More Bikes Than Cars in Copenhagen Save the Environment and Taxpayers’ Money


Patrick Nouhailler
Bicycles parked in Copenhagen.

As the world’s most bicycle-friendly city, Copenhagen has just broken a new record: as of September 2016, more bikes enter the city each day than cars. This year, there are 35,080 more bikes wandering in the city than there were last year, according to data released by city officials. This brings the number of bikes on Copenhagen’s streets to 265,700, as opposed to 252,600 cars in the city on any given day.

The environmental gains of decreasing the number of cars on the streets is obvious: lower carbon emissions and less pollution. However, the benefits do not stop there.

According to researchers cited by Forbes magazine, for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car, “taxpayers save 7.8 cents (DKK 0.45) in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure.” With cyclists covering an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day, the tally comes to about USD$34 million annually.

The increase in bicycle traffic has lowered health costs as well. More people bicycling to and from work and school means fewer sick days and fewer medical expenses. This equates to saving USD$380 million (DKK 2 billion) a year in health costs, according to a report by the city, not to mention a 30 percent reduction in mortality for those who use bikes for transportation.

Of course, Copenhagen did not become the bike capital of the world in a day. In fact, the city has been promoting bicycles as the preferred means of transportation in the city for about a decade now. So far, they have invested USD$142 million (DKK 1 billion) in bicycle infrastructure and facilities, according to an article by Copenhagenize magazine. These investments include building roads and bridges specific to bicycles, which have changed the city’s urban landscape significantly.

Now, the city has plans to make life even easier for cyclists. “Good, Better, Best – The City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy 2012-2025” draws a roadmap for these improvements: the city aims to increase the percentage of commuters who cycle to 50 percent, increase the number of cycle tracks by 80 percent, and reduce cyclists’ average travel time by 15 percent by the year 2025.