Among cyclists, Copenhagen has long been considered the promised land. With almost 40% of citizens regularly commuting to work by bicycle, over 1.1 million kilometers are ridden every day.
This is likely the secret to Scandinavian beauty.
And to be clear, this is no weather paradise. While admittedly, it is both flat and compact, it is still a northern city characterized by cold winters where the temperatures regularly dip below zero and it snows.
So what’s our excuse Canada?
Well, actually it’s not really our fault. The big difference is that local government in Copenhagen has invested heavily in cycling infrastructure over the years. With over 100 km of bike lanes and 22 different routes in the city, cyclists are considered (almost) as important as drivers. And unlike the white paint which sometimes passes for cycling infrastructure, bicycle lanes are often separated from the main traffic lanes and have their own signal systems.
As a foreigner unaccustomed to such sights, I couldn’t help but gawk at the onslaught of cyclists dominating the roadways. From teenagers to grandmothers, to families carrying their children (and groceries, furniture, pets) in carts, cycling in Copenhagen is the norm rather than the exception.
And no, they don’t wear helmets.
However studies have demonstrated that the safety provided through the increased visibility that results from a large number of cyclists, can outweigh the benefits of fewer riders with helmets. While no one disputes that wearing a helmet is safer, ultimately getting more people on bikes is even safer, and often helmet laws act as a deterrent to that goal.
Counter intuitive, but true.
Of course the Danes have long been reputed for their commitment to the environment. Crossing the transnational Øresund Bridge from Sweden you are surrounded on either side by imposing white windmills that tower out the sea, providing almost 20% of Denmark’s electricity.
In fact, the canal water is so clean that those clever Danes have even built a free public pool INSIDE THE CANAL. While the jellyfish initially deterred me (they are apparently harmless), I eventually took the plunge and was decidedly, errr, ‘refreshed’. The perfect ending to a day biking around the city.
Copenhagen – where hipster fashionistas meet environmental sensibilities.