Category Archives: Scandinavia

Biking Copenhagen

 Trip to Denmark, 10-14 April, 2012

I had looked forward to this trip to Copenhagen with sheer enthusiasm!  First, it was to be my first visit to Scandinavia,  second, I always wondered how a Nordic city looks like, feels like and acts like as a society.

Our plane landed at Copenhagen airport in the afternoon.  As the taxi was taking us to our hotel, I was struck by the big expanses of land and wide boulevards around the city.  Big buildings distantly spaced from each other!  Space, that’s the word!  Coming from Paris where the city is quite compressed that you can get to the most famous sites on foot in a day….I found Copenhagen a bit overpowering…if you are a walker!

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From our hotel window, I could see the towers and the roofs of the historic buildings that make up the Old Town.  Exciting …. but when I look down at the mammoth size boulevard below, I heard myself screaming!   Argghhh!  How can I walk all that?  And I’m practically a passionate walker, mind you!

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I went to look at the view on the habour side and was mesmerized.  The buildings are truly Scandinavian, exactly how I saw them in travel magazines……but can I really “walk” up to it?

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But I must not fret!  There is one fast, cheap and healthy way of seeing Copenhagen in all its splendour!  And that is, by cycling!

Thirty-six percent of Copenhagen residents commute by bicycle. Yet, in the early 1960’s this was very much of a car town. In 1962 the city created its first pedestrian street, the Stroget, and every year since then Copenhagen has allocated more and more of its public space to bicycles, pedestrians and people who just want to sit and take a load off. The result is a remarkably pleasant city. Danish urban designer Jan Gehl says that the single biggest key to the change has been the development of the city’s extensive bicycle network and that the Copenhagen of great public spaces that we see today would not be possible without bicycles. Indeed, there are bicycles everywhere. (streetsblog)

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Copenhagen is the Cycling Capital of the World.  There are more bikes in Greater Copenhagen than its 1.2 million inhabitants.  Roughly 500,000 Copenhageners cycle to work every day, come rain or shine.

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Up to 30,000 cyclists pedal through the busiest streets each day.  The rush hour looks like a bike parade of various people with different agenda: business suit wearing yuppies, mothers with their kids on bike prams, grandmas with their food baskets, youth with a cell phone on one hand and the bike handle with the other.

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Chic ladies with their equally chic bikes

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In  Copenhagen, traffic lights are synchronised during rush hour traffic to allow for the continuous flow of cyclists at 20 kilometres per hour —creating the so-called “green waves”.
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Copenhagen bikes are world famous and the city makes it easy for visitors to get bikes.  Numerous cycle shops throughout the city offer rentals

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… and most hotels provide rent-a-bike facilities for your sightseeing.

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The city also offers the use of free bikes such as this.  It’s called the City Bike.

Just insert a 20 Kroner coin, release the bike and it’s yours.   A map will show you the boundaries of the City Bike.  If you leave it outside the zone, a passerby might call the authorities and report you and you will pay a steep fine.

Return the bike on a City Bike stand and retrieve your coin.

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There are loads of bicycle parking provided both by public and private companies.

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There is always a bike park near you.

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They are usually installed near bus stops or train stations.

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And they are usually pretty orderly.

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There are nearly 240 miles of bike paths in the city.

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Never have I seen a city so keen on getting fit!  Not only bikers but also joggers and walkers all over the place.

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People find the freedom and convenience in cycling.

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Bikes come in different types such as this electric version which is ideal for those who cannot or don’t want to exert too much pedalling effort.

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People have all kinds of different bikes and they use them for everything;

– delivering mail such as this postman

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– running their business such as this mobile clothing repair shop.

This bike with a crate is called the Christiania bike, named after the inventor who lived in the district of Christiania in Copenhagen.  He was a blacksmith originally manufacturing furnaces.  Sometime in the 70’s they turned to supplying means of transportation in the car free community. In the 80’s the first crate bike was launched.

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Another Christiania bike complete with canvas cover.  It reminds me of convertible cars…:)

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– for carrying kids. From babyhood to toddler age till childhood, there are bikes for every age.

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– It’s also great for window shopping.

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…. and no problem about parking.

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One can bike to the coffee shop even in his business suit.

Jan Gehl, the Danish architect who paved Copenhagen’s bicycle infrastructure, once said, “every Copenhagener must have two bikes; one for the rain and a nice one as well.”

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Young children are obliged to wear helmets, but adults don’t have to.

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A bicycle is a personal possession so the owner can express her creativity through it.

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Or make her bike a showcase of her collection of ghost dolls!

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For tourists, going sightseeing on a bike is the best.  They can explore the major tourist sites as well as venture through secret courtyards and little hideaways without getting knackered.  My only hesitation is, my photographic passion of snapping at objects and subjects every two minutes won’t go well with biking….

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The word “copenhagenize“was coined by Jan Gehl.  It means the practice of  adopting Copenhagen-style bike lanes and bicycle infrastructure in cities.  He has already advised London, Melbourne, and Dubai on how to “copenhagenize”.
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There are also traffic regulations on cycling and one of them is not to bike on sidewalks.

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“Don’t bike on sidewalks”….Copenhageners are indeed disciplined bike drivers.

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But I saw in Copenhagen a large number of cyclists biking with mobile phones on their ear. I suppose the biking authorities are lenient on this since every single person now owns a mobile phone.

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This is the bike lane infront of Rosenberg palace.

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Bikes make a picturesque scenery.

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..especially when parked next to a statue.

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But beware, there are also bike-rustlers even in wealthy cities!

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This bike owner decided to park his bike at the iron-grilled and poster-decked wall of  Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of our Saviour Church) in the Christiania district.
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I went in as I wanted to go inside the famous corkscrew spire of the church but it was closed for renovation.  Nobody was there except a priest who probably owns this bike.

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Turning to another street, I saw this bakery and was tempted to buy some pastries

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But my attention turned into this fruit and greens grocery

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A beautiful graffiti on the outskirt of the city

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I discovered that online matchmaking is a big thing in Copenhagen
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I went to a Lego shop along the famous shopping road, Stroget, and saw this man-size bike all assembled in Lego bricks.

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We set aside a day for visiting Legoland park in Billund, 3 hours drive south of Denmark and were amazed to see a lot of world attractions and day-by-day facilities duplicated in miniature version, including bikes!legobike2.JPG

That bike, like the others, is like 1 – 2 inches in length.

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I was suddenly transformed like a child again after seeing Legoland with all its miniature creations!

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Biking in the country…complete with tiny sheeps..

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And the miniature train station with its bike park.

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After my few days in Denmark, I think I have turned into a bike-convert!