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Danish approach to cycling to feature at Downing Street conference on Future Cities tomorow (+ videos)

Copenhagen Wheel plus architectural projects highlighted, but city's cycle lanes of more relevance to current debate...

Prime Minister David Cameron will tomorrow host a conference at Number Ten Downing Street at which senior civil servants will hear from experts from around the world about how the design of cities can be improved, with cycling playing a central role in many schemes already in place abroad or being planned, reports The Times.

The Downing Street conference comes ahead of this Thursday’s parliamentary debate on cycle safety, which will be held at Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament. Innovations from Denmark in particular will be under the spotlight at the conference, called ‘Future Cities,’ which has been organised by Mr Cameron’s strategy adviser, Steve Hilton.

Those include the Copenhagen Wheel, previously featured here on, which transforms a pedal-powered bicycle into an electric one – although as we’ve said previously, its value in the grand scheme of things is questionable, perhaps more so now when safety, not saving energy, is the number-one item on the cycling agenda in Britain.

Another speaker is Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, whose BIG practice’s developments firmly put the bicycle at the centre of design, as you’d expect from a firm based in Copenhagen.

Recent projects include the 62,000 square metre 8 House mixed use development in the city, which includes 540 residential units with a combined cycle path and walkway sloping up to the eight floor.

There’s a good overview of how that fits into the overall design starting at around 10 minutes into the video below.

8H - The 8-House from BIG on Vimeo.

In 2008, BIG also unveiled proposals for a scheme in the centre of the Swedish capital, Stockholm that makes heavy use of what the urban design blog Cycle Space terms “cyclescaping” – which it defines as when a designer “when creating largely paved open spaces with buildings arranged so as to look spectacular during a fly-through, only viewers can’t fly—the closest they can come to that, is to cycle.”

Cycle Space adds: “BIG’s proposal for a sweeping plaza/bridge in Stockholm, with buildings seemingly shaped by bicycle flows, is a good example of what I call cyclescaping.”

The winning design in that competition to devise a Masterplan for Stockholm's Slussen district was from London-based Foster + Partners and as with BIG's design puts facilities for pedestrians and cyclists firmly at the heart of the scheme.

But while such projects are laudable in their inclusive attitude towards cycling, the reality is of course that schemes of this nature take years in the planning and execution, and have limited application to the wider environment around them, so news that conference attendees will also learn about Copenhagen’s approach towards cycle lanes throughout the city is probably of more relevance in the context of the wider debate.

So, what do you think should be on the PM's agenda when it comes to makeing cities safer for cycling?


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Paul M | 12 years ago

Cerrtainly they need to make cycling FEEL safer - in reality it is more dangerous to ride a bike in the countryside than it is in a city centre (in terms of KSI/bn km) but that is not how it typically feels.

Driver behaviour really is not the place to start though. Cheap perhaps but totally ineffective - most drivers passed their tests years ago, and those who are taking their tests now will quickly unlearn any good habits they have been taught.

And enforcement has limited value. Certainly sanctions against bad driving in much of Europe are stricter than they are here but that is just one of many factors including road design and the concept of strict liablity in civil cases. Putting a dangerous driver like that bus driver away for more than 17 months may be judicially sound but as we know, capital punishment for murder in the US has not secured a lower murder rate htan we have here!

What we need is physical intervention, to save people from themselves. Keep vulnerable road users apart from motor traffic. Above all, re-establish the principle that streets are places, not routes, they are for people, not vehicles.

Come to the flashride tomorrow evening - meet 6:15 by the Duke of York Steps in the Mall for a 6:30 start and a ride-by of Parliament. If you can't get to London, write to you MP asking him to support the Early Day Motion.

don_don | 12 years ago

Here's hoping they spend more of their time discussing how to make our roads more attractive for cycling, instead of bloody 'Copenhagen wheels', or the whole debate will be a huge waste of time.

alexpalacefan | 12 years ago

Driver education.

The best way to encourage cycling is to make it safer, and to make it seem safer to non and casual cyclists.

The cheapest way to do this is to have drivers act in a more cyclist-friendly way.

This has 2 strands. Education, so they understand why we ride as we do, and how to treat cycle traffic. And enforcement, need I mention 17 months!!!


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