Denmark is known for its infrastructure and good bike lanes. Whether you are a student or a businessperson, your chosen form of transport will often be the bike. For some time, other countries have been looking to Denmark – and to Scandinavia in general – for inspiration on how to reduce public car use and increase the cyclist culture, as well as on how to transform public spaces into pedestrian-friendly areas.
The mayor of New York has promised people a greener city by focusing on sustainability and means of transport. The Green Lane project is a partnership between six US cities – including New York, San Francisco and Chicago – working to implement next-generation protected bike lanes where people of all ages can feel safe to cycle.
In addition, Danish Gehl Architects and Norwegian Snøhetta have both taken on projects to transform public spaces in New York, one of them is Times Square. Gehl has expertise in creating cities for people through a people first approach to city planning and urban design. Gehl’s task was to implement new ways of encouraging the people of New York to cycle and walk more – so reducing traffic, improving public life and creating a more sustainable city with less pollution from cars. In a survey by Gehl, it was discovered only 10% of the space in Times Square was for pedestrians, even though pedestrians accounted for 90% of all users.
Through communication and events on the streets of New York, the public began to welcome the changes. So far, at least 45,000 square metres of space in the heart of Manhattan have been reclaimed from traffic for use by people. More people now sit and talk, watch the world go by and eat their lunch outside in the public spaces. This year, Times Square has undergone the second phase, creating permanent changes to make it a truly people-centred space.
Snøhetta is responsible for the design of the public spaces in Times Square. Snøhetta’s design created uncluttered pedestrian zones and a cohesive surface from building front to building front. Through architecture, New Yorkers are now changing how they get around. Their use of public spaces is also increasing as architecture and city planning have created more seating areas.
Another feature of Denmark that has experienced a lot of interest from abroad is our classic design heritage – with great minds such as Kaare Klint, Hans J Wegner and Arne Jacobsen. However, another aspect of Danish design is now relevant in New York, with Danish bicycle brand Herskind + Herskind having spotted an opening in the US market. Owner Jan Herskind has a dream that his handmade bikes will make even businesspeople cycle to work.
The unique thing about a bike from Herskind + Herskind is the high level of craftsmanship, as each is made by hand, using high-quality German steel, by one person. Each bike is made by order only, so that it is tailor-made to fit you. However, in order to get businesspeople in New York to exchange their cars for bikes, Jan has plans to design a bike that includes a leather briefcase to carry a laptop and a tablet. The bike will also be electric, so that you can arrive in your business wear without breaking a sweat.
‘All the bikes I design can be transformed into electric bikes. I think that it is important that even when you live 15 km from work, you can arrive in style by bike in your Armani suit without breaking a sweat. It is also easier to get to business meetings in the city by bike – and if the bike is electric, it is faster and more efficient,’ explained Jan.
A Dane famous for always taking his bike to work is newly appointed President of the United Nations General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft. When he moved to New York, he still wanted to be able to take his bike to work; with the new bike lanes that have been introduced, he will be able to take his Danish lifestyle with him. Herskind + Herskind have designed a bike in United Nations blue.
‘I have truly missed riding a bike. In Denmark, I almost always took my bike to work from Taarbæk (in the Northern part of Zealand) to Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament in the centre of Copenhagen, and back again. Riding a bike is a part of my daily routine. That is why I look forward to doing so riding a bike in New York – and not just any bike, but a bike in United Nations blue. New York has been very inspired by the Danish bicycle culture and – during the last couple of years – bike lanes have been introduced over most of Manhattan, so it really is possible to go most places by bike, though you still need to be extra careful,’ explained Mogens.