Cycling, Planning and Design in Copenhagen

We kicked off the Copenhagen tour in the best possible way – with a bike tour. It was led by some local guides including a liveable cities expert from the legendary place making and architectural firm of Jan Gehl.

It is hard not to be extremely impressed by Copenhagen. It is a wonderfully liveable and sustainable city. And it is not just the bikes. But given the cycling infrastructure is truly amazing, let’s start with that. Copenhagen is legendary in part because cycling is so ubiquitous. Copenhageners travel approximately 1/3 by bike, 1/3 by public transport and 1/3 by car. The aim is for 50% of journeys to work and school to be by bike. A goal they have almost achieved.  Compare this with Perth at less than 3%. This diversity decreases car traffic congestion and the CBD is surprisingly quiet and relaxing as a result.

This didn’t happen by accident or genetics. There are many ways in which Copenhagen is specifically designed to encourage the use of bikes, such as permitting bikes on dedicated train carriages for free, the provision of multi-story bike parking infrastructure, and providing free bike pumps stations on Copenhagen streets. But it success is fundamentally that Copenhagen provides continuous separated bike lanes that make cycling safe and convenient.IMG_0114

A highlight today was to ride the recently completed 200m “bike snake” bridge. Completed by the council in 2014 it cost around $6million and is already used by over 8000 cyclists a day.


But it is more than cycling that makes Copenhagen the city with the highest quality of life according to international global affairs magazine Monacle. The overall layout of the city in accordance with the “Finger Plan”, which was first developed in 1947 and was written into national law in 2007 (so as to bind planning decisions) with the National Spatial Planning Act: The Finger Plan. The plan essentially encourages development from central Copenhagen (the “palm”) along slender fingers, following public transport routes, especially railways. A key benefit of this structure, as well as providing for the efficient transport of people and goods into and out of the city centre (as all development is close to public transport, main roads and bike paths) is that the wedges between each finger are left undeveloped or with facilities such as public open space. This links back to the implications of the weak implementation around Perth’s spatial planning strategy I highlighted in yesterday’s blog

There is much more I could praise Copenhagen for but  (given the article in Sunday Times today and Freoview’s post. I’ll finish with some examples of Copenhagen’s impressive recent architecture. Not only have they got predominantly human scale outcomes throughout the city (around 5-8 floors) but they are universally of a design quality that leaves Perth’s buildings to wallow in their own mediocrity. Why we asked? National mandating of the use of architects (and often multiple ones in an area) in combination with a well-developed Danish sense of aesthetic and design we were told was part of the reason. WA could sure do with a local version of both of these as these impressive examples show.

IMG_0094 Copenhagen Denmark 049 Copenhagen Denmark 164 Copenhagen Denmark 184


About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

6 Responses to Cycling, Planning and Design in Copenhagen

  1. Lionel says:

    “Not only have they got predominantly human scale outcomes throughout the city (around 5-8 floors)”

    Hopefully this will give you cause to rethink the 10 -12 floor height allowance proposed for the Matilda Bay Brewery site.

  2. freoishome says:

    Brad I hope you are able to keep your daily journal up during your trip. It is great to get your immediate feedback while still fresh in mind.

    In today’s feedback on Copenhagen you speak of the Finger design principle and the key role it has played in the success of their town planning. Do you think it possible to do that in retrospect, firstly at the Perth Metro level, and secondly for Freo? If so how?

    I have posted on freoview many times that I think “Perth cannot be all things, to all, in perpetuity”. Consequently WA, as opposed to Perth, needs to plan for two new metros many kms fro Perth, completely independent of Perth, eg, not Peel/Mandurah or Joondoolup; with a target of these quickly building to 250,000 each, and in doing so become Cities with their own character. Their own AFL teams, great communication and utility corridors to Perth, deep water harbours, etc. This would be a dream for developers, politically would enhance WA’s status as not only the largest state but the only one with 3 metros, no longer the galahs out west. As Mayor you have daily experience of the conflict with almost every development, between blow in developers, and locals, the latter being the custodians of the amenity of their locale, but being largely ignored in the face of development deemed to always be progress; this is rife across every LA in Perth; partly due to the rate of change, being revolutionary, rather evolutionary. Such new cities would largely remove that conflict altogether, and could be designed at their outset with principles similar to those you have witnessed in Copenhagen.

    IMO the two new metros planning ought to precede ‘Towards Perth @3.5 Million’. Is this worthy of discussion? If so how can that happen? How about a Freo based international competition to locate and outline there designs? Would any of the people and places you have on your itinerary be interested?


    • Paul
      Interesting idea but these new cities have often proved hard to make work and attract people to. I would be keen to see us apply the good urban design principles to the existi ng Perth footprint as that is where most people are still going to live. Better green corridors between new areas will be key as well

      • freoishome says:

        You are effectively saying that Perth MUST become all things, to all, in perpetuity! No matter how big Perth becomes, no matter how painful and how heated the conflicts between blow in developers and residents become, West Australians must accept life as a 3rd tier State!

        We will never become progressive, if good ideas are put into the too hard basket before they have even been considered!

        This doesn’t sound like ‘Fremantle talk’ to me.

        At the Greens meeting at FTI when we had the first public forum to talk about Light Rail, I suggested that we should use the existing heavy rail line from the station south along the coast, etc, and you said then, just as now, too hard, it would never get off the ground as the Feds and PTA would never consider it. Wasn’t long before you were saying why not use the heavy rail……..
        When the UK expert, Rod King I think it was, who was visiting over east was saying they were finding that lowering speed limits in the UK to about 20mph in town centres was actually having better traffic flow, I suggested you invite him to Fremantle, you said it would be your political suicide; what is Freo been doing for the last few years?

        You want Fremantle to regain it status of being Perth Metro’s second city, it isn’t going to come from blocking thought, ie, using the too hard basket. Instead, Freo could lead an international competition and debate about such big ideas for the whole of WA? Must these big ideas only come from Mayor Scaffidi and her entourage?


      • I don’t think I am saying that Paul but I do think politics is the art of the possible.

        While I am very happy for you to advocate new city as the mayor of an existing one I would like to see us make that and surrounding areas more liveable and sustainable first. Copenhagen didn’t make antoehr city to improve itself – it remade itself as a city over a number of decades

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