The Wheels Keep on Rollin’

Pardon the puns; there wheel be many.

Copenhagen, Denmark is famous for many things: its many Michelin-star restaurants, its Tivoli Garden, its fashion and Nordic style that everyone around the world so deeply covets, and more importantly, its bikes. This is a city famous for its biking culture – a fact I personally didn’t believe until I got to Copenhagen – and lo and behold, bike lanes everywhere!

It’s not enough to have physical lanes. Biking is such an ingrained part of Danish culture that we at Pine deem it necessary to give biking its own post as well. Why?

Fact One:

In 2007, the city was named by the Union Cyclist Internationale as the world’s first Biking City. With over 390km in bike lanes (roughly 242 miles for those in the US) spread all throughout the Copenhagen region, it’s no wonder bikers outnumber drivers on the streets. It’s not just in numbers that bikers can win. In fact, with two (technically undesignated) lanes on the bike paths – slow bikers to the right, faster bikes to the left – sometimes, bikers in a hurry can beat cars stuck behind the local bus.

copenhagen-bike-lane

 Fact Two:

There’s actual biking etiquette here. Unlike many notoriously bad bikers everywhere else, Danish bikers actually follow the lights, signal when they’re turning, and wait in queue when pedestrians are boarding the local buses. We all can agree on this: pedestrians hate bikers, drivers hate bikers, and bikers hate everyone else. But that doesn’t apply here. Unless you’re new to Copenhagen and you’re wobbling down the bike path at the daring speed of 0.1km per hour. Then everyone hates you.

Fact Three:

There’s a bike for everyone and anything imaginable: bikes with carts in the front, bikes with carts in the back, bikes that carry little wagons, bikes that have baby seats, bikes that come with their own little engines. Bikes of all sizes and colors zoom down the paths, and one thing’s for certain: they make them just big enough to fit in the paths and leave a little extra on the side for those in a hurry.

Fact Four:

Even the Prime Minister bikes to work. Enough said. Have we mentioned how everyone bikes here?

Fact Five:

Ever noticed how everywhere else, people have a tendency to use the ever-annoying bell that makes a sound you enjoy the first time around and never again afterwards? Well, have you ever noticed how bikes in Copenhagen don’t have bells? Instead, bikers with the aforementioned good biking etiquette will stick to their aforementioned lanes in the bike paths; thus, reducing the need for bells and ergo even reducing noise pollution in the meanwhile. But, of course, slow and reckless bikers will elicit shameless scolding from fellow bikers.

Biking has become so popular that cities around the world have started their own initiatives to integrate this culture into their own. In New York City, for example, the city’s 20-year vision, “PlanNYC”, called for the conversion of numerous public spaces and a plan for a comprehensive cycle path network to help the city become greener and sustainable. In Mexico City, the proposed cycle path networks had the more social motive of breaking down the segregation of the upper and middle class communities living in the metropolis’s central areas.

With all global citizens learning of the effects of global warming and governments trying to make amends for the environmental damage already done, biking could be a solution to some of the issues we are pressed to resolve. Perhaps everyone should look to Copenhagen as an example. Biking is efficient, inexpensive, and in most cases, fun when the weather permits it. Not that that matters to the Danes anyway. They bike in all sorts of weather.

Images from:
here, here and here

Yang Lin
20 Nov 2013

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