Copenhagen has just opened a bright orange cycle bridge across its harbour

Image: Ursula Bach and Dissing+Weitling architecture.

Copenhagen is well known as one of the world’s most cycle-friendly cities: around a third of the workforce cycle to work, there are bike lanes on most major roads, and the city’s hoping to get half its citizens onto two wheels by 2015. Having already explored all the obvious ways of luring people onto their bikes, the city authorities have now resorted to building a bright orange cycle bridge over the harbour.

The elevated “Cykelslangen” or “bicycle snake” connects the highway to the existing Brygge bridge, which has spanned the southern part of the harbour since 2006. The new extension is 4m wide, 220m long, and, like a road in miniature, has two directional lanes. It’s also elevated, snaking through the harbourfront’s modern apartment buildings at the height of one storey.

Here’s a map of its route, with the new bridge in yellow:

The bridge was designed by Dissing+Weitling architects to fill an awkward gap in cyclists’ route from the city to Amager, the island across the harbour. Previously, they had to drag their bikes up a flight of steps to get to the main bridge. Now, they can make their way from the city to the island without dismounting. 

Copenhagenize, a local cycling site, reported that some cyclists were so eager to try to new bridge that they actually broke into it before it was open to the public. This, though, was partly because construction was blocking their normal route. Luckily, the bridge is now open, and this cycle-anarchy can now come to an end: the article goes on to assure us that “In general, Danes respect the road signs”. Phew.

The city is also planning six more bridges over the harbour, though these will be for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Here's the bridge at various stages of construction:

All images: Ursula Bach and Dissing+Weitling architecture.


What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.