Off to CPH
I’ve been kicking around the idea of going to Copenhagen for a while. I had one main goal: explore the cycling infrastructure, see it from the perspective of the saddle, cycle every nook and cranny to get the full experience. Well, almost one: exploring veggie restaurants was important too.
I thought I knew more or less what to expect, but what I saw simply surpassed my expectations. I cycled around for ten hours a day, three days in row, in a trance-like state. Not disturbed by cars whatsoever. I felt very safe and I felt sure that I could rely on cycling lanes to lead me to every place in town, even to the suburbs.
I noticed that my state of mind as a cyclist changed. In Luxembourg, when I commute to work my stress levels soar while squeezed between cars and buses. Every weekday morning I experience mixed feelings: the joy and freedom of cycling combined with a bit of anger and helplessness.
As a cyclist I feel like an intruder: little or no space is designated for us on roads and pavements. Cycling lanes appear in chunks – they start and finish in random fashion. I need to slalom between cars, avoid obstacles, find safe space for myself. It stimulates the grey matter but it frustrates me to realize that it is cars that rule here. Urban planning is subjected to them.
In contrast, urban planners in Copenhagen have been guided by, to state it simply, the concept of making the city a liveable place.
My short story about cycling in Copenhagen starts here, but it starts with a little surprise…
Cargo bikes, pedersen bikes, long john bikes, simple vintage bikes. I wanted to try them all! My plan was also to find out about a bicycle sharing system. Copenhagen launched one in 1995 and it was the first city to have a structured programme on a large scale. I was very curious to see it.
I started my search for a city bike stand or a bike rental place near the central train station. I was helped by a nice American guy who told me that, as a matter of fact, Copenhagen does NOT have a bicycle sharing scheme. What?! I took it for granted that there would be one! The reason is that the city bikes needed to be replaced but the city didn’t have enough budget to buy a new fleet of bicycles. Eventually it decided to abolish the public bike scheme.
I finally rented a Raleigh bike that accompanied me till the very end of my trip. I have a good reason to come back to Copenhagen now: to try out other bikes!
Thousands of bicycles to admire
I was struck by the huge number of cyclists in Copenhagen, and how relaxed, good looking and multitasking they were.
They can juggle pedalling, drinking a takeaway coffee, and talking on a mobile phone or chatting with their friend cycling next to them all at the same time. One day later I found myself riding with one hand, looking at a map spread over the handlebars, and shooting pictures with a camera held in the second hand. I felt totally safe and stress-free.
Come back soon to read part two of my adventures in Copenhagen!