Sustainable Cities™

Odense: Masterplan for sustainable mobility

With a unique approach Odense Municipality has submitted a masterplan for sustainable transport solutions that are intended to lead the way towards the goal of CO2-neutrality in 2025. It is a comprehensive strategy that at once aims to reduce car traffic in the inner city and increase individual mobility through improved conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation. Odense already occupies a prominent position among the world's cycling cities, and the new master plan can be seen as an effort to consolidate this position.

Illustration: Juul og Frost, venligst udlånt af Odense Kommune

Under the motto "playing is living" Odense municipality has presented its vision for the coming 10 years. An important link in the long-term strategy is the development of Odense as a sustainable and healthy city, which means that sustainability becomes an integral part of all political decision making. The ambition is to be CO2 neutral in 2025 and the three primary areas that will ensure the fulfilment of that ambition are traffic, energy and construction. In 2008, the municipality presented its Plan for Traffic and Mobility that provides a comprehensive sustainable solution to traffic related challenges.

The aim is to change habits through a network of bike trails, pedestrian passages and alternative transportation options that offer viable, sustainable alternatives to driving. Car traffic in the city centre will be reduced significantly by closing the busy Thomas B. Thriges Gade and converting the whole area into a coherent urban space. By shifting traffic from cars onto streets, alleys and pathways, the activity and, as a consequence, the diversity of social life in the area is increased. And by turning motorists into cyclists and pedestrians, you reap the double rewards of a greener environment and healthier citizens. In this way The Plan for Traffic and Mobility connects with municipal policies for both culture and health.

Plan for Thomas B Thriges Gade, illustration by Juul & Frost, courtesy of Odense Municipality

Mobility is an important principle of the vision, since Odenses goal is to create the best possible conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation. Odense is one of the world's leading bike cities and already has a well-developed infrastructure, while the public transportation system still has room for improvement. The municipality does not regard the public transportation system as a business but, rather, as a service and an environmental effort to be integrated into urban development. This offset allows the municipality to make a coordinated effort that encourages the use of public transport. Junctions that connect the various means of transport, parking facilities at the motorway with connection to busses and bicycles, and bicycle parking and "share bikes" at the outskirts of the city are all strategies to reduce car traffic in the inner part of the city.

Overall the ambition is to have 60% more bike rides and 60% fewer traffic deaths in 2025, to increase the travels by public transport with 200%, to reduce driving in the city with 25%, to have 75% less people burdened by harmful pollution and 90% less burdened by traffic noise. The Plan for Traffic and Mobility is expected to be adopted before the summer 2009.

Cycling Solutions

Odense will reinforce its image as an active and healthy Bike City, which was created in a large scale project from 1999-2002 that both increased the number of bike rides and reduced the number of traffic accidents by 20%. Measured in years the health of the citizens of Odense increased with 2131 years in that period. With a 510 kilometres long network, 90% of the city's planned cycle trails are already established, but the safety and passability of cyclists still need improvement. This will come through the establishment of speed zones in the city centre, prioritized cycle routes, "green waves" and exemptions for cyclists in one-way traffic. One idea is to allow cyclists to turn right at red lights - what is otherwise known as a California Roll.

Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) is another solution. Odense already has bike barometers that count the total number of cyclists in the city. These must be extended with information about temperature, weather, expected time of arrival, etc. By placing sensors in bicycle racks, active signs and SMS services can provide information on vacancy. Another strategy is the introduction of public "share bikes", which could ease the transition from car to bicycle for commuters. By supplying the bikes with a chip, it is possible to book a bike online in advance, which makes it easier to plan trips in conjunction with public transportation. This could be financed by the sale of public advertising space. It is estimated that there is a need for approx. 500 share bikes in Odense, which are to be located at 30-60 sites in the centre, at the railway station area, at schools, universities and hospitals..

Pilot project

With inspiration from the Park and Ride project in Dutch city Groningen, where 1.3 million commuters each year switch from car to public transportation at the outskirts of the city centre, Odense has initiated the pilot project Park and Bike. In car parks at Rugårdsvej/Åløkke Alle and Hjallesvej/Munkerisvej there are fitted bike boxes, where you can have your own bike parked in locked individual room. There are obvious environmental and health benefits coming from switching the car with a bike in the city centre, but the solution also offers more advantages: you avoid congestion problems, save time, and not only get free parking but parking directly at your destination. The Park and Bike project will undergo continued evaluation.


The attempt to keep cars out of the city centre represents a break from 50 years of urban planning. Now Odense city centre will be divided in to four zones, and motorists have to travel in and out of the same zone. When driving between the zones is not possible, the municipality expects that most people will chose walking or public transportation to get around in the city centre. With the transformation of the Thomas B. Thriges Gade, a plan for the redistribution of traffic is necessary. The solution is the establishment of a P-route (Parking route) on surrounding streets. The route encircles the city centre and will guide motorists to the nearest car parks. Since this solution entails an increase in traffic on smaller streets, noise and air pollution are inevitable consequences. Noise pollution can largely be countered by a decrease in the top speed (see below), whereas air pollution is deemed a necessary, initial cost in the attempt to improve the competitiveness of sustainable means of transportation and clear the centre of car traffic.

Noise pollution

A noise increase of 6-10 decibel will be experienced as a doubling of the level of sound. However, if there are two equally powerful sources of noise, the volume is not doubled. Rather, it is 3 decibels higher than the noise sources separately. If traffic on a street in a city area is doubled, the increase in noise will be approx. 3 decibels. If the speed limit on the same street is lowered by 10 km/h, the noise level is reduced by 2.5 decibels. In this way the level of noise will be almost unchanged if traffic on a road is doubled while the speed limit is lowered by 10 km/h.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014