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Green Wave

Allowing continous traffic flow for cyclists

The traffic sign of the Green Wave
The traffic sign of the Green Wave © Arne Koerdt

Copenhagen has had a long cycling tradition: since the first velocipedes were introduced in 1860, the bicycle became a widespread mean of transport, supported by the relatively short distances in the city and its flat terrain. Today, 36% of the population travel to work or school by bicycle, 1,1 million kilometres are ridden on bicycle in Copenhagen every day. Cycling`s modal split share in Copenhagen is one of the highest in the world. But the development potencial of cycling is nit utilized: The objective of the development strategy ECO-METROPOLE, OUR VISION 2015 is to reach 50% by 2015, by the financing of numerous measures such as bicycle parking, green cycling routes, more bike lanes, more parking facilities and increasing traffic safety.

So called Green Waves serve to allow a continous traffic flow. A series of traffic can be passed by green light, if the driver keeps a defined and constant speed. In most cases the Green Waves are planned for supporting fluent car traffic. In Copenhagen this principle was changed: there were established green waves for cyclists in three streets: Norrebrogade, Osterbrogade and Farimagsgade.

The first street where a green wave was established is Norrebrogade. The length of the green wave is 2,2km and includes 12 signalised junctions. At the beginning of the Green Wave Project, 30,000 (now increased to some 37,000) cyclists/day and 17,000 cars/day were counted in the part of the street near the city centre. At the other end of the street the modal split at that time was 16,000 cars per day, 15,000 cyclists per day and very high bus traffic, as nearly every minute a bus is passing the street.

All mentioned streets are major traffic corridors, serving as important connections in the city for both cyclists and cars. The maximum speed for cars in city areas in Denmark is 50km/h. The green wave in these streets is calculated to fit a speed of 20km/h, the average speed of cyclists in Copenhagen.

The aim of the project was to increase the travelling speed of bike traffic. It was decided and implemented by the Department of Traffic. The project started with a testing phase in the Norrebrogade in 2004 with 13 signalised junctions. The test year was very successful, the travelling speed of the cyclists increased: compared to six stops before the implementation of the green wave, cyclists in general did not have to stop. In 2006, the green wave was installed permanently on a slightly shorter route. The result was, that in Norrebrogade the travelling speed of the cyclists increased about 10% and in Farimagsgade approx. 30%, proving the success of the Green Wave project.

The Green Wave was implemented by the department for traffic, without having to involve other departments, nor residents or other actors before project implementation. There were no strong objections from car drivers as the Green Wave did not change their situation much.

The engineers in charge of traffic lights in Copenhagen assumed beforehand, that bike traffic is not homogeneous enough to make the Green Wave work. However, reality has shown that the opposite is true. The public transport sector was sceptical as well, as they expected to lose much time. As a consequence, minor adjustments for public busses were integrated into the system.

These kinds of measures are easy to implement and very effective. No construction works are necessary, only the programme of the traffic lights has to be changed. This is comparatively cheap and can be implemented without great effort (about a few hundred thousand DKK = 20,000-40,000 Euro).

The project has proven to be very successful; nevertheless, for the time being there are no concrete plans to implement it on other streets. After all, it would not make sense to have Green Waves in too many streets, because they would interfere with each other.
The general public opinion towards them is however a positive one.

Why is it an innovative example to follow?

Organising the traffic lights to give priority to bicycle traffic shows that it is accepted as an ordinary mode of transportation. It is easy and cheap to implement because no construction is necessary.


Municipal funds
Investment: few hundred thousands danish kronen


Made by the Traffic Department

Project manager / parties involved

Project management: 
Traffic department

Project term

The project is estimated as on-going without a special end date: 
On-going since: 
January 2004
Completed on: 
December 2006
Further information: 
The project started with a testing phase in 2004 in the Norrebrograde which was definetely established in 2006.


Ansprechpartner auf Projektebene: 
Mr. Niels Jensen
City of Copenhagen
Island Brygge 37
1505 Copenhagen
Telefon: +4533663569

Date (Text as of…)
20. June 2010
Niels Jensen, City of Copenhagen
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