The Life-Sized City Blog: Desire Lines on Værnedamsvej - Part 01

Copenhagenize Design Co. has once again put our Desire Line analysis tool to good use in studying the behaviour and trajectories of bicycle users crossing a major intersection. We started with our Choreography of an Urban Intersection and have also applied it to studying a shared pedestrian/cyclist space in Islands Brygge. Based on the analysis of these “Desire lines”, we study and then propose changes to create urban spaces tailored for humans – cyclists and pedestrians.

Today we can present a new case: a lively, neighbourhood street with a name unpronouncable to foreigners (like most streets in Copenhagen): Værnedamsvej.

Værnedamsvej is a lovely little street lined with small shops and cafés/restaurants. These businesses and the French school, with around 800 students, create a bustling environment. Years ago the street was nicknamed Butchers Street (Slagtergade) because of the many meatmongers. Now, because of the French restaurants and the school, it's nicknamed The French Street. 

One of the street's intrinsic features is that the border between the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg zig zags down the street. Few people know where the border runs and it doesn't really matter to them - or to us. This municipal divide has been the reason, however, that the street hasn't been redesigned and modernised. There has been talk of it for a couple of decades, but the two municipalities haven't been able to figure it out. 

The street has a fantastic old-school neighbourhood feel but it is also a key route between the two municipalities. There are many cyclists using the street on their A to B journeys despite the lack of infrastructure. Regular bikes and cargo bikes. Also, the many pedestrians suffer from hopelessly narrow sidewalks. 

Here is a brief technical description of Værnedamsvej:

  • 190 meters long and 12 meters wide;

  • link between two main streets (Gammel Kongevej and Vesterbrogade – both are two-way streets with cycle tracks)

  • connected to the main street Frederiksberg Allé

  • a part of the street is one-way for cars and the other is two-way for cars

  • there is no dedicated infrastructures for bicycle users (no bike lane or even bike racks).

This street is one our favourites in the city and we've been looking at it for ages. Finally, the two municipalities have decided to do something about it and a redesign is in process. We thought we would analyse the street ourselves.

Redesigning the street is one thing. It works relatively well as it is. Bizarrely, it's a 50 km/h zone, but the many pedestrians and cyclists serve to slow it right down to a human speed. We have been looking at the street itself, but we quickly realised that whatever redesign ends up in place, it is completely and utterly irrelevant unless the two intersections at either are dealt with first.

The southern intersection is one of the biggest brain farts in Copenhagen. It's a nightmare and completely ignores the natural Desire Lines of cyclists and pedestrians. The intersection also straddles the municipal border, so that probably explains the fall of reason and the rise of half-hearted municipal comprimise.

At the corner of Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Allé, cyclists simply cannot cross the intersection “legally”. They must use through a car lane with oncoming, turning cars or get off their bike (in principle) and pretend they are pedestrians, using the two-stage crossing.

To redesign this street, Copenhagen and Frederiksberg municipalities need to work together. This street deserves it. It is a model of lively and meaningful urban atmosphere in a dense, residential district. It's a life-sized street, nestled in between two main boulevards. With a few rearrangements people would enjoy the urban life in even better conditions. We're pleased that the two municipalities have finally agreed to act. We're all for it. In our point of view, however, the first thing to do to improve this street is to fix the intersections. After that, the street can be tackled. 

We tracked the Desire Lines of the bicycle users and mapped them and now we're going to proposed solutions based on these important factors.

The study is divided in 5 blogposts:

  • Part 1: Introduction

  • Part 2: The Desire Lines tool applied to an asymmetric intersection (Værnedamsvej , Gammel Kongevej, Svanholmsvej)

  • Part 3: The Desire Lines tool applied to a complex intersection (Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade, Frederiksberg Allé)

  • Part 4: The Copenhagenize Fixes - our proposals to make the intersections life-sized

  • Part 5: the Copenhagenize Fixes - our proposal for a redesign Værnedamsvej

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