Bike Plans in Other Cities: Copenhagen, Washington DC and London UK


Cycling Copenhageners from the City of Copenhagen’s bike strategy “Good, Better, Best: 2011-2015”

In anticipation of our upcoming bike plan election issue of dandyhorse -- due on newsstands this June -- we decided to have our dandy journalism students research and write about other cities' bike plans to explore new ideas that could work for Toronto's soon-to-be refurbished bike plan.

This is the first in our series "Bike Plans in Other Cities".

Bike Plans in Other Cities: Copenhagen, Washington DC and London UK

By Alex Chronopoulos

Familiar titles come to mind for certain cities around the world—The City of Lights, The City of Angels, The City that Never Sleeps—the list goes on.

Copenhagen, Washington, DC and London, UK have recently become renowned “bike cities” leaving Toronto to eat their dust as they burn some serious rubber on their new and improved cycle tracks.

So, what to learn? Below are outlines of major reforms these cities plan to implement in the coming years ensuring their bike culture is connected, protected and accessible.


A bicycling city is a more livable city; offering less wear on roads, longer individual life expectancies, less congestion and pollution with the added benefit that cycling infrastructure is cheaper to install than other transport investments. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Copenhagen aims to transform themselves into the City of Cyclists by 2025.

The proposed PLUSnet system: the pink lines signal that only minor adjustments need to be made to that route; the blue signifies that more space for bikes is needed; orange denotes large-scale improvements need to be made; the black semi-circles will be new bridges/tunnels for cyclists and pedestrians, and the pink circles are new urban development areas.

Currently, cycling has a 36 per cent modal share, with frequent trips made to work or school. The goal is to increase this to 50 per cent by 2025 and also improve the quality of cycling for existing and novice users. The propsed PLUSnet system will target congested routes installing three bike lanes on either side of the street—four lanes total on streets that are bi-directional—allowing cyclists to ride at their pace; a space for those commuting and a space for those riding leisurely wanting to chat without incessant bells interrupting them.

Parking is also on the list with initiatives in collaboration with developers, businesses and homeowner associations to develop better bicycle and cargo bike parking.


ITS will install LED lights into the asphalt widening or shrinking lanes denoting what mode of transportation has the right of way.

Cueing Gloria Estefan music, Copenhagen is also looking to listen to the rhythm of the streets using Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS). The pilot project would install LED lights into the streets to signal who has the right of way and when. Certain stretches can be made one-way while cycle tracks and sidewalks can be widened or narrowed to accommodate cycle or pedestrian traffic as required. ITS will also allow for shorter commute times by monitoring traffic volumes using sensors and making this information available on a Smartphone.

Finally, while improvements and new infrastructure is great, maintenance is key. Since 2011, funding has increased to €1.3 million (approximately $1.9 million) per year to include road repair and beautification. €270,000 (approximately $402,000) per year have been committed for snow clearance.

Washington, DC 

Like Copenhagen, Washington aims to become a city of cyclists as outlined in the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) vision statement: “The District of Columbia will be a world-class bicycling city that offers a safe and convenient network of bikeways for all types of trips.” Frank Underwood couldn’t have said it better.

Washington's existing bicycle facilities: blue lines indicate a bicycle lane, yellow denotes a signalled bicycle route, grey lines mean another roadway. The brown dashes show existing multi-use trails, the "M's" indicate a Metro Rail Station, the surrounding grey line shows the District boundary and the green and blue patches indicate parkland and water, respectively. 

Since the 2005 launch of their Bicycle Master Plan, Washington through DDOT has implemented 90 kilometres of marked bike lanes, 2,300 parking racks, launched the first national public bike sharing program—Capital Bikeshare—built their Bikestation offering secure parking and installed their first contraflow bike lanes.

Rendering of the DDOT plan to build a bike path along the Anacostia River.

To achieve its goals, Washington’s Master Plan is divided into three steps: firstly, implementing more and better bicycling facilities including improved bridge access, enhanced bicycle parking and an expanded route system with distinctive and functional signs. Second, implementing more bicycle friendly policies including training of District employees and civil servants on bike etiquette and consideration. Also, ensuring that civil projects provide bicycle accommodation. Finally, fostering bicycle education, support and enforcement. Namely, educating motorists on safe behaviour around cyclists, enforcing traffic laws that promote safe cycling and establishing the Youth Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education program.

London, UK

Bike plans involve a lot of numbers, but the Brits take the—Victoria sponge—cake with theirs. They hope to increase cycling in London by a whopping 400 per cent by 2026 with their Bicycle Action Plan, spearheaded by Transport for London (TfL). They hope to shift modal transportation for certain trips to cycling, including, short trips into central London made by public transit, commuter trips made from inner to central London and local trips to school, work, and shops in outer and inner London typically made by car.

Forget DDOT’s three steps, TfL has nine areas of action including delivering safer infrastructure for future cyclists that will implement 12 Cycle Superhighways. Provide training and information by aiding London boroughs to fund cycling training. Deliver “led rides” to support novice cyclers and holding events like Exchanging Places that teach cyclists how to be safe around large vehicles. Improvements in communication promoting safety messages will be enforced through marketing campaigns screened in theatres and TV to alert motorists, as well as distributing a “cycling safety code of conduct” to commuters.


Characters from London Cycle Hire to be used in marketing and awareness campaigns.

Pause for breath.

TfL is also looking to improve policies and are committed to working with politicians to change current regulations to promote safety, such as allowing cyclists to make left turns at red lights. Further (we’re on the sixth area of action), TfL will improve vehicle technology by working with the freight industry to install cost effective devices on large trucks to aid their visibility of cyclists. They will also aim to avoid deliveries during times of peak traffic flow, especially along routes with high volumes of cyclists.

Map showing London’s 12 bicycle superhighways.

They look to improve monitoring and survey the attitudes of cyclists and motorists regarding road safety and conduct research into the perceived risks of cycling so as to address them when enticing new cyclists. Finally (finally), TfL is looking to improve cycling safety partnerships so as to work with advocacy groups as part of the Cycle Safety Working Group who will directly engage members on safe cycling. In addition, developing alliances with cycle manufacturers and retailers encouraging them to spread safe cycling messages to their customers.

Whilst the Public Infrastructure and Works committee has recently approved the summer pilot project to install protected bike lanes eastbound on Richmond from Bathurst to York, and on Adelaide from Bathurst to Simcoe Street in addition to the permanent Richmond-Adelaide contraflow lanes, Toronto has a long way to go before we start running—er, cycling—with the big dogs.

Next up in our "Bike Plans in Other Cities" series: Bogota, Montreal, NYC .

Our upcoming issue of dandyhorse - due in June - features a section on best practices in bike plans. We asked 18 local experts what they would do to make Toronto a cycling city.


Related on the dandyBLOG:

Riding the Wind on Wellington County Trails

Bike Spotting at Portland and Queen: Do you support the Richmond-Adelaide bikeway pilot project?

Private: Protected bikes lanes may be coming soon to Richmond and Adelaide streets

Eat Ride Drink Sleep 

Other Cities Love Bike Lanes


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