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A ghost cyclist tackling the road in Aarhus, Source: GF Fonden

A new report maps out the problem of ‘ghost cycling’ in Denmark

A new report maps out the problem of ‘ghost cycling’ in Denmark

The city of Aarhus is the worst in this regard, where many cyclists opt to ride in the opposite direction of traffic

You may have heard of ‘ghost driving’ – the illegal act of driving a vehicle in the wrong lane and against the traffic flow. It turns out that there is ‘ghost cycling’ as well.

And in a cycling-intensive society, such as the Danish one, that phenomenon has garnered its own particular controversy and attention. So much so that a study has been recently done there, which showed that Aarhus, the second-largest city, is a particularly notorious place for that.

A problem of behaviour or urban planning?

The report was done by Via Trafik, supported by GF Forsikring, a Danish insurance agency.

Our study is nationwide, but most of our observations come from Aarhus. A good example of a so-called ghost route is Bernhardt Jensen's Boulevard in Aarhus, where up to every fifth cyclist chooses to cycle in the wrong direction in the morning traffic,” pointed out marketing manager at Via Trafik, Michael WJ Sørensen, who was responsible for conducting the survey. 

In his view: “The explanation is that the road is very wide and difficult to cross due to parking in the central terrace, while housing, businesses and educational institutions are located on the same side of the road.”

The analysis can thus serve as a good consulting point for urban planners so that they can consider how to design cities in a way that makes them safer. Nevertheless, people have agency, too, and should be responsible for their own behaviour. The reality is that ghost cyclists are seven times more likely to end up in a traffic accident, compared to those who follow the road rules.

The study found out that the average profile of the “ghost cyclist” is a young male, between 18 and 29 years, not wearing a helmet, and usually rushing to get to work or classes. In addition, most ghost cycling occurs in the morning (7:00-9:00) and in the afternoon for a wider period (13:00-18:00). This fits in with the morning and afternoon traffic when there are also more cyclists on the road.

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