Copenhagen through North American Eyes

I usually don’t like to simply regurgitate stuff from other blogs, but take a few minutes to watch this great new video from Streetfilms and see through the eyes of other North Americans what a city looks like when most people ride bikes without calling themselves “cyclists” and policies and infrastructure are created that encourage the use of bicycles for short trips.

Even though I have visited Copenhagen, I got a lot from this video. A big take-away for me is that the bicycle mode share for women exceeds that of men.  When women and children feel comfortable riding somewhere, you know you have created a good bicycle facility.


The power of first hand observation cannot be underestimated.  To that end, Bikes Belong, Saris Cycling Group and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin took a group of Madison elected officials and city staff to visit some European bicycle-friendly cities earlier this year.  That visit had a powerful impact that is already making waves in Madison.  You can find out more about what they learned, including a nice little video, here. Milwaukee hopes to do the same next year.

Below are the lessons Mayor Dave Cieslewicz (one of Milwaukee’s favorite sons) learned from the trip. Over the Bars agrees:

Lessons Learned from Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz:

  1. Separate bikes from other traffic as much as possible.
  2. Make“complete streets” that accommodate all modes of travel the norm.
  3. Change the standard American bike to a sturdy commuter bike.
  4. Create a culture of cycling where people feel comfortable making virtually all trips of less than two miles on a bike.
  5. Create a culture where people feel comfortable just hopping on a bike for a short trip without thinking about special clothing.
  6. Deal with winter by creating an expectation that the bus, commuter rail or a car will be the alternative to the bike when the weather is very cold or snowy.
  7. Provide plenty of bike parking everywhere

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’ pledge from the City of Madison:

  1. Commit substantial funds in the City’s capital budget for bike infrastructure and improvements each year as long as I am mayor.
  2. Create a Bike Council made up of representatives from the City, the County, the University, area school districts, the business community, the bike industry and bike advocacy groups to set goals for making Madison more bike-friendly and monitor progress toward those goals. 
  3. Form a “Bike Team” of city staff to shepherd implementation of the infrastructure improvements and other goals.
  4. Identify three concentric zones in the city that include the isthmus, the near surrounding areas and the periphery.  Set goals for bike modal shares in each of the zones and develop plans to meet those goals in each zone.
  5. Create three bike-friendly streets in zone one within a year.
  6. Include a bike station in the plans for a renovated Government East parking ramp.
  7. Include information on the Bike Council and the City’s bike initiatives on the City’s web site 


Streetfilms is a great organization based out of NYC that creates really informative videos about livable cities around the world.  Take some time to look over their videos, really cool stuff.  You can donate to Streetfilms if you want to support their work.

About Schlabowske, Former Exec. Dir.

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office in 2003. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

3 thoughts on “Copenhagen through North American Eyes

  1. It appears that Madison has the political will to make this happen, no?

    I can’t remember any Milwaukee mayor that uttered anything close to those words. Sure they take their photo op once a year to bike to work, but when it comes to making any pledge and sticking to it around cycling – I can’t think of anything. Are there some recent examples that I’m missing?

  2. Way too cool! Can I move to Copenhagen? Milwaukee is making great strides, Madison too. Too bad I don’t live in Milwaukee anymore…. I shared the video with my facebook page and will try and figure out how to get this ion the hands of the bike club up here!

    Everyone in America whines about gas prices, high insurance costs and all things about cars. yet the same people feel free to yell at me when I ride down main street…..

  3. Pingback: Mucho Milwaukee » Blog Archive » Recent blog roundup

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