To ensure a stress-free journey to her apartment, my friend Kristina met my travel buddy, Jessica, and I at the Kastrup Airport. On our journey into town, Kristina announced in her Danish accent, “I hope you’re ready, girls. I got you bikes for the week.”
I had heard about Copenhagen, Denmark’s well-developed bicycle paths, but had only hoped to cruise down one someday. Since living in Denver, Colorado three years ago, home of America’s outdoorsy and healthy citizens, I came to appreciate those United States cities aiming to develop bike-friendly infrastructures. Still, the initiative is new in the States and the on-board cities few.
Denmark’s biking system, on the other hand, sustains as a significant method of transportation within the country. The flat terrain and well-kept paths have earned Denmark a reputation among the most bicycle-friendly countries in the world.
Bike lanes divide the roads and sidewalks in a tiered fashion. All three paths run parallel, but the road sits below the bike path, which sits just below the sidewalk. The bike lanes vary in size depending on the area, but most offer enough space for two side-by-side riders. Much like driving in the U.S., the slow traffic stays right, so the quicker pedalers can whiz by on the left.
We have spent most of our trip in Copenhagen, where dozens of bikes line the city’s shops, museums, schools and train stations. For people like me who fail to think consciously about where they park vehicles, bikes could also become lost among the vast sea of wheels and baskets.
This mode of transportation does not limit itself to one population. We’ve passed children riding to school, elderly men and women carrying groceries in bike baskets and adults sporting shoulder-slung briefcases while pedaling quickly to work. Entire families ride to dinner – the dad pedaling two kids in a Christiania bike while the mom rides her own cruiser alongside.
Each intersection has three set of lights: one for cars, one for pedestrians and a third for bikes. The bike lights change much like those for traffic – from red to yellow to green – but display slightly smaller lights and a fourth bicycle icon light at the top. These bicycle traffic lights not only increase consciousness between drivers and cyclers, but they also organize riders. During rush hour, the bike lanes become so full that only a portion of all stopped riders will make it through the same green light.
Besides the benefits of exercise and saving money on trains, gas and taxis, each ride through the open air offers a new opportunity to explore. This has been my favorite part about biking in Denmark. These individual bike tours have been treats for us as Copenhagen visitors – yes – but, they also allow the locals to stay continuously embraced by their own cities.
Each morning, we ride our bikes 10 minutes from the Fredricksburg neighborhood to downtown Copenhagen. On each journey, I see new buildings and observe more fascinating people. The same routes change during each new ride. And, each pedal forward earns me one more new experience in this ever-cycling world.