Copenhagen is well-know for being one of the best cities in the world for cycling. I went there to see it for myself and I was amazed by the cycling infrastructure. Cities in Scotland or anywhere in the UK have a long, long way to go before they can be compared to Copenhagen. Cycling is normalised in Copenhagen with 30% of journeys to work made by bike, where it is less than 3% in Scotland.
There is an inclusive bike culture in Copenhagen with everyone taking to two wheels. There is a sense of fun to cycling with bright coloured bikes on sale. In one bike shop I even found the plastic flowers for the wicker shopping baskets that people attach to the front handlebars.
In Scotland cycling in cities is regarded as something tinged with danger. Helmets, lycra and high visibility clothing is the order of the day for the Scottish urban cyclist. In Copenhagen most cyclists do not wear helmets and they are dressed in normal clothing like jeans and suits. Therefore, this makes cycling appear as a normal, everyday, inclusive activity that is a realistic form of transportation for many people.
The key to this distinct difference between Copenhagen and Scotland is that the Danish city has infrastructure that properly separates cyclists from motor traffic and pedestrians. This makes cycling safe, easy and therefore an attractive option to get to work.
When I was walking along the pavement I was initially fearful that if I tried to cross the road I would end up colliding with cyclists. However, this never happened. The system works really well as long as everybody sticks to where they are supposed to be. Pedestrians on the pavements. Cyclists in the cycle lane. Cars on the road. Everybody follows the rules and the system works.
No cities in Scotland have infrastructure like this. Cycle lanes are sometimes inadequate. On most roads cyclists share with motor traffic which can lead to road rage and risk of accident. It is why I rarely cycle in Scotland's cities. My website is about the joy of discovering Scotland's minor roads and getting out into the countryside where traffic volumes are low.
Where there are cycle lanes in British cities they are sometimes a joke and this has spawned websites devoted to highlighting "crap cycle lanes"
The problem of inadequate cycling lanes is not only a problem in Britain. A Guardian article had readers submitting photos of laughable cycling lanes from around the world. There are examples from Spain, France, Poland and other countries. Copenhagen does seem a world leader in cycling infrastructure.
Perhaps it is not fare to compare Copenhagen with somewhere like Edinburgh. I live in Edinburgh and there appears to be few opportunities to do anything more for cycling because of the natural layout of the city. Take the Old Town with its steep hills and very narrow roads- there is simply no space to have cycling lanes on the scale of those in Copenhagen. Copenhagen looks to be a naturally spread out city with wide streets that are easier to incorporate cycle lanes into.
I was impressed by Copenhagen and if I lived there I would definitely use a bicycle. Could Scottish cities be this good? Not without huge investment and radical changes to road layouts which there is currently little evidence of. However, the Scottish Government has committed to 10% of all journeys being made by bicycle by 2020 so there is ambition and I am hopeful that improvements will come.