As London argues about ULEZ how did Copenhagen become Europe's cleanest capital?

By Rags Martel ITV News London reporter

Copenhagen’s colour is changing. Away from the light pastels of the harbour and red & white of the Danish flag it is now very much a green city. To do this its people are proudly a nation of cyclists.

It is a transformation championed by the former mayor Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard who took ITV News London on a tour of Copenhagen’s growing cycling network. He said: "This cycling superhighway makes it fast and easy for bikers to go from one side of the harbour to another.

"We can see it moved people from cars to bikes when we built it. This is our policy in Copenhagen.

"You should have a policy in London where you can get the fastest way to get from point A to point B is by bike. Then you will see a lot of bikers."

Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard and Rags Martel cycling through Copenhagen Credit: ITV News

More than half of Copenhagen’s commuters cycle while in London the figure is just above 4% and in Copenhagen there are more bikes than people.

It’s hard to imagine now but cars were once kings of the road in the Danish capital.

"In the 1960s it was becoming an extreme car city, the future was the car and we wanted to make big highways through the city," said 'Active Transport' campaigner Sidsel Birk Hjuler.

But environmental concerns changed the city’s focus from the car to bike although the transformation took decades and was never without protest. Sidsel Birk Hjuler added: " Of course it’s annoying you can’t do what you normally do. But this about the bigger picture of why this is happening."

But not everyone here is happy about the growth of bikes and Dennis Lange represents the Federation of Danish Motorists. "A lot of people need a car to make life possible, to go to work and take kids to school and it you don’t live and work in certain places then you need a car," he said.

But getting on their bikes isn’t the only way Copenhagen is going green.

The city has aims to become carbon neutral and that means using renewable energy like wind and solar power. It also has a waste-to-energy plant which produces electricity and heat from the city’s rubbish. To make it fun it’s also a ski slope.

Rags Martel skiing down the roof of a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen Credit: ITV News

And the sea in the once polluted harbour is now so clean it welcomes public swimming.

Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard added: "We try to combine two values, sustainability and life quality. We call it liveability."

Copenhagen May have a sea of green policies and politics but the biggest driving force for change is its people.

While London argues about an ultra low emission zone Danish ambitions are greener and cleaner. Their aim is for no emissions.

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