Copenhagen Municipality publishes ‘bicycle accounts’ every two years. In the publication, drivers are asked about things that could motivate them to convert to biking. The most popular answer was that ‘if you separate the cycle paths from car traffic, we are more likely to cycle about our daily business’. It’s the kind of direct, prompt answer you get when you ask a direct question.
However, we needed to tap into the deeper motivations behind why people have an aversion or affinity towards cycling, so that we could best inform policy and infrastructure planning.
We conducted a series of in-depth interviews with Copenhagen drivers. We explored transport habits and behaviour, to understand when people are likely to make or break these habits. We studied the impact of family and workplace commuting, and geographic parameters.
We often heard from our respondents that transport choices are habitual in nature: “I drive because that’s what I’m used to and I don’t like cycling.” We had a hypothesis that the negative perceptions of cycling are associated with prejudice, devoid of any actual experience on a bike, so we challenged our respondents to try taking the bike or train to work instead.
We coupled this with desk research and studies of general trends in mobility, city and car relationships in order to develop recommendations for the municipality.
We noticed that when travelling to the inner city, it is accepted without question that residents cycle or take public transport. Everyone agrees it is challenging and counter-productive take on the one-way streets, narrow alleyways and lack of parking in a car.
We realised that not only was it important to expose car drivers to cycling, but that it was equally important to disincentivise driving. If we can influence and edit the car-free mental map of commuters to include the rest of the boroughs of Copenhagen (Nørrebro, Vesterbro and so on), there will be a far higher rate of bicycle adoption. People will no longer organize their needs and habits around the assumption that they can take the car.
With this in mind, we created a set of recommendations that addressed both approaches: ways to improve the bicycling experience, and also ways to discourage commuters from choosing cars.
Our concrete recommendations spanned topics ranging from strategic allocation and minimisation of parking spaces and promoting car sharing, to specifying bicycle infrastructure improvement and underscoring the health benefits of cycling.
Today, the municipality has surpassed its target: 56% of Copenhageners commute to work or school by bike everyday.
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We helped the Technical and Environmental Administration build skills and competences in innovation processes across the organization.
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