Lost in translation
I apologise for the English naming of this bridge. In Danish, it is ‘Cykel-slangen’ (Cykel = bicycle + Slange = snake and inner tube). Which refers to both the form of the bridge and to the bike inner tube. With Bicycle Snake, the double meaning is very much lost in translation.
Bicycle Snake Bridge, then:
The poor naming aside, The Bicycle Snake Bridge is a great experience!
Riding it, especially from the top-down, one will have the surrounding area displayed in a cinematographic fashion. It’s like a (short) road movie, the dream of radical freedom, the American highway translated to urban cycling. As you float effortlessly through space in easy control of your two wheels, your view automatically pans to one side and back, dynamically shifting between near field views of the public space below, people swimming, neighbouring buildings, and far distance views through the stretch of the harbour to the historic towers in the central city.
Alright, I could be carried away just a tiny bit, but my point is, that it is more than mere practicality.
The long propaganda-for-cycling-ramble
Not that practicalities are unimportant. There are plenty of measurable, practical and monetizable benefits of cycling infrastructure.
Each person replacing a 1-kilometre car drive with a 1-kilometre bike ride saves the community roughly 1 Euro.
Most of this comes down to healthcare costs because of fewer sick days. Staying physically active on the bikes is, of course, healthy. But also, the more people who bike, the fewer particles and fumes we exhaust, so the air is cleaner, and also car drivers are more healthy…
Copenhageners ride around 1.300.000 kilometres per day, so – please do the math! It has been concluded that the bike bridges have generated a sound return on investments for the city.
Besides the fiscal benefits, I have to believe – with my training in an aesthetical profession – that aesthetical qualities also matter to human well-being. At least speaking for myself, I really enjoy a bike ride through diverse spaces and places in the city.
On my bike, I’m able to go anywhere in the city. Through small streets in all the different neighbourhoods, green areas, car-free routes along the harbour, shortcuts to everywhere.
And when I do, I’m physically present in those spaces to experience its particular qualities or lack thereof. I become much more aware of the diversity of the spaces of the city. I feel the weather conditions for better or worse, and I meet all kinds of people on the bike lanes, I see their weird hair or the colour of their skin, I see hippies next to men in suits next to homeless people, old and young, and whole families in cargo bikes.
By no means is the fact of public money spent more wisely of little importance. But it’s distant and abstract as an individual encouragement. Being grounded and belonging to a city I know well, among people I know, and feeling free to move where I want when I want, is more directly rewarding.
The best example
And finally back to The Bicycle Snake Bridge: I think this bridge is the single strongest expression of a city that puts a lot of emphasis on all of these different aspects of cycling, to encourage still more people to choose the bike every day. It is actually not even strictly necessary. Before the bridge was opened, many cyclists carried their bike up a couple of stair flights to get to the landing on top, or they took a detour around the shopping mall to use a ramp together with the cars to get to that same place.
The Bicycle Snake Bridge is apparently one of only very few bikes-only bridges (no pedestrians!) in the world. Maybe because it’s so unusual, maybe because many can’t resist it, often pedestrian will defy the rules and make bottlenecks for the bike traffic.