If there was ever a city that truly embraced cycling, it’s Copenhagen. With more bikes than people, the city has been at the forefront in city planning for a growing bike culture. Sun, rain or snow, you’ll always find the bike lanes of Copenhagen busy with commuters. Being a small town girl from the mountains of West Virginia, I had no idea how I was going to adjust to this lifestyle. I never had to solely rely on my bike to get around before and honestly, I was a little nervous about how much of an inconvenience it would be. But after 7 months of living in Copenhagen, I have to say that the Danish are onto something! Here’s a little look at how Copenhagen’s bike culture thrives and why it’s inspiring cities all over the world to follow in their footsteps.
First, some history. Biking has been the main means of transportation in Copenhagen for a very long time. They started building bike lanes in 1892 and by 1907, there were already 80,000 bikes riding around the city. In 2008, Copenhagen was named the world’s first “Bike City” by The International Cycling Union. Cities like New York have looked to Copenhagen for inspiration to improve their own accessibility for bikers.
With hundreds of bike parking stations across the city, racks on the trains, and over 400km of bicycle lanes, it’s no surprise that over half of Copenhagen’s citizens who work or study in the city commute by bike every day. Even 63% of Denmark’s parliament opt to bike to work. While plenty of these people commute by bike for environmental reasons, it’s also due to the high taxes on cars in Denmark. Buying a car is really expensive, much, much more than in the U.S., so many Danes don’t ever get their license. For those that live in the city, a bike and a train card is really all that they need.
For my own experience, adjusting to this extreme biking culture wasn’t totally easy, but I did find a special appreciation for it. I remember during my first few days there, biking kind of felt nostalgic. It was still warm and sunny out, so riding to the train station was pleasant and reminded me of being a little kid, riding my bike all over town just for fun. Biking to the grocery store became a daily ritual, one that many Danes have to adopt because without a car, you can only carry as many groceries that will fit in your backpack or basket. I didn’t mind this too much, unless it was raining. We had to bike a few kilometers to the grocery store and one day I got caught in a downpour which was not fun. So we quickly learned that some days biking is the best way to get around, other days it’s better to take the bus or the train.
When it comes to taking your bike on the train, I was extremely impressed with how easy it was! The trains around Copenhagen are pretty efficient and certain cars are marked specifically for bikes and one side is filled with racks to park your bike and sit while you wait for your stop. Quick, easy, and saves you so much trouble when trying to get in and out of the city! But be prepared for rush hour, because those bike racks will fill up fast.
Although I had my own Schwinn bike with me in Copenhagen, if you’re just visiting for a few days, there are special “City Bikes” that were created just for tourists. Each electric bike comes with a touchscreen GPS tablet to help you find your way and they can be found at over 100 parking stations scattered all across the city. To rent one, all you have to do is create an account online at bycyklen.dk and pay for however long you need the bike, then go on your way and just drop it off at a parking station when you’re done! Pretty cool, right?
So if you’re a bike lover, Copenhagen is your top destination to learn how a city can truly run on bikes. And to me, their bike culture speaks a lot to the minimal, simpler way of life that the Danish do so well. Biking allows them to not rush as much, to slow down, and to enjoy what’s around them. It’s good for the environment, but I also think it’s good for the soul and it’s obvious that the Danish truly value that when you see how much they’ve made biking a priority. And hopefully in the future, more and more cities will be following their example!
I’m Abbey McGrew and I’m the owner behind Wayfarer Design Studio – a traveling web and graphic design studio. Having grown up in the mountains of West Virginia, I have always had a deep appreciation for nature and an adventurous spirit. I first started biking on a section of the Appalachian Trail along the Greenbrier River in southern West Virginia, but with Schwinn, I’ll be taking my bike to very different parts of the world.
In May 2016, my husband and I started our journey traveling around the world over the next few years. We are currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark, but we will be moving back to Australia in May, and then on to wherever this adventure takes us! As a designer, I love crafting visual stories and I’m excited to share my journey riding my Schwinn bike all over the world – from the cobblestone streets of Copenhagen, to the mountains of West Virginia, to the rainforests and beaches of Australia.