Do Copenhagen Police Make it Up As They Go Along?

Background Reading


25 APRIL 2014

Source: Copenhagenize


The Ticket

The Ticket

You know you live in a a car-centric city when it’s not allowed for bicycle users to turn right on red. Despite the fact that it’s legal in many European cities in France, Belgium and be tested in many others, like Basel. Despite the fact that it is one of the most obvious things to implement to encourage cycling and keep bicycle users safe.

A French friend new to Copenhagen had seen that a few Copenhageners turned right on red – only a small number, of course, as we’ve figured out – but one day in April he was stopped by Torben. Torben is a civil servant – a policeman – and that day he was out trying to meet the quotas necessary to please his boss.

Bicycle users are the low-hanging fruit for such situations. Going after motorists is time-consuming and tiring. Just stand at the usual spots and hand out fines for minor infractions – many of which that don’t have a place in the law books in a modern city.

So Torben was just doing his job, as dictated by his superiors. It isn’t known whether Torben was one of the many police officers who have publicly criticized the fact that they are forced to hand out traffic tickets to meet quotas.

Torben, however, seems to have some issues with understanding the basic rules about cycling. Fine, turning right on red isn’t allowed at the intersection in question – Store Kongensgade/Gothersgade – so stopping my friend Romain is fair enough. A newcomer to Copenhagen – from a city where right turns on red for bicycle users is allowed at a number of intersections – could be forgiven for not knowing that Copenhagen hasn’t yet removed this archaeic law. You’d think some respect and flexibility for foreigners navigating the city would be in its place, especially since Romain rolled calmly around the corner without bothering any pedestrians or other traffic users.

Torben informed Romain that his bicycle is required to have two brakes. The coaster brake on its own wasn’t enough. Again, how are visitors supposed to know that Denmark has many obscure laws like this? Flexibility for visitors, please. You’ll still make your quotas if you put your mind to it, Torben.

Then it all got a bit strange. Torben informed our visitor that his bicycle was also required to have magnetic lights and fenders. That it was illegal to ride it in Copenhagen. Magnetic lights are well-known in Denmark, but how on earth should a Frenchman have heard of them? And fenders? It’s a no-brainer that fenders make sense for city cycling, sure, but you know what? It is not required by any law that a bicycle be equipped with magnetic lights (it was also broad daylight) or fenders.

The fine ($200) only covered the right turn on red but it left Romain very confused.

Romain emailed me to ask about these bizarre claims by Torben and I explained it to him. I also explained that he join the Cykelrazzia Facebook group in order to coordinate with almost 2000 other bicycle users in Copenhagen about the placement of the police’s quota traps each day.

Can somebody tell our dear civil servant Torben the facts? And make sure his colleagues are in the same loop?

It’s no secret that the Copenhagen Police are among the most bicycle unfriendly in Europe, but when it gets this silly, it doesn’t help anyone.


Chicago has a better safety record than does the Netherlands.

The population of Chicago is around 2.715 million:

Given that the population of the Netherlands is 16.8 million and last year 184 cyclists were killed in traffic, that is roughly 10.95 deaths per million population. Now Chicago had about 12 cyclists killed in traffic for its 2.715 million in population. That equates to about 4.42 deaths per million.

And yet every spring we have a cyclic debate about the Idaho Stop Law. For all their blather about waning exercise cyclists are in reality among the laziest people on the roadway when it comes to lifting their feet off a pedal and placing it down on the pavement and then following a light change picking up that same foot and returning it to a pedal before shoving off. As you can see this sort of thing is a real burden on cyclists who are one level in the food chain above invalids.

So each year we have to revisit this discussion about whether or not we should be able to treat a stop sign as non-existent and a traffic signal as a suggestion to venture out into the intersection. Ok. I am not going to argue the point, let’s just take a look at what that looks like in China:

I Am In Agreement So Long As The Playing Field Is Level For Everyone

Around the world there are intersections which are uncontrolled for everyone. You can read more about them here. Some European cities have tried the Uncontrolled Intersection approach to good effect:

Here’s The Trick

This approach works because everyone is on the same page. The usual blather about wanting to have an Idaho Stop Law is silly because it involves a single memo (essentially to cyclists) who are then free to continue to be scofflaws to the dismay of pedestrians and motorists.

But when everyone has a copy of the memo then things change drastically. There is no longer a carte blanche for a roadie group to come blasting through an intersection where unsuspecting motorists and pedestrians are caught unawares. When anyone can enter the intersection without pausing then everyone is placed at the same high level of risk. That alone tends to moderate behavior.

You might wonder why would a motorist moderate their behavior since they are high on the food chain? Well for one thing if you enter an intersection and strike another car or truck you can be harmed. Likewise, if you are a cyclist and know for certain that motorists do not have to stop you tend to enter cautiously. The same goes for a pedestrian.

In fact everyone takes their safety seriously under these conditions. Besides it stops all the blow hards who are really in search of a way out of having to behave and could care less about public safety, just personal convenience.