Denmark’s “Two-Thirds Green, One-Third Black” Traffic Investment Plan
Biking and walking in Copenhagen. Photo by Stig Nygaard.

Biking and walking in Copenhagen. Flickr photo by Stig Nygaard.

Last Thursday, the Danish government agreed to invest 94 billion kroner ($16 billion) to improve the nation’s roads, railways and bike lanes by 2020.

Traffic Minister Lars Barfoed was quoted by The Copenhagen Post as saying, “The shape of the agreement is clear: two-thirds green, one-third black,” meaning that most of the budget will go towards public transit infrastructure and the rest will be spent on asphalt road projects.

Here’s a sample of projects included in the investment plan:

- Increasing the number of cyclists (1 billion kroner)
- Improved bus traffic (1 billion kroner)
- Improving access to public transit (1 billion kroner)
- Improved traffic safety (500 million kroner)

When it comes to ranking bicycle-friendly cities, Copenhagen has always done well, frequently referred to as a “city of bikes.”

Even though Copenhagen has led the way with two-wheeled transport in the past, it looks like the rest of Denmark still has some catching up to do. The blog says “it’s about time that cycling is mentioned on a national level, as has been the case in Holland since the early 1990s.”

Indeed, Amsterdam claims the top spot for “bike capital of the world,” considering 60 percent of all inner city trips are made by bicycle. And not only that, but for the first time, Amsterdammers are riding their bikes more than their cars.

With Denmark’s new parliamentary agreement, the country is well on its way to showing national support for bicycle and mass transit infrastructure, which is often left up to local or regional governments. And the federal emphasis on funding “green” projects is notable, considering the habits of more “black” asphalt- and car-centric nations.

Take, for example, the United States, where transportation spending priorities are nearly the complete opposite of Denmark’s, as explained in a recent article about the economic benefits of mass transit in The Nation:

Government regulations and spending priorities have favored driving as the means of moving people and products since the Eisenhower administration and the advent of the Interstate Highway System. More than 80 percent of transit money from gas taxes supports highways and bridges, with the remainder, less than 20 percent, allocated for mass transit. Moreover, federal contributions to highway projects often cover more than 80 percent of the total construction costs, compared with only 50 percent of the typical cost for a transit system. Rail freight, which uses one-third as much energy per mile as trucking to ship a pound of cargo, has no federal funding at all.

In light of this, James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has proposed a “healthier mix,” as reported in a previous post on TheCityFix.

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  • Henrik Gudmundsson

    Denmarks plan is only ‘two thirds green’ if you consider the expected spending (input), and include catching up with decades of neglect in rail reinvestments (e.g replacing up to 70 year old signals and switches). A plans green’ness should be measured by its outcomes, not its input that may not be nearly enough to make transport impacts much greener than today. In short it is naive, bordering on greenwash, to call this plan ‘two thirds green’, even if it does contain some needed and novel initiatives.

  • Graham Hill

    If US cities like Boulder, Davis,Portland among others made this commitment to be 2/3 green and 1/3 black we would have models here. It will take bold leadership from those that can make this happen. In the next 20 years people will try to navigate and live in these cities that prioritize this arrangement of public works funding.

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