Inequality and cycling in Denmark

Oct 08, 2014
Inequality and cycling in Denmark


Copenhagen 1960s
A city rapidly being turned over to cars – no cyclists at all

In a previous post, we looked at whether cycling is something only the wealthy do. It turns out that even in the United States, people on low incomes do cycle more. Presumably because it offers them a cheap and reliable (especially considering the United States’ poor transit options) form of transport.

But can cycling really help those on lower incomes? Could cycling become a factor in rebalancing some of the growing inequality we are seeing in NZ? Should investment in cycling be seen as a way to help low income families do more with their money?

unstylish danes
Transport cycling in Denmark – not just wealthy MAMILs

Evidence from Denmark indicates that the answer to all those questions is a definite yes. As we all know, Denmark is the second country in the world for cycling rates and has invested in some amazing cycle infrastructure. In a similar way to the Netherlands, investment like this diverted Denmark in the 1970s from the auto dependent path it headed down in the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately this was a path NZ never diverted from, despite cycling being a huge part of our transport picture and Auckland being a premier public transport city until the 1950s thanks to its comprehensive tram network.

If the government is serious about helping low income families – investment in cycling is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of doing so. One issue is that most of the focus on cycling in NZ tends to be on areas with high average incomes. There are exceptions like the great Future Streets programme in Mangere. Projects like this can not only offer low income families a way to travel cheaply to school, work or public transport, it will also encourage more exercise to combat obesity.

It just needs political will from our leaders and it can happen.

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