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Dissing+Weitling: Embracing bicycles in urban planning and building

November 6, 2023

Dissing+Weitling has a strong reputation for designing buildings and bridges with people in mind. Irrespective of the type of construction or where it is in the world, Dissing+Weitling strives to make a positive difference for the people who use the architecture and space every day. Cycling through a city should be fun, working in an office should be comfortable, and waiting for a train should feel safe. In Copenhagen, the Bicycle Snake is a concrete example of how the architectural firm contributes to site-specific urban development, stimulating healthy and climate friendly activity in the urban space.

Embracing bicycles in urban planning and building

Bicycle infrastructure can incentivize citizen’s adoption of socially and environmentally sustainable mobility. When cities invest in bicycle infrastructure, not only do they reduce the number of vehicles on the road, the active form of commuting can result in better public health outcomes and contribute to citizen’s sense of place – with dynamic views and time spent outdoors strengthening the user’s relationship with the environment and urban fabric. The Bicycle Snake reflects the ethics of the architect firm Dissing+Weitling, who designed it: Architecture can inspire people to change personal transportation habits and, in doing so, have a huge positive impact on our climate.

The City of Copenhagen – and its cyclists – holds a proud example of this: The Bicycle Snake, which might be small in scall and constructing costs, but mega in terms of catalysing value and sustainable urban transport. It is an elevated 230-meter two-way bike lane at first-floor level that wriggles its way over the quay and the harbour. Initially the project scope was a replacement stairwell and ramp, but Dissing+Weitling engaged in an iterative design process with the city and provided a specific bicycle pathway that ensured a safe, enjoyable crossing. Using parametric design – and thereby pushing boundaries – Dissing+Weitling saw a potential in unfolding the ramp, stretch it out, and curve it. Across the water, in between the buildings, and down close to the Quay Bridge. Hereby not only making it more joyful to ride on, with less steep gradients and better curvature, but also making it an element that can pull together an ‘uninviting’ area, with conflicting interest between cyclists and pedestrians. Copenhageners now use the surrounding space as a meeting place, and pedestrians on the concourse beneath the bridge no longer need to make way for passing cyclists.

In 2006, the bridge supported 8,000 cyclists in moving into Islands Brygge and Amager. After two years of operation, 80% more bicycles snake through the quay each day and The City of Copenhagen measures a daily savings of 380 hours spent commuting and 1,400 fewer kilometres of car travel. By 2034, the Bicycle Snake will contribute approximately 5.9 mil. euros in measurable socio-economic value. In addition, the Bicycle Snake has attracted a great deal of international media attention and has become an international icon that brands Copenhagen as a city for cyclists. The Bicycle Snake saves commuters more than 670.000 euros worth of precious time each year.

Photo credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj, COAST Studio.

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About Dissing+Weitling

Dissing+Weitling works within Building, Mobility, Transformation, and Cultural Heritage and can trace its DNA back to Arne Jacobsen’s firm, which Dissing+Weitling has continued since 1971. The portfolio comprises international headquarters and offices, cultural institutions, hotels, and residential areas, as well as world-famous bridges such as the Bicycle Snake and the Great Belt Bridge.

To this date the firm has been involved in more than 400 bridge and site development projects in 60 different countries across six continents.