1. Transport
  2. Cycling & micromobility
January 8, 2015updated 20 Jul 2021 3:26pm

Cyclist commuters never hit red lights in Copenhagen

By City Monitor Staff

Copenhagen is, it is generally agreed, a haven for cyclists. They have a special orange cycling bridge over the harbour. Everything from mail to Christmas trees is delivered by bike and, in the city proper, there are more bikes than people. Best of all, though, is a system that encourages the city’s residents to cycle, with the tantalising promise of a stop-free ride into the city.

It’s all thanks to a traffic management system known as the “Green Wave”, which operates at peak times, and is actually very simple. Traffic signage is timed such that, if a cyclist travels at a steady 20km per hour, they should be able to travel all the way into town without hitting a red light. This has the added benefit of ensuring the swarm of cyclists move at about the same pace, thereby creating safer cycle lanes. In the evenings, the system is reversed, so cyclists leaving the city can travel home uninterrupted. 

Image: Planetgordon.com via Flickr.

The Green Wave was first launched in 2007 on Nørrebrogade, a main street in the city centre. By 2012, the number of cyclists on the street had risen by 20 per cent, so the system has since been rolled out to other streets around the city. 

The one downside, of course, is for cyclists who live centrally but cycle out of the city in the mornings. These, though, are in the minority, so there are far fewer bikes on these routes, and fewer safety issues to contend with (such as an annoyingly keen cyclist tailgating you at a red light).

Now, the city is introducing another, similar system, which detects cyclists approaching an intersection: if enough cyclists are moving together, the light will stay green until they pass. The way Copenhagen’s going, there might soon be so many cyclists that the lights will never change – but we imagine they’ll cross that (orange, cycle-friendly) bridge when they come to it. 

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