Exploring the world's built environments and seeking sustainable solutions.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Biking in Copenhagen

Katie McCloskey
Jacob Aronoff

After nearly a week in Copenhagen, we are just starting to understand the Danish passion for cycling. After biking through miles of city bike paths, we were struck by the consistency of the paths, the beauty of the design, and the safety precautions taken to make bicycling not only safe and easy, but a superior alternative to the car or other forms of public transport. The paths varied slightly depending upon their location within the city, but all functioned very well.

Another aspect of bike culture in Copenhagen that struck us as interesting is the lack of bicycling gear typically seen in the United States. Women bike in skirts,  dresses and heels—all without helmets. Despite the heavy traffic and high speeds of the bikers, several locals described it as “unfashionable” or seen as a nuisance. With bicycle safety and helmet usage engrained in our minds from a young age, we were surprised that not wearing a helmet was so widely accepted. However, after a week of biking the city in a variety of weather conditions, traffic, and times of the day, we all felt very safe cycling throughout the city given the streamlined infrastructure.
During a lecture at the Danish Cycling Federation’s office in Copenhagen, we learned about the national biking campaigns made by Denmark to incentivize students and professionals to commute via bicycle rather than with car. We were fascinated to learn that only 1% of the money spent on car infrastructure was put towards bicycling infrastructure, which showed us that relatively small investments could have huge impacts on the ease of bicycling in US cities. Furthermore, the fact that bicycle infrastructure is much less expensive to create and maintain makes it an economically beneficial alternative that cities should look into.


We concluded as a group that we got a very different view of Copenhagen by bicycle than when we were on foot. We enjoyed the city much more on bike as everything was much more accessible and the neighborhoods seemed to blend well when traveling at bicycle speeds.  We had so much fun biking around the city, rain or shine, and truly enjoyed our immersion into Copenhagen’s biking culture. Within the near future, Copenhagen hopes to expand their bike paths and increase bicycling accessibility within the suburbs with bicycle "super highways".  A majority of these highways are in the process of being built –and we hope to one day return to Copenhagen and see the changes!