Bikeability – what’s that ?

During a presentation session within the Meet The Danes Session at Velo-City global 2010 where Hans Skov-Petersen and Thomas Sick presented the bikeability project, Sesselja

Traustadóttir (Hjólafærni á Íslandi/Bikeability in Iceland) seemed a little disappointed, that our project seemed not to be dealing with bikeability in the sense of bicycling proficiency but rather got it’s title derived from liveability – a well established indicator of our life-world.

To avoid more lingual confusion out there, I’d like to seize this opportunity to explain what we within the context of this project mean when we say bikeabilitygood bikeabilityno bikeability or even excellent bikeability.

Before we indulge ourselves with digging deeper into explaining I’d like to add a little note: I am currently aware of that in certain parts of the world, bikeability has to do something to do with the ability to bike, cycling proficiency mostly connected with governmental programs or tests for children, whether they are ready to bike on their own in traffic or not.

Biking from early age on at Amgerstrand Promenaden, Copenhagen

In Denmark, we are not relying that much on testing or especially educating our children, we just let them participate in traffic from an early age on. Whether they are put into children seats on our own bikes, within cargo bikes, in trailers or on half bikes. From an early age on we let them bike just in front of us on cycle paths and cycle lanes, guiding them through traffic, past curbs, dangerous lorries and are ready to give them a push when needed.




Within this research project, I’d therefore define bikeability in line with the definition of livability as

Variant(s): also bike·abil·i·ty
Function: noun

1. suitaibility for human biking

This project will therefore amongst other academic results come up with methods to determine a spatial bikeability index of neighborhoods or even cities as a measure for the preconditions for cycling. The more bikeable a city is, the more liveable, less polluted, more CO2 neutral, the more healthier and long living it’s inhabitants hopefully will be. That’s at least some of the hypothesis we are currently pursuing.


Infrastructure : Bicycle repair shop in Blågårdsgade, Copenhagen

Physical changes or interventions in cities as for example bridging barriers like waterways, high-class roads or installing technical aids to overcome topographic impediments like steep hills, extending and meliorating comfortable and safe bicycle lanes and -paths, enhancing and tightening the net of bicycle paths and installing infrastructure like air pumps, repair and parking facilities might be important factors towards maximum bikeabilitybut might not be enough.




Infrastructure : Bicycle rack for a fixie at Nørreport Station, CopenhagenSocial, cultural and ethnographic factors may be as important, therefore big effort will be spent on looking into these and figuring out how we can get the businessman in a suit, the obese, the female immigrant, th e politician onto a bike and discover the benefits of cycling for themselves and their surroundings.





And back to Sesselja …  I’d love to share my work and findings with you, either here on the blog or in person in Reykjavík, I know there’s loads of possibilities of improvements towards a bicyclist-friendly infrastructure and society even in your place – complementing and extending good initiatives like the hydrogen powered buses , the initiatives of the Association for a Car-free Lifestyle and trying to get a share of the daily home-to-work or home-to-school traffic onto bikes.

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