The pleasant surprise of our trip was that Copenhagen is not only a bicycle-friendly city, it is also a public transportation-friendly city. I was constantly amazed by the bus and S-tog system, which we used every single one of our eight-day stay.
Our apartment was near several bus lines and two S-tog (metro trains) stations, but we mostly rode the bus. It was a direct line from half a block from our apartment building to the 66 bus, and we never waited for more than 10 minutes, even on Sundays and the holidays. The buses were very quiet! Not only was there little noise from the bus itself, but the passengers were remarkably quiet. The bus drivers all played soft music, and we could hear it in the middle of the bus. Even the crowded buses were not really loud. If you’ve been on a crowded WMATA bus, you know how loud they can get!
The buses all had wheelchair-accessible jump seats that seemed to be mostly used for baby carriages. And luggage! Even when the buses were full, parents would calmly and politely edge their huge baby carriages into this space, and equally calmly and politely other passengers would shuffle to accommodate them. I really appreciated how everything was labeled and intended for wheelchair, baby carriage, and bicycle (well, not on the bus, not even outside racks for bikes). It shows attention to the entire population, making the system accessible to everyone, comfortably and easily. That is definitely missing here.
The buses, and the S-tog, were equipped with free wifi, but you had to be a local to set up an account; I tried. But I think it’s a great idea for a public transportation system to offer free wifi, especially on trains. You could get work done, or at least update your Facebook status or blog without losing signal every few stops.
There seemed to be several different ways of paying fares, and here again the Copenhagen system was technologically more advanced. With your free wifi, you could apparently purchase your ticket, then just show it, on your phone, to the bus driver. I saw several phones waved at drivers. We seemed to be the only ones with the klipkord, or clip card. Valid for ten rides, we had to validate it every time we got on a bus or S-tog. Conveniently, we didn’t each need to get a card, we could both ride on one. There was also a big blue dot system that must be a smart card – you touch your card to the dots to either tag in or tag out of the system.
The S-tog trains were the most thrilling link in the transit puzzle, because they offered bicycle-specific sections of the trains, generally half of the last car. There were bicycle locations on the platform to stand, and then racks inside the car to stand your bike in. And they were used! It was full on the day after Boxing Day, clearly the first day back to work for everyone. Again, the car also was marked for wheelchair and baby carriages. And there were elevators large enough to comfortably fit more than one bicycle! Have you tried to cram your bike into a WMATA elevator and felt folded into a pretzel? I have.Once inside the train, and out of the bike section, there were other luxuries to behold – again, the free wifi, but also plush seats, overhead luggage racks, tv monitors, and clear doors inside, making sections of the train. There was even a quiet section! I don’t know if the internal set of doors is to help keep everyone warm when the main doors open, and expose the winter elements (or, conversely, the summer heat), but that would be my guess. Either way, it was very fancy!Isn’t it amazing? It’s so… civilized. And it makes me sad to think that these things can’t happen here, because there isn’t enough will for it, political, social, economic. Copenhagen has a much longer history of public transportation and biking, a much more mature, integrated system, and that is something we will not see here. But I’m happy to continue to work towards it!