In April, Denmark completed the first of what will eventually be a network of 26 bicycle “superhighways”—smooth routes exclusively for Danes who wish to commute into Copenhagen by pedal-power alone. The $47 million, publicly-funded project will provide additional safe, well-equipped paths to the over 10,000 kilometers of bike paths already in place in the country. Although Denmark already has a sizable bike commuting population—some half a million each year—the superhighway is designed to encourage individuals who live more than five kilometers outside of the city’s capital to leave their cars at home and cycle to work.
A feature in the New York Times explains that while the Danish bicycle superhighway may be a significant ‘green’ project, it is not something that grew specifically from an environmentalist movement within the government. Political parties on both the left and right note the health benefits of bicycle commuting, while socially, cycling is considered to be simply a more efficient, practical way to get from home to work or school.
Needless to say, the environmental impacts of the route are huge; the New York Times cites Danish statistics that show that “every 6 miles biked instead of driven saves 3 1/2 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.” The route itself is not only lined with cycle-friendly amenities, like angled trash cans and air pumps, it also features “green zones,” which allow bike commuters to never hit a red light while travelling at 20 Km/h—and the route is also equipped with solar-powered lamps.
And if your own carbon footprint reduction isn’t enough to make you feel good, the Danes also seem to be pretty enthusastic about the psycological benefits of regular physical exercise, or as Henrik Dam Kristensen, Denmark’s minister for transport, explained to the New York Times, “When you have been biking for 30 minutes, you have a really good feeling about yourself.. [y]ou really enjoy a glass of wine because you’ve earned it.”