While recently visiting Århus in Denmark, I was pleasantly surprised by the city’s green credentials. Separated from the main street, a cycle path runs alongside the pavement. This is a typical street in Aarhus and the sight is probably not surprising in a city where approximately one in four people use their bike to get to work, already far ahead of the European standard. In fact, the ambition is to increase this proportion even further.
It is very clear while getting around the city that pedestrians and cyclists are given due consideration by drivers. This undoubtedly leads to less behaviour perceived by non-cyclists as ‘reckless’ and has an overall beneficial effect on how cycling is seen. Similarly, the relatively low amount of car traffic is noticeable in Aarhus when compared to the number of bikes on the streets.
Of course, this is all due to the excellent cycling infrastructure which does not just mean cycle paths. Wherever these cyclists go, they need a place to leave their bikes. The multi-level bike storage units found near the main railway station (pictured) was the first I had seen anywhere. Also noticeable was the lack of heavy theft-proof locks – most bikes only had an in-built rear-wheel lock which meant the bike was not attached to a permanent fixture, as in the case of the stylish bamboo-framed specimen pictured below.
Despite being Denmark’s second largest city, Århus is still relatively small, so this can go some way towards explaining why cycling is popular: the distance to travel likely isn’t great and the city is mostly flat. However, I believe that above all, the tendency to cycle is simply part of the culture and this is perhaps the hardest factor to influence when attempting to bring cycling to another city.
Visiting Århus has been really inspiring: seeing a city function so well with relatively few cars on the roads leaves me hopeful that many more places can follow in the example to bring about a shift in the modal split of city travel.