Author:Martin Emanuel (Uppsala University)
Paper short abstract:
This article treats the long-term historical co-production of cycling practice and cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen, and highlights in particular an important feature of infrastructure: its obduracy and capacity to preserve habits and cultures of the past.
Paper long abstract:
Politicians, planners and bicycle lobbyists around the world praise Copenhagen as a truly bicycle-friendly city. The Danish capital earned its reputation as a "bicycle city" early on. Recent lobby and planning initiatives are indeed progressive in comparison to many other cities and should not be underestimated as explanatory factors to the currently high levels of cycling. In this article, however, I argue that the foundation for the "bicycle renaissance" in Copenhagen since the mid-1970s was laid much earlier, and moreover, that it would not have come about without consistent pressure from cyclists and their representatives.
In the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century a network of bicycle paths and lanes was developed under the auspices of different actors: first organized bourgeois cyclists, and later municipal engineers and urban planners. In the post-WW2 period this network made cycling a more resilient practice in Copenhagen than in many other places. Even though cycling levels declined, the practice was never wiped out in the same way as elsewhere. While a vivid cycling culture produced materiality in the first place, that same materiality continued to sustain cycling and Copenhagen as a cycling city. The article thus highlights an important feature of infrastructure: its obduracy and capacity to preserve habits and cultures of the past.
Infrastructures in practice and in flux