- Bicycle Culture by Design: Lord Mayor Frank Jensen's Smoking Gun

Langebro, Copenhagen. 1975… and 2040. When new infrastructure projects are presented, they are based on a set of long term assumptions. Usually, these assumptions never reach a broader audience and they are never explained. We have read an analysis that presents a long list of assumptions about the future of traffic development in Copenhagen and we took a long, hard look at it.

The analysis is entitled "Udbygning af den kollektive trafik i KøbenhavnAnalysefasen - Trafikmodelberegninger 2018-2040". In English: "Expansion of Public Transport in Copenhagen. Analysis phase - Traffic model calculations 2018-2040".

The analysis is the metric expression of the expectations of the long term needs and traffic flows of Copenhagen and the metropolitan area. It is the basic assumptions which govern all long-term city planning. The plans for such initiatives as the currently-debated Harbour Tunnel, the motorway system, the major inroads to the city core, the mass transit system, and of course the investments in bicycling.

The analysis was done by Tetraplan and was commissioned by the City Planning Department, which reports directly to the Lord Mayor, Frank Jensen (Social Democrats).

If the city has a traffic policy which is not supported by this report, it will not be supported by infrastructure investments, and will for all intents and purposes, never be excuted. Such a policy will be a smokescreen, but never more than that.

In the foreign press, Frank Jensen is quoted for aiming to have 50% of our citizens on bikes. If this is to happen, it must be reflected in the city planning, other wise it's just green-washing, deceit and, basically, fraud. 

So let's examine the city planning assumptions.

City metric assumptions, changes between 2012 and 2040

Population +34,4%

Students in Higher Education +37,9%

Employment +18,4%

Car ownership rate +27,6%

Increase in privately owned car-fleet +55.4%

The increase in car ownership is based on an official prognosis of future GDP growth and an historic relation between the two (DTU 2008). The underlying assumption is that household income is the only determining factor of car ownership, whereas such factors as increasing congestion levels, increasing difficulty in finding parking and increasing parking costs, would have no significant impact, or would simply not occur. The latter being an absolutely impossible scenario, as road and parking capacity can´t possibly follow the ownership growth rate projected above. This also assumes the mass transit system does not improve in relative attractiveness, compared to owning your own car.

Now the current pattern behind the population growth in Copenhagen is that, as a university city, a high share of new inhabitants move here to attend college or university or for their first job (the city has 2,5 jobs to each active head in the workforce). Previously, many moved away to the suburbs when they had children. When the housing market crashed after the finance crisis, many where forced to stay, this in turn improved the city economy, which in turn could better accommodate the need for day care, schools, playgrounds etc.

This demographic is highly responsive to such transportation forms as car share services, cargo bikes, bikes, light rail, s-train etc. - rather than buying their first car.

The report does not base the assumptions on such rationalities. Instead, they merely believe that car ownership will rise along with the rate of economic growth. In other words, they assume that the 81.5% who do not own a car simply cannot afford it. That’s an unsubstantiated and ignorant analysis - one you would normally only expect from the national automobile association (FDM).

The analysis includes absolutely no assessment or assumption of current and projected ownership of bikes and cargo bikes, bicycle parking or basic bicycle infrastructure.

The few assumptions on future bicycling connections are much less than the current inadequate investments in bicycle infrastructure, which are 1/41th of investments in car infrastructure. The analyse does not say so directly, but it apparently assumes this level to decrease to something around 1% of car-infrastructure. None of the mentioned improvements will remedy the decrease in bike mobility that the assumed increase in car infrastructure will result in.

When the report has virtually no assumptions on development of the bike path, lanes, bridges and tunnels, what about car infrastructure?

In addition to the Harbour Tunnel, expected to cost $5-6 billion, the report lists an additional 19 major roadway projects. Mostly extra lanes on motorways in and around Copenhagen, which will cost an additional $10 billion or more. Despite the fact that we know adding extra lanes on motorways only increases car traffic.

It does mention a few projects to calm car traffic, though it is understood to be in a way which will not reduce car mobility, instead focusing on reducing noise and pollution. It is not, however, specified how that could ever be achieved.

The report assumes parking to remain largely free for the entire period. The city centre, with metered parking, is assumed to increase parking fees to match inflation. For residents, this is by and large the same as having free parking. A residential parking permit is only $120 a year, less than 1% of market value. 

Curiously, taking the high growth of car ownership into consideration, the analysis concludes that the act of driving around looking for parking spots will increase by 25% until 2025, and after that it will remain constant. Again, we're dealing with vague assumptions that can't be proved or be shown to be based on any reliable research. In a city with a parking shortage and a parking pricing policy that is well below cost, no private garages will be built and the city can not afford to build the incremental spots which would set the city  budget back by a stunning $8 billion (159.500 new parking spaces at $50k each).

All in all, the analysis suggests investments in new car infrastructure of no less than $25 billion. Even if the city kept current investment levels in bikes, the total would be about $0,4 billion, and the analysis only suggests about half of that.

The analysis does not only specify investments in cars alone. A tiny 5 km light rail line is proposed, as well as a $10 billion program to convert bus mass transit to new metro tunnels, which will provide more space for car lanes and car parking. Metro lines are nice, but if we wanted to improve mass transit, laying of light rails would give 7 to 10 times as much mileage and coverage. Light rail is faster too, on the short distances planned for the metro line. The only reason to prefer a subterranean solution is to preserve the coveted streets for automobiles.

All in all, the analysis suggests investments in cars and mass transit of more than $35 billion.

Nor does the analysis try to hide the effects of car-centric planning. Bicycle mobility is estimated to fall by 12%. Seriously.

Not only is that unfortunate, the basis of the calculations blatantly ignores the importance of cycling as transport. It is underestimated in the base year by 53%, the same as mass transit. The opposite is true for cars and pedestrians, which are compared to the most comprehensive transport usage study in DK, which is performed annually by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU, TU data). The analysis, on the other hand, offers no sources for its historic data.

Finally, the massive investments in infrastructure don't even increase mobility, as the growth of trips is only about half the growth of the population.

Source: Tetraplan -Udbygning af den kollektive trafik i København. Analysefasen Trafikmodelberegninger 2018-2040

The Lord Mayor happily says to journalists that he is working to increase bicycle traffic by 45% to 50%. 

We now know that he actually plans to decrease it by 12%.

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