LAX -> CPH
My Century City office window has an oblique view of Santa Monica Boulevard and the bike lanes that run alongside it. I don’t often find a moment to take in the view — and it’s a rather nice one — but when I do, I’ll sometimes count the cyclists riding by. Actually, “count” is the wrong word: it’s more a vain hope of seeing a single cyclist trundle by. It’s rather like trying to spot an elusive snow-leopard in the mountains of Mongolia: a dispiriting exercise, but hope springs eternal.
Where are the cyclists? Over the years I’ve asked people, informally, why they don’t ride in Los Angeles. The answers (excuses?) are usually what you’d expect — safety, distance, weather — and usually in that order. I discount distance and weather as sniveling, but consider safety a genuine concern. The simple fact is that cycling mode share may largely be the visible artifact of safe cycling infrastructure. Without infrastructure, one can hardly expect to see large numbers of cyclists on our streets.
I left Los Angeles Friday to visit Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and I’m in the northernmost capital now. It was expected, but still engaging, to exchange traffic scenarios:
(In the right-hand photo, I’m only a bit sorry that I didn’t capture a cyclist in the lane; that’s a fault of your humble photographer and not of the many cyclists whizzing by.)
What did Copenhagen do right by its people? Perhaps a fair bit of the credit goes to Jan Gehl, who has been working on this city’s traffic infrastructure for forty years or more. You can find many more observations on the city here, and I should let this city’s residents do most of the talking. But one thing I can say for certain from my single day on Copenhagen’s many charming streets: I had no problem counting cyclists. They are all over the place, on every street, alley, with their evidence parked in front of every shop, and stacked like cord wood at the train station. It’s an impressive sight.
I’ve planned a nine-day bicycle ride between the capitals, and leave on Tuesday for the journey southwest. The trip will mean visits to many towns and cities in Denmark, Germany, and The Netherlands. I’m hoping to bring you along as I ride — if you care to join me — and perhaps make some useful observations for Los Angeles along the way.