It's explained thus: "As a general rule in Denmark, cyclists are required to make a wide left turn where they cross the perpendicular street and wait to cross the original one. The space between the crosswalk and bike lane becomes a waiting area for the cyclists turning left. Those who are continuing straight are supposed to stop before the crosswalk.". Two-stage turns are neither efficient nor safe for cycling.
Going straight on can be hazardous as well...
This video shows another similar situation. The cycle path becomes a right turn lane for all vehicles when it comes to junctions. To combine cyclists travelling straight on with right turning drivers in one lane is to create conflict. It's a dangerous design:
A narrow cycle-path with a dangerous kerb at the right and trees too close by on the left merges with motor vehicles going right at the junction. People praise this ?
Sadly, it's not unique. Here's another example.
Copenhagenize recently covered an improvement to this, but it was not to give cyclists more space, or to make left turns more efficient or safer. Rather, LEDs have been used to try to warn drivers of the danger that they pose to cyclists:
Much the same situation as before, but with added flashing lights ? If the existing situation was good enough then the lights would not have been tried. This is a story of failure, not of success. Instead of this band-aid measure, why didn't they simply copy a much superior and more convenient design of junction ?
Nice flashy video, but why ? Is this really the best they can do ? This is not good infrastructure. It encourages cyclists to be on the wrong side of turning motor vehicles, increasing conflict. Most deaths of cyclists in London, where driving and cycling is on the left hand side of the road, are due to cyclists on the left hand side of trucks being crushed as the truck turns left.
The same can happen in countries where it is normal to drive and cycle on the right. It appears that the infrastructure in Copenhagen is designed such that it actually encourages these conflicts rather than avoiding them.
What are actually needed are junction designs which separate cyclists in time as well as space, and that's what we have here in the Netherlands. If a cyclist has a green light to go straight on, then a driver waiting to turn right at the same traffic lights will have a red. The same goes for cyclists turning left and drivers going straight on. The conflict is removed, and safety is greatly improved at the same time.
In the most extreme cases, cyclists get a green simultaneously in all directions, while motorists have a red light in all directions. Cycle paths in the Netherlands are designed to offer directness and a high degree of safety while minimising conflicts between drivers and cyclists.
Don't copy Denmark
|Denmark's cycling modal share has|
been in decline since 1992
I think it's about time that infrastructure like this stopped being touted as advanced. It is quite similar to what the Dutch used to do twenty years ago, but most of that has been replaced. The replacement of inadequate infrastructure like this is what has helped the Netherlands to avoid the crash in cycling which Denmark has experienced.
If you're looking for a cycling "role model", The Netherlands is the country which has achieved most and it is the country that you should refer to for best practice.
Update January 2011
The Danes are still building new junctions like this, which put cyclists on the right of right turning vehicles and give right turning drivers and straight on cyclists green traffic lights at the same time. They're also still trying to ameliorate the problems that this causes with signs. I know because Denmark is again making publicity out of it as if it's a good idea !
Hopeless. Why not copy newer designs, such as this ?
Update August 2013
Southampton in England is copying this design. As an extra twist, they've branded it as Dutch. This will lead to injuries and deaths of Southampton cyclists.
Update November 2013
It was recently pointed out to me that the Danes have finally woken up to the fact that their merging of right turning vehicles with cyclists going straight on has led to seven fatal accidents this year.
This is why it makes no sense at all for other nations to copy Danish designs and makes a lot of sense for the Danes to copy much safer Dutch designs which avoid this conflict.
Sadly, New Zealand now seems to have picked up on the Copenhagen Left idea. They call it a "Hook Turn". The change of name makes it no safer nor more convenient.
The "Copenhagen" left isn't even Danish
If you look hard enough, you can still find examples of this in the Netherlands, as seen in the photo on the right (this location, thanks to Bertram Bourdrez). In this country such junctions are not known as "Copenhagen left" junctions and they're not the subject of hype. This type of thing is simply old fashioned.
Just because such infrastructure can be found in the Netherlands, that doesn't mean it works any better here than it does elsewhere and it certainly doesn't mean it should serve as an example to planners elsewhere. To achieve the best result, copy the best examples.
Note that the blogger I referred to first also says that Danish cycle paths are 5 feet wide. That's 1.5 m, which is rather less than the 2.5 m (8 feet) minimum for single direction cycle paths in the Netherlands. What's more, they are separated merely by a kerb instead of the 1.5 m separation which is the aim in the Netherlands, though sometimes not quite achieved. Unfortunately, with infrastructure like this being presented as desirable, the problems are spreading in multiple places. The Netherlands remains a much better model if you want to see successful bicycle policy. Please read our examples of what really works,