Get on your bike, mate!

Connected society 4 December 2017 Raul Daussa

Copenhagen and Prague inspire Australia when it comes to climate-friendly and cost-effective mobility incentives.

4 min

With the right incentives, big cities can inspire citizens to choose greener modes of transport. This is the conclusion from Canberra’s Minister for Planning and Land Management, Mick Gentleman, after a recent visit to Prague and Copenhagen. 

The minister is looking for ways to break the habits of the 80% of Canberra citizens who prefer driving to other modes of transport, and one of his field visits with Ramboll entailed a trip to Nordhavnen, a new quarter in Copenhagen laid out to optimise bicycle transport. 

“These visits give us amazing knowledge that we didn’t have before,” says Mick Gentleman. 

His visit was part of a new EU-funded project implemented by Ramboll that aims to enhance sustainability and urban liveability by facilitating the exchange of information between some of the global metropolises. The “World Cities” project has paired Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne in Australia, with the European cities of Prague, Manchester, Katowice and Hamburg. The goal of the 18-month project is to strengthen market opportunities and job creation while also promoting the sustainable economic development of the cities involved. 

The Canberra government has set greenhouse gas targets to reduce its emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020, by 80% by 2050, and to have no net emissions by 2060. 

“We have similar challenges in our city, but some aspects are strikingly different,” Mick Gentleman explains. “For example, here in Copenhagen, more than 50% commute to work on bicycles. And it is very similar in Prague – most use bicycles or public transport. Canberra is the opposite. We have 80% who use cars to get to work, and a very limited number use bicycles and public transport. So, what we learn from both Copenhagen and Prague is that if we give people the right incentive and the ability, they will change their mode of transport.” 

Reduced health costs

Some of the incentives Copenhagen has provided have been developed by Ramboll – which has collaborated with the City on bicycle lanes since the 1980s. Current projects include better safety at dangerous intersections, increased accessibility for two-wheelers on one-way car streets and intelligent transport systems solutions like a ‘green wave’ of traffic lights for cyclists on bicycle lanes. 

A flagship project is The Bicycle Snake (pictured above), a bicycle and walking bridge to the island of Amager that opened in 2014. According to the City of Copenhagen, the snake reduces bicycle travel time by 380 hours per day, thus making fewer people take a longer car route. 

Calculations show that society saves around 1 Danish krone for each kilometre cycled, because the physical activity reduces health treatment costs and increases productivity. There are also climate gains and other advantages.

Written by Charlotte Ankerstjerne and Michael Rothenborg.