Copenhagen Part 2: First Bike Impressions

Once The Mechanic and I got over our initial giddy shock at the sheer number of bikes we saw upon arrival in Copenhagen, we began to look a bit more closely. Here are some of the things we saw:

  • We saw very few bikes with drop handles; most were “hybrid,” “comfort” or “Cruiser” style bikes, “sit up and beg” bikes, and whatever else the men’s versions would be called. 100_8592100_8606100_8253
  • Most of the bikes had at least one basket, either in front or in back, of varying sorts of materials – wire, wood, wicker, plastic. Just about every bike had a back rack with bungees or that strong spring. Very few panniers. I mentioned to the saleswoman in one bike shop that I predominately use panniers and she seemed confused.100_9008
  • In the same theme, we saw maybe a handful of cyclists in Lycra the entire eight days we were there. And little hi-viz clothing: half of what we did see was on runners.
  • It seemed to me like most of the cyclists were women, but at least half of them were.100_8711
  • People of all ages were on bikes. I noticed several older people, including one older woman wearing a full-length fur coat. She looked extremely stylish.
  • There were plenty of children on bikes  and many bikes had baby seats. There were different styles of child seats on bikes too, like the bucket style on the top tube with foot rests mounted on the head tube. I only saw one dad with the bike attachment, and the boy was leaning at a frightening angle. Most kids rode in the Christiania cargo bike front bucket. 100_9326
  • Many people were wearing helmets, and the bike shops were full of helmets. Most were of the solid helmet style, like Nutcase or Yakkay.
  • Many of the bikes had skirt guards, either in plastic “mesh” or solid vinyl. I was very excited to buy a set when we were in Malmo, Sweden.100_8646
  • The Danish Postal service uses bikes for delivery, and they were e-bikes! Same thing spotted in Malmo. That makes a ton of sense. Actually, I saw some other e-bikes here and there.100_9240100_9075
  • Everyone used hand signals. It was pretty impressive to watch.
  • Everyone walked their bikes through crosswalks. I know we are supposed to, but really, who does? People in Copenhagen, apparently.
  • There were bike racks everywhere, and not just one rack, but several. I counted about 50 spaces in the bike racks in front of one grocery store.100_8822
  • But no one locks their bike to anything, they just push the bikes into the rack and lock the ring lock. We were continually amazed by this. Bikes just leaning against apartment buildings, standing in lines in bike parking spaces in streets… Even strollers were left out, and we saw a motorized wheelchair outside, charging to an outdoor outlet. Okay, occasionally we’d see locks, but not very often.100_8805
  • There were a ton of new brands, and remakes of old brands. More on that later.100_9171
  • Everyone seemed to pedal very leisurely, yet the days we were out in the bike lanes, we were constantly passed!

I love the huge variety of bikes, brands, colors, styles, and riders. People weren’t decked out as “cyclists,” or “sporty athletes,” just individuals going about their day on their bikes. This is the kind of cycling I want to do, the type of cyclist I want to be, the kind of cycling culture I want to see take root in this country. I want to get us to the point that everyone, regardless of sex or age or ability, is comfortable enough to bike wherever they need to go, wearing whatever they want, and not worrying about it. I’m still not sure what it will take to get there, but improved infrastructure will help. My next post will show different aspects of the bicycle infastructure of Copenhagen.

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See also:

Copenhagen Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Copenhagen Part 3: Bicycle Infrastructure

10 thoughts on “Copenhagen Part 2: First Bike Impressions

  1. “I think there is enough proof of the whole “if you build it they will come” theory, so we just need to get the “build it” part in place.”— They ALL can (and will) come. I love the post. It shows that when you make room for bikers, and all the kinds of bikers, they will ride. It’s one reason why I support on-street or parallel lanes versus trails. Off-street trails tend to be designed in a way that attracts racers and makes slower bikers (like me) feel…well, slow. LOVE the post – excited to hear more about your trip!

    • Thanks! I couldn’t wait to get home and share everything I saw with like-minded women who bike. I feel like we must be able to take some lessons from here and other European cities and apply them to the US. The biggest challenge is the infrastructure and leadership/gov’t support. I think there is enough proof of the whole “if you build it they will come” theory, so we just need to get the “build it” part in place.

  2. I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but I have been to Amsterdam. It’s interesting to compare the two. In Amsterdam, everyone used their wheel locks too, but they also used heavy duty chain locks. Theft is apparently a big issue.

    Like Copenhagen, I only saw two groups in sport clothing on sport bikes: mtn bikers on Saturday and roadies the next Saturday. But no helmets. I think I saw like one adult and a handful of small children wearing them the whole time I was there.

    • I was in Amsterdam years ago (2004!), before I was interested in bikes. I only remember the masses of bikes, and being told to stay out of the bike lanes or you’ll get run over. I’d like to go back now and compare. Of course, I’d like to go back to Germany and compare there as well, but that’s partly because I studied in Germany and haven’t been since 2006 and my language needs to immersion! : )

      I was surprised by the amount of helmets being worn, since I had been led to believe that no one wears them. Guess they do in Copenhagen!

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