The Danish road network keeps growing and more and more Danes live in cities. Now, with a project supported by Realdania, the organisation Danish Cycle Tourism is looking at the possibilities of reinventing the smaller roads in the rural districts as recreative connections.
The Danish public road network is in a growth spurt. From 1972 till 1st January 2016 the length of it has gone from 63,327 to 74,497 kilometres according to numbers from The Danish Road Directorate. This is the equivalent of 240 kilometres of new asphalt every year.
In the 1970s particularly, the road workers were busy rolling out 4,000 kilometres of new roads. In comparison only 1,700 kilometres were rolled out in the 00s.
Another development: Denmark is not Europe’s most urbanised country but according to a report from the umbrella organisation Local Government Denmark (”Urbanization in a global perspective”) Denmark is one of the countries where inhabitant migration to the cities has increased at a higher rate than elsewhere from 2007 to 2012.
So we see a population density in city centres and at the same time the road network is growing. We do not mean to prove a causal connection between these two developments but they serve as a background for the claim that smaller local roads in rural districts no longer have the same significance in terms of traffic that they used to have.
Recreative secondary roads
If this is the case, can we reinvent the roads as recreative connections? This is the background for a project by Danish Cycle Tourism supported by Realdania, taking place in 2016 and 2017.
With few means and limited structural initiatives the project looks at the possibilities to increase the safety for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. We have looked at foreign experiences and technological solutions and together with the three municipalities involved – Toender, Esbjerg and Varde – we have evaluated the local conditions.
But is this necessary? Yes, because even though the amount of traffic might be lower than it used to be, traffic speed on several smaller roads is still high. Also, cars take up more space physically than they used to. And most important is probably the fact that our need for safety is higher than ever. We only cycle if we feel safe.
During the spring a string of demo projects will be established in the municipalities mentioned above. The solutions, for now, are amongst other things closing off roads for passage by motor vehicles as well as establishing ‘bicycle roads’ that can be regarded as a rural version of the already approved bicycle roads. Bicycle roads are known from several European countries, e.g. Germany, Austria (Fahrradstraße) and Holland (Fietsstraat). Cars are allowed but cyclists have right of way.
Tourism and living
The new recreative connections could benefit both cycling tourism and everyday cycling and not least affect where people choose to live since a study from Syddansk Universitet, SDU (Danish Centre for Rural Research and Development, report 30/2014) shows that one of the reasons for people moving away from the rural districts is the lack of access to nature on bicycle and on foot.