The moment I arrived in Copenhagen last week, the climate change talks ground to a halt. Delegates from the G-77 (poorer) countries walked out in disgust, just as thousands of official observers, me included, were queuing up outside the conference hall trying to get in. Neither story made the front pages back in the States but the Danish and European press was not happy at all.
I wasn't too happy either. I hadn't traveled 5,000 kms (by air) just to stand out in the cold for hours on end to get the first of two badges that qualified me to get a second badge that might then get me into the conference hall with 15,000 of the 45,000 other registered participants to the COP15 climate summit. And most of those people had not traveled all that way (also mostly by air) to see these critical talks deadlocked in seemingly petty battles and political grandstanding.
Turns out, that was exactly what happened on both counts. I was also profoundly disappointed though not surprised to see that transportation issues, and cycling specifically, were almost totally absent from the conversation. Lots of interest in electric vehicles and alternative fuels and what the Chinese/Americans were doing with wind and solar and wave and nuclear and light bulbs and insulation but virtually nothing about bikes, and really very few people there to talk about it from either the industry, environmental or user group side.
So it's a good job that Copenhagen is a fantastic city for anyone interested in cycling! Even with frigid temperatures and a few centimeters of snow on the ground, the city gets around on bikes. Right outside City Hall there is a bike counter with a real-time display and 1,500 riders had been by that one spot at 8:43 a.m. one cold weekday morning. An International Herald Tribune editorial writer encouraged delegates to take note of this. Copenhageners are green AND prosperous!
If you don't believe me, come see for yourself this coming June at the Velo City Global international cycling conference. I guarantee you'll be inspired by the 37 percent share of trips that are made by bike in this city and in June it'll be WARM, and the conference registration will be a lot smoother than the United Nations managed last week!
Andy Clarke is president of the League of American Bicyclists.
The bike counter outside Copenhagen city hall counts cyclists as they go by each day. It has a running total since May '09.
Ordinary, everyday Copenhagen cyclists brave horrible weather!