of 150 percent on most new vehicles. "Making cars and driving more expensive creates powerful incentives for people to live in places where there are good alternatives to car travel (including transit, walking and cycling), and to utilize these modes regularly."

In addition, Copenhagen has different housing and home ownership patterns. Almost two-thirds of housing is multifamily, and the nation also supports a tenant-governed system of social housing. The resulting density makes cycling more feasible and attractive, says Cortright.

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