How to: create safety for cyclists in Denmark

| November 15, 2010

In Denmark, as in many other countries, the bicycle is used during leisure time, for sports, and to a great extent also as a means of transport in connection with home-work trips and short-distance transport during working hours, etc.

When there are many cyclists on the road, it increases road safety because it increases the other road users’ awareness of them: Motorists expect cyclists on the road network and watch out for them when driving, including during right turns. This awareness ensures great safety because both parties expect and respect each other’s presence and are attentive towards each other. This is not to say that accidents involving cyclists never happen – but viewed in the light of the number of road users, the number of conflicts is small.

Traffic safety work in Denmark

For many years Danish road management practice has used multiple resources to continuously improve traffic safety for cyclists. The initiatives can be divided into three main elements:

1. Control
The control element is handled by the police and typically encompasses control of compliance with basic right-of-way regulations, such as not cycling though a red light, not cycling in pedestrian crossings, signaling when turning, use of bicycle lights at night, etc.

2. Behavioral change
Behavioral change primarily consists of various types of campaigns that aim at compliance with the traffic regulations, use of bicycle lights, use of bicycle helmets, etc., plus campaigns directed at motorists’ attention, for example, to cycling school children. Road safety classes in the schools supplemented with competitions and tests are likewise a substantial part of behavioral change, in addition to parents’ active participation in training their children’s cycling skills. Finally, many of the initiatives focus on promoting the bicycle and encouraging use of the bicycle for everyday activities.

3. Physical improvements of roads and tracks
At junctions there are different initiatives depending on whether it is a signalized crossing or a right-of-way regulated junction. In signalized crossings, one or more of the following approaches is often used to ensure safety for the cyclists:
• Blue cycle markings and variants of these
• Stop lines for motorists are retracted five meters from the stop lines for the cyclists
• Shortening of the cycle track where traffic mixes
• Traffic lights for cyclists: the light turns green before the light for the cars
• Right-turn shunts leading cyclists around the traffic light

In the right-of-way regulated junctions, cycle tracks or cycle lanes are often established on the busier road sections where the traffic normally favors the motorists. On road sections without cycle tracks, initiatives for cyclists are rarely established as these sections are often less frequented streets where the traffic favors the vulnerable road users, i.e. cyclists and pedestrians.

The great awareness of the presence of the cyclists is thus mostly there in urban areas, at junctions, and on less frequented streets. On busier city streets and streets with a speed limit over 50 km/h, cyclists are often protected with cycle tracks so they are physically separated from the motor vehicles. Here there is not the same need for a great awareness of the cyclists’ presence, and the separation is more important. In rural areas conditions are different, as the number of cyclists often is small. Here the cyclists are significantly more exposed, as often they are not protected by a cycle track, speed levels of cars are high, and not least because the motorists do not expect cyclists.

Motorists’ and cyclists’ awareness of each other is thus central to traffic safety, and this awareness grows the more cyclists are on the road network – it is a positive spiral.

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Category: Campaigns, Danish Cycling Know How, Infrastructure, Newsletter 1, Newsletters in English, Safety

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