Copenhagen's Bridge Story

Author: Kadri Rood

Mobility planning in Copenhagen is not complete without consideration of the water that surrounds the city. The blue space provides many opportunities for locals and tourists alike, be that for swimming, kayaking, boat rides or walks by the waterfront. It can also be a barrier however, on our way from one place to the other.      

Until 2006, there were only three bridges crossing Copenhagen’s Inner Harbour, all of which prioritized motorised traffic. Today, three new car-free bridges cross the harbour, and many others cross smaller canals and busy roads. These new connections have had a huge impact on travel time, safety, and travel quality for cyclists and pedestrians, and many of them have also become architectural landmarks.

A connecting element for many of the bridges is the “Harbour Circle”, a 13 km cycling route that circles the Copenhagen harbour, including 11 bridges. The total number of bridges in the city is much higher, but many are modest and hardly noticeable, whereas some of the newer car-free ones are more spectacular in their design.

This is where some of the most important new car-free bridges are located:

Bryggebroen (“the pier bridge”) was opened in 2006 and was the first new bridge crossing the harbour in 50 years. It was designed by Dissing+Weitling architects and co-financed by the City of Copenhagen and landowners on both sides of the harbour. Bryggebroen became a valuable shortcut for those coming from and going to the island of Amager, where the University of Copenhagen and the IT University are located.

The success of the bridge exceeded all expectations and continues to grow. The initial estimated daily number of cyclists was 4,000, but on an average weekday in 2019, more than 22,000 cyclists crossed the bridge. Early cost-benefit studies showed an internal rate of 7.7% and a net value of €5 million.

Image by: Per Wessel

Cykelslangen (“the cycle serpent”) is a continuation of the Bryggebroen, opened in 2014. It is an elevated cyclists-only ramp that takes people from the landing area of Bryggebroen up to Dybbølsbro, a big railway bridge crossing one of the main railway corridors into the city. Designed by Dissing+Weitling, Cykelslangen finishes what Bryggebroen started by filling the gap in a smooth connection between the two sides of the harbour.

With its iconic curved shape, it acts as a visual landmark for cyclists and the pedestrians walking underneath, who no longer have to share the pavement with fast-moving cyclists. It has become one of the best-known pieces of cycling infrastructure in the world and 17,500 cyclists crossed it on an average weekday in 2019. Cost-benefit studies show that the bridge has generated daily time savings of 380 hours and 1,400 fewer car trips, resulting in an internal rate of investment of 9%.

Image by: Ursula Bach

Cirkelbroen (“the circle bridge”) opened in 2015 and is designed by the well-known Danish-Icelandic artist and architect Olafur Eliasson. The bridge was donated to the city by the Nordea Foundation. With its round-shaped, connected platforms and sail-like pillars, it combines art with infrastructure. Cirkelbroen crosses Christianshavns Canal, where it meets Copenhagen harbour, filling a gap in the harbour promenade. Although crossed by 2,300 cyclists on an average weekday in 2019, the cobblestone pavement and lower speeds along the promenade make it even more popular among pedestrians than cyclists.

Image by: Ursula Bach

Inderhavnsbroen (“the Inner Harbour Bridge”) opened in 2016. Designed by Studio Bednarski Limited DFA, the bridge was commissioned by the City of Copenhagen and co-financed by the A.P Møller Foundation. Despite some criticism about the technical solutions used, the bridge has provided a much-needed connection between the Inner City and Christianshavn, used by locals and visitors alike. The bridge includes platforms where one can stop and get a panoramic view of the Inner Harbour area. On an average weekday in 2019, 14,800 cyclists crossed the bridge, though first estimations only expected around 7,000.

Image by: Troels Heien

Lille Langebro (“the little long bridge”) is, as the name says, neighbour to Langebro, one of the central connections over the harbour for motorised transport. Designed by WilkinsonEyre and Urban Agency, and commissioned by the Realdania Foundation, Lille Langebro was opened in 2019. It provides cyclists and pedestrians with a pleasant alternative to the heavily trafficked Langebro bridge.

Image by: Troels Heien

Copenhagen’s cycling bridges have added great value to the city, in regards to both mobility and aesthetics. Nearly all of the bridges have their own challenges however, be that their design, traffic or number of users. Current solutions should be analysed thoroughly in order to use the lessons learned in future projects, because the Copenhagen’s “bridge-story” is far from over. Looking to the future, the municipality is planning for the development of two new bridges to the south of the city, and one bridge to the north.

Image by: Dragør Luftfoto

This project has received funding from the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement no 769177.

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