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Cycling Knowledge

How do we get more Danes to choose the bicycle over the car?

We love the story of Denmark as one of the world's leading cycling nations. But in reality, an increasing number of Danes have abandoned cycling in favor of their car in the last 10 years. How can we encourage Danes to cycle again?? A new digital map of Denmark shows where in Denmark there is potential for more cycling.

We’re not entirely sure why Danes are cycling less in recent years, but we do know that it would benefit both the climate and the health of Danes if more people chose to cycle instead of driving a car for short trips.  
The big question is how to achieve this.
As part of the extensive “Moving Denmark” study, researchers at SDU have surveyed over 160,000 Danes about their exercise habits, including cycling. This survey provides a much better understanding of Danish cycling behavior and insights into the potential for promoting cycling.
SDU researchers, together with the Danish Centre for Cycling Knowledge at the Danish Road Directorate, have now converted this data into a digital map of Denmark that shows where the greatest potential is for getting more people to cycle. View the map here.
We asked Active Living researcher Jasper Schipperijn how the research can help reverse the trend.

1. What can we learn from your study?

Firstly, that there is enormous potential for promoting cycling in Denmark. Our analysis shows that almost 30% of people aged 15 and over who work or study, live within 15 km of their workplace or educational institution, but do not use their bicycle during their commute.
In fact, this equates to almost 700,000 people who have the potential to cycle more, either on a regular bike for distances less than 5 km or on an e-bike for distances less than 15 km.

The second important aspect of our study, and particularly the way we have made the results accessible to all, is to provide anyone interested in promoting cycling with detailed information on cycling behavior, including neighborhood-level data.

The study allows us to identify areas with the potential for promoting cycling, as well as understanding the perceived barriers to cycling in those areas.

2. Why is it important to investigate the transport habits of the Danish population?

Our goal is to identify areas in the country with the greatest potential for promoting cycling as it is not realistic for everyone or in every location to cycle more.   

However, by focusing our efforts in areas where promoting cycling is feasible, we have the greatest chance of realizing significant health and climate benefits.  

3. How will you get more Danes to choose the bike?

That is a very good question that is difficult to answer briefly. We believe it begins with identifying individuals or areas where there is potential for promoting cycling.

In short, we believe that promoting cycling is easiest where individuals live in close proximity to their work, education, or everyday destinations, but where they do not currently cycle to these destinations.

The specific changes needed to promote cycling in these areas or among these individuals will vary depending on the context. In some places, the solution could be a new or better bike path. In other places, it could be a new electric bike partly subsidized by the employer or a fun bike app on the phone that enables people to compete with classmates or colleagues.

The ability to tailor solutions to the location and target group significantly increases the chance of successful behavioral change. It is important to acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work when it comes to promoting behavioral change.

4. What do we gain by changing our habits in our daily transportation?

Cycling is a way for us to easily, quickly, and cost-effectively transport ourselves. For distances up to 5 km, most people can use a regular bike, and for distances up to 15 km, e-bikes can be the solution for many.The health and climate benefits of getting everyone to fully utilize their cycling potential are enormous.


About the Study

In the Moving Denmark project, researchers at SDU have asked over 160,000 Danes about their movement habits, including cycling, to gain a better understanding of their behavior. 
Participants were asked about the frequency of their cycling to work or education, everyday destinations, and in their free time. 
They were also asked the reasons why they cycle or do not cycle, as well as the distances they have to travel to work or education and daily destinations.
The SDU researchers have now transformed this data into a digital map of Denmark, highlighting areas with the greatest potential for increasing cycling. You can view the map here.
Meet the researcher

Jasper Schipperijn is a professor at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics and is researching the human relation to the physical environment.


Editing was completed: 10.05.2023