A super, if not perfect, alternative

The Copenhagen Post gets on our bikes and test rides the first of the area’s ‘cycle superhighways’

June 17th, 2012 7:00 am| by admin

In hoc signo, you will ride, but who's going to provide maintenance?When the area’s first ‘cycle superhighway’ was opened for traffic earlier this year, it was accompanied by a marketing campaign that featured two neighbours heading off to work at the same time, one in a car and one on a bike.

As the one behind the wheel gets frustrated as he sits at red lights and fights traffic, his two-wheeled colleague rides gleefully and effortlessly along, beating his driving friend to work by a wide margin.

But do the superhighways live up to their promise? The Copenhagen Post mounted the iron horse to find out. 

What is it? The Cykelsuperstier project is a joint initiative by 20 area councils that have joined forces to provide cyclists with more appealing commuting options. Currently, only one leg of the superhighways is open, but ultimately it will consist of 26 routes in the Greater Copenhagen area that collectively measure around 300 kilometres. The entire project is estimated to cost somewhere between 413 and 875 million kroner, depending on which routes ultimately get created. 

Where did you ride? The Copenhagen Post tested out the first opened route, Albertslundruten, which runs through Copenhagen’s Vestegn area, through to Frederiksberg and on to Vesterport Station. 

How was it? Not sure what to expect, we headed out in search of the superhighway. What we found was that, rather than new trails, the superhighway consists of previously-existing trails that have been clearly marked with signage and orange paint. During our 23km journey into The Copenhagen Post’s Kødbyen office, we never once lost our way. A thick orange strip told us where to turn, and when the trails crossed over junctions or housing estates, the orange strip was replaced by orange circular ‘C’s painted at regular intervals. Despite a few 20-30 second gaps where we cycled without being sure if we had gone astray, the way was clearly marked. One could see, however, that this will require constant upkeep, as many of the markings had already nearly completed vanished, despite the superhighway just opening a few months ago. 

A long ride, but fortunately there's plenty of opportunity to enjoy it
There - but the road back again went by trainWas it hard? Even those who are used to cycling and in good shape would find that cycling over 20km is physically exerting. Especially, as is so often the case in Denmark, when you are cycling against the wind. The journey took nearly an hour and a half, though that could have been cut down a bit if we hadn’t had to stop and change clothing a few times along the way. Heading out at around 8am, we were initially too cold and needed an extra jacket, only to be too hot and sweaty a little later. We also opted for a mid-ride banana break and our bikes weren’t exactly great. If it sounds like we’re making excuses, we are. 

Did it live up to its promise? Mostly. There were, however, times when we biked along main roads (the stretch along Fabriksparken was especially brutal) and had to stop at traffic lights. For the most part, though, the route was scenic and fairly flat with ample opportunities to stop and take in the view along the way. 

Final verdict? Biking 23km isn’t something you’d probably want to do every day, but it’s great to have the option. The folks behind Cykelsuperstier point to the experience in London, where the addition of superhighways led to a 200 percent increase in the number of cyclists. Once the Copenhagen area project reaches its completion, we have no doubt that here too more people will opt for their bicycles rather than their cars or public transportation. As it stands now, though, our particular route was just a bit too far to be practical for commuting. We took the train home. 

Learn more about the Bike Superhighway and see a map of the route on the initiative's website.

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