Keeping count in New York and Copenhagen

Despite already having absurdly high numbers of bicycle commuters, the city of Copenhagen is always looking for ways to increase the share of trips taken by bike. The latest bit of social marketing struck me as pretty clever: a digital counter displays a running tally of the number of cyclists who pass through one of the city’s major thoroughfares. Lucky cyclist #500,000 gets a fancy new bike.

This being Copenhagen, it will only take about a month to hit the half million mark. I don’t know what the city’s plans are after that, but why not give away a bike a month? The program is trivially cheap to administer.

Even non-winners can benefit from the new display, which includes a free air hose for inflating soft tires. The U.S. could learn a lot from Copenhagen.

Speaking of social marketing, this weekend I participated in the five-borough tour, a ride that passes through all the major sections of New York City. 30,000 people participate, and one of the main draws is the chance to ride on sections of roads and bridges that are normally closed to bicycles. Despite weather that was about as bad as it could be — steady rain and low temperatures — the ride was astoundingly fun.

five-borough-tour.jpg

I’m always struck during events like these how pleasant it is to ride among other cyclists in a car-free environment. The best advertisement for cycling is always seeing cyclists themselves, enjoying the city environment at a human pace and a human scale.

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adam

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  1. Garrison Collette - May 6, 2009

    That’s frickin awesome! They closed down the road for the bikes?! NY is great because its “my NY”, its just a really big small town where people have a constituency to back them up. If the rest of us were that constituency everywhere, we’d be set. I mean, if we can do it in Alaska, we can do it anywhere–we’ve had critical masses, Anchorage is gutting a big new bike lane upgrade, and people are really talking about bikes. That can happen everywhere!

  2. Emma Thomas - May 6, 2009

    I participated in this ride as well. It was truly amazing that NYC shut down some roads to cars and only allowed bicycles:) Despite the poor weather, this was a great way to see the city and a chance to get some great exercise. The route was well supported, bystanders were cheering and even cars were honking in support!

  3. Jesse - May 6, 2009

    I’ve never been a fan of “Critical Mass” style events as an outside observer. However, the Copenhagen project is very cool.
    Here in Houston where I am, I take my life in my hands every time I go out on the road with a bicycle (almost every day). I’m not optimistic about a big bicycle movement here anytime soon.

  4. Albert - May 6, 2009

    I wish people wise up in El Paso, Texas, where the weather is perfect for bicycle riding year round — no rain, cloudless skies (June/July are admittedly a bit hot in mid-day). Unfortunately, monstrous SUVs still rule here. Hummers are still a status symbol in Texas. I support heavy gas tax and surcharge on any under-30mpg cars. In the mean while, El Pasoans boast being the most unhealthy and overweight in the nation.

  5. Anonymous - May 6, 2009

    I must give a plug where I think some recognition is due. The Clean Energy Committee at The Evergreen State College, a student-funded group just approved a student-grant proposal to install bike counters at the main bike-path entrances to the college. This will make us the first North American institution to use this technology for bikes. The grant-seeker was inspired by similar work in Europe, as the article gives mention to.
    This is an effort to show others just how popular biking is, how doable it is, and with this information we can show just how affordable an option it is as opposed to parking fees/car maintenance/gas etc… never underestimate the power some well intended peer modeling can have.

  6. Brooking - May 6, 2009

    I have to say, one of the greatest delights in my life these last 4 years in California – and CA has a lot of delight to offer – was riding my bike down market street in San Francisco at rush hour and experiencing “bike traffic”… that is, sitting at a stop light with 10-20 other bikers smushed into our narrow bike lane, all commuting the city-smart way. It’s kind of thrilling to race along the bike lane with all the hipsters and commuters and feel like the world is starting to make a little more sense. So I think Adam’s right – the greatest motivation is just seeing others out there doing it too.