Andreas Rohl, Danish bike guru, tours Minneapolis on two wheels [VIDEO]

Copenhagen's bike czar on the Sabo bridge.
Copenhagen's bike czar on the Sabo bridge.

In the mid 1990s, Copenhagen rolled out the world's first modern bicycle-sharing program, launching a revolution that rolled through Paris, London, Amsterdam, and good old Minneapolis.

More than a decade later, the Danish capital is preparing to overhaul and update its system, so the city's biking director, Andreas Rohl, swung through Minneapolis yesterday to see what he could learn from our own bike program.

Rohl is something of a legend in the urban biking and planning worlds, and local local officials and bicycle advocates treated his arrival like a visit from royalty.

Bill Dossett and Andreas Rohl.
Bill Dossett and Andreas Rohl.

Bill Dossett, the executive director of our own bike-share program, Nice Rides Minnesota, says Rohl is "Internationally known as one of the smartest people around as far has how to make cities great for bikes."

"We're really thrilled that he came here to see what we're doing," Dossett said. "That alone is a compliment to Minneapolis."

So Dosset put Rohl on one of the city's lime-green shared bikes and took him on a tour of the city's bicycle infrastructure: Nice Ride stations, bicycle lanes and dedicated paths.

In many ways, Copenhagen is decades ahead of Minneapolis in embracing urban biking. More than half of city residents cycle to work. Two-wheeled transportation there is so common that people don't even identify themselves as bicyclists anymore than they identify themselves as "shoppers" or "tooth-brushers."

Rohl on his tour of the city's bike lanes.
Rohl on his tour of the city's bike lanes.

It wasn't always thus, though.

"In the 1950s and '60s, Copenhagen became filled with automobiles -- that's not just an American thing," Rohl said. "But we've been working for a long time to give people as many transportation alternatives as possible, and we've found that given the choice, people often choose bicycles as the easiest way to get from here to there."

Pedaling down the Hiawatha trail, Rohl said what most impressed him about Minneapolis's effort is the way the city has involved the community in the program.

"Getting people involved in naming it, running it through a non-profit rather than some big corporation, it seems that Minneapolis has done a good job in making people feel invested in the program," Rohl said. "More than any technology, that's what I'll be taking back from here to Copenhagen."

Here's a clip of Roh'ls Tour de Minneapolis:

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