What makes the daily commute
worth biking for?

Challenge

Primed for some radical change, The Municipality of Copenhagen set an ambitious target: raise the number of Copenhageners who commute to work by bike from 35 % to 41 % in two years. They approached IS IT A BIRD for advice on solving their ‘wicked problem’.

Approach

We skipped pointing fingers and instead tried to empathize with both drivers and cyclists, to understand the challenges of both groups, and seek opportunities to convince car drivers it isn’t so bad on the dark side after all.

Result

We created recommendations across innovation tracks to make sure that when the municipality ramped up its efforts, it did so in the right way. Today, the efforts have paid off. There are more bikes than cars on the road, and 56% of daily commutes are by bike. Mission accomplished.

Copenhagen Municipality

There has been a dramatic increase in bicycle
commuters from 35 % just a few years ago to 41 % today

Introduction

The commuters aversion towards bicycling

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.

"One cannot arrive for a meeting with a customer in a tie and bike shorts"

Commuter

Method

Challenging the existing perceptions

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.

Result

Improving the overall bicycling experience

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: 41 % of Copenhageners commute to work or school by bike everyday.

Former projects

Our ongoing collaboration with The Copenhagen Municipality has resulted in an diverse portfolio

2014

A new view on welfare technology

We helped The Copenhagen Municipality gain strong competences in understanding the welfare tech market and the citizens using it, enabling them to make qualified decisions.

2015

Building strong innovation capacity

We helped the Technical and Environmental Administration build skills and competences in innovation processes across the organization.

2015

Apps to support marginalized groups

By understanding the needs and challenges marginalized groups have, we helped SOF in testing selected supportive apps, and developed schematics for a future app development.

2015

What makes the daily commute worth biking for?

A qualitative study on communting behaviour to inform future policy and infrastructure planning.

2016

A new perceptive on growth and employment

We helped in developing an entire new perspective on how to create growth and employment in marginalized neighborhoods.

2016

A common language for public trees

We helped the Technical and Environmental Administration create a communication tool to avoid conflicts with citizens, when felling trees urban districts.

2017

A bio-organic nudge

We helped the Technical and Environmental Administration with insights, and created tangible recommendation on how to nudge citizens to start sorting organic waste by a communicative approach.

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