Edinburgh urged to adopt Danish segregated bike lanes to boost cycling

Scottish cities could attract as many cyclists as world-leading Copenhagen by building networ ks of segregated lanes to make them feel safe, a former mayor of the Danish capital has predicted.

Could Scottish cities attract as many cyclists as world-leading Copenhagen? Picture: Getty Images
Could Scottish cities attract as many cyclists as world-leading Copenhagen? Picture: Getty Images

Morten Kabell will tell audiences in Edinburgh and Dundee they could reach Copenhagen levels of 42 per cent cycling by keeping bikes away from other traffic.

His call echoes ministers’ backing for such lanes as the key to encourage more people to cycle.

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Scotland’s rates are far lower than in Denmark, with nearly 11 per cent in Edinburgh cycling to work, 7.5 per cent in Dundee and 6.9 per cent in Glasgow.

Copenhagen's cycle paths are a good model for Scotland, says ex-mayor Morten Kabell. Picture: Richard Sowersby/Rex

However Kabell, a cycling consultant who was Copenhagen’s mayor of technical and environmental affairs until last year, said the Russian city of Almetyevsk had increased cycling from zero to 7 per cent in 18 months.

He said: “What happened in Copenhagen is not unique. We are as lazy as anyone else – the only reason we cycle is that it’s the easiest and fastest way to get to work.

“It’s my firm belief any city can do what Copenhagen has done.”

He said a bike lane can carry seven times as many people as a vehicle lane and they were far cheaper to build.

“Segregated lanes get more people to jump on their bikes because they feel safe for everyone.

“Parents will send their kids off to school on their own, like they do in Copenhagen, and older people will cycle to the shops.”

Kabell’s lectures, originally planned as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling in June, are now scheduled for October.

Cycle path developers Sustrans Scotland is spearheading six Copenhagen-style routes in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Inverness.

Deputy director Grace Martin said they were “essential for making cycling feel safe and convenient and an easy choice for more people”.

Ian Maxwell, of Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said: “Kabell’s prediction sounds very optimistic at first glance, but many other cities have found an accelerator effect happening once they start to make serious changes to the city streets.”

Edinburgh City Council plans to extend its 126 miles of segregated cycle routes.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “We absolutely agree that by creating more safe and accessible cycle routes we will boost the number of people using a bike to travel.

“We recognise there’s some way to go before we reach Copenhagen’s cycling rates, but we’re making progress.”

Kevin Cordell, cycle spokesman for Dundee City Council, which is also developing segregated routes, said: “We have ambitious plans to be more cycle- friendly. We accept we are a long way from Copenhagen but hope to make bold changes.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “A number of segregated lane routes are in place, notably in the south and the east of the city, with more proposed in the short and medium-term in the north and west.”