I recently went on holiday to Copenhagen. Now, Copenhagen is lovely, but they drive on the wrong side of the road for us Brits. This quickly resulted in me looking like a complete idiot as I began looking for cars coming from the right rather than the left. Doing a weird triple check before crossing a huge road while looking like a confused, twitchy owl. Then I realised that Copenhagen was actually a UXers dream.
Thoughtful design that probably saves lives
The first thing to say is that the city has obviously been built to be accessible. At road crossings there are audible cues (fast/slow beeping) for when you can cross along with the visual cue of the green/red man. I know British cities have some features that make them accessible but they’re not all that widespread. In Copenhagen, they’re pretty much everywhere.
In case you didn’t know, there are A LOT of cyclists in Copenhagen.
So why are there so many cyclists? Are the Danish just very healthy? Are they concerned about pollution and global warming? They may well be.
But my theory is that they cycle because it’s easy. The city is literally designed around bikes.
Copenhagen has cycle lanes everywhere, and they’re not those stupid strips like we have here. You know, the ones that the cyclists share with buses and cars. The ones that people don’t really want to use because it feels like a death lane rather than a cycle lane.
In Copenhagen cycle lanes are their own little ecosystem. Cyclists have different traffic lights than cars and pedestrians. The lanes are clear and it works seamlessly.
It doesn’t stop at roads
After thinking the road design was great, I started to notice all the other features in place in Copenhagen to make it accessible. In the shopping areas there are raised metal rectangles in the pavement to assist someone who is partially sighted.
They go all over the city leading you to where you need to go. If you get to a turning, there is a crossroads of sorts in the markings. Pick your route and off you go.
When there aren’t metal studs, the pavements have rectangle slabs in the middle to keep you away from the edge. All pavements have texture changes at the roadside.
Even the stairs are made for bikes
Everything I’ve mentioned already exists in a lesser, more badly designed way in the UK. Then I saw this…
No longer do you need to carry your bike up the stairs after a short trip on the Metro. Just wheel it on up.
Meanwhile, in the UK we’d rather heave a bike up the stairs taking out any man woman and child in our way, usually while complaining about any and every problem with our transport system.
##In short, I learnt three things from my visit to Copenhagen:
Joining the world of UX has made me notice design everywhere. A switch has been flicked and I can’t turn if off again.
UK cities are grossly inaccessible and designed pretty poorly.
Everyone should go to Copenhagen. They have awesome food.