From asphalt to behaviour – more cyclists in Copenhagen

| April 10, 2014


How do we make more car drivers take the bicycle to work and school each morning? That was the challenge given to IS IT A BIRD by The Technical and Environmental Administration in the City of Copenhagen earlier this year. The City of Copenhagen has an ambitious goal to increase the number of citizens riding their bikes to work and school from the 35% it is today to 50% in 2015. They call the challenge a ‘wicked problem’. They are not hiding the fact that it is a complex task to move such a large group of car drivers onto their bikes. Therefore they were open to radical new solutions.

A different approach

We took our starting point in a project we have done for the City’s Cycling Department where the focus was user-driven concept development for three specific projects. The work with the city’s ‘wicked problem’ project made it possible to get more in-depth with the car drivers as a target group and try to understand their everyday lives. We were not trying to find solutions with condescending pointing fingers or make conditions worse for car drivers. We wanted to understand and find cracks where there is a chance to influence the transport choice of the car drivers.

The answers we get are directed by the questions we ask. Therefore it is essential to ask the right questions. When it comes to our daily habits and actions it is especially challenging to achieve data which is not rationalisations or ideals but data that is an expression of our real motivations and behaviour.

A good example is the bicycle reports published by the City of Copenhagen each year. Here, car drivers have been asked, amongst other things, what could get them to use their bikes instead. The top scorer is bicycle lanes separated from motor traffic. This is a good example of the knowledge we get if we ask directly. Better bicycle lanes do not necessarily get the car drivers to ride bikes, but this is what they can put into words and consider.


Therefore our research took its starting point in considering (as opposed to direct questions), transport habits and behaviour, understand it in a time sense (when are transport habits established and when are they reconsidered), include how family and place of work influence your choice of transport as well as geographical parameters, e.g. the difference between where they live and work.

We carried out several thorough interviews and numerous observations (including from the back seat) of Copenhagen car drivers, as well as desk research and examinations of general trends within mobility, the metropolis and the relationship to the car. We also challenged some of our respondents to take the bicycle or train to work to test the hypothesis that the choice of transport is very much driven by habit and the idea that the bicycle is stigmatised without having their own experience.

7 innovation tracks

Based on all our research we have identified and developed the following innovation tracks which we estimate have the potential to get the car driver to ride a bicycle:

  1. Expand the car conditions of the inner      city to the surrounding parts of Copenhagen

Many people accept that the inner city has limitations for a car and choose not to take their car going in there because of the one way streets. We therefore see great potential in expanding the bustle of the inner city to include parts of the surrounding area, thereby creating local areas with fewer cars and more space for life and experiences.

  1. Create a new bicycle culture with weak      norms (our term for a type of behavioural design that gives direction      without being rigid)

There is a need for supplementary bicycle culture as a contrast to the plus net’s efficiency paradigm with separate traffic and the consequential, sometimes aggressive, atmosphere between road users that scares many car drivers from even trying it for a first time. By creating areas in the city where the speed is generally lower with weaker norms and shared spaces, a more considerate and tolerant bicycle culture is created.

  1. Make it attractive to ‘remove’ parking

Parking is the greatest Achilles heel and where people feel the limitations of the car the most. Accessibility and price are important factors and can be decisive for whether people are going to take the car. By working more strategically with parking and making it attractive to use parking spots for other things, cycling can be expanded.

  1. Make use of the existing fleet of cars in      Copenhagen

When the car has become a part of their everyday lives, citizens arrange their whole lives around it and the need for the car rises. Therefore, the buying of a car must be avoided all together or be postponed. By making use of the large fleet of cars in Copenhagen more efficiently through more, improved and alternative car-sharing, a stronger incitement for not buying a car is created.

  1. Improve cycle parking by shopping and      trains

If the bicycle is to gain a footing with the car drivers it is important that they can easily make the jigsaw of everyday life fit. Here it is important that the cycle parking facilities, particularly by shopping areas and public transport, is safe, easy and functional. By creating better bicycle parking, a better flow and a more comfortable bicycle experience is created.

  1. Use the unique position of businesses

Businesses have a completely unique position to influence the habits and norms of everyday life. It would be obvious to cooperate more intensively with businesses and think in alternative solutions which transcend the frames of a traditional information campaign.

  1. Make my personal health gains obvious

Many people separate transport and working out and do not see the bicycle as a way to connect them. The health gains, however, are only experienced when citizens start using the bike. Therefore, there is great potential in making this connection obvious and giving citizens first experiences on the bicycle so that they can quickly feel the gains in their own bodies and get motivated to change their habits.

Based on these 7 innovation tracks, the City of Copenhagen will sharpen their efforts to further the use of bicycles in the capital.



Category: Danish Cycling Know How, March 2014, Newsletters in English

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