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The One Big Problem That Advocates of Copenhagen-Style Urbanism Often Overlook

© <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/15325678721/'>Flickr user diversey</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
© Flickr user diversey licensed under CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "What We Can (and Can’t) Learn from Copenhagen."

I spent four glorious days in Copenhagen recently and left with an acute case of urban envy. (I kept thinking: It’s like... an American Portland—except better.) Why can’t we do cities like this in the US? That’s the question an urban nerd like me asks while strolling the famously pedestrian-friendly streets, as hordes of impossibly blond and fit Danes bicycle briskly past.

Copenhagen is one of the most civilized cities on the planet. The world’s “most livable,” it’s often called, with some justification. (Although a Danish relative did caution me, “Spend a few weeks here in January before you make that pronouncement.”) But the seemingly effortless civility, Copenhagen’s amazing level of grace, is not an accident of place or happenstance. It’s the product of a shared belief that transcends urban design, even though the city is a veritable laboratory for pretty much all of the best practices in the field.

Copenhagen's Latest Piece of Cycle Infrastructure Is a "Stupid, Stupid Bridge"

This article was originally published on the blog of Copenhagenize Design Co, titled "Copenhagen's Fantastic & Stupid Bicycle Bridge Inderhavnsbro."

It's no secret that Copenhagen continues to invest massively in bicycle infrastructure like no other city on the planet. The network is already comprehensive and effective but the City continues to add important links, especially over the harbor and the canals. One of the more recent additions is the Inner Harbor Bridge—Inderhavnsbroen in Danish—that spans Copenhagen Harbor at a key, strategic and iconic point. It links the city center at the end of the postcard picture perfect Nyhavn with the Christianshavn neighborhood and the southern neighborhoods beyond. It is one of a series of 17 new bridges or underpasses for bicycle traffic that have been added to the City's transport network in the past few years.

The Inner Harbour Bridge was riddled with problems and was extremely delayed, as you can read here. Now, however, it's been open since July 2016. Let me be clear: I'm thrilled that we have a new, modern link over the harbor to accommodate bicycle traffic and pedestrians. I am over the moon that the number of cyclists crossing daily exceeds all projected numbers. The City estimated that between 3,000–7,000 cyclists would use the bridge but the latest numbers are 16,000. It's a massive success. But sometimes you can see the forest for the trees. I'm sorry, but Inderhavnsbro is a stupid, stupid bridge.