Cycling Utopias: Copenhagen

Cycling Utopias: Copenhagen

Looking for a cycling-friendly city break? Copenhagen has to be on your list.  Regarded as one of the world’s happiest cities – according to both the UN and the World Health Organisation – it’s a joy to cycle in.

Denmark’s capital began life as a Viking fishing village in the 10th century and today its wide boulevards boast cycle lanes packed with young and old, from students to office workers and parents taking their children to school. You’ll also see plenty of goods being delivered on cargo bikes, such as Danish Christiana bikes and Dutch Bakfiets.

And this isn’t because the 1.3 million residents can’t afford motor vehicles – it’s because cycling is an easy, safe and normal way to travel. According to Katrine Schjønning, the city’s head of public health, 62{9b4a2c8832b2482ca7eb937f6bfa363e1f3f7cb05e1b42927da41c9eadde8c32} of people living in Copenhagen cycle to work. With 454km of bike lanes, it’s no wonder the city has more bikes than inhabitants.

These bike lanes continue to be extended with many of them segregated from traffic. And with features such as raised footplates to rest on at junctions and traffic light priority for cyclists during rush hour, riding through the city is remarkably efficient. The Danes are also very considerate, law-abiding riders – you won’t see anyone jumping red lights in this city.

However, Copenhagen hasn’t always been a cycling dreamscape. Like many cities in the mid-20th century, it became clogged by motor traffic due to the rising popularity of car ownership.

But every cloud has a silver lining, and as a consequence of the 70s oil crisis, Copenhagen’s authorities decided to introduce car-free Sundays, which helped everyone save money and reminded the country’s citizens how pleasant it is to travel by bicycle.

Today, making cycling attractive is an integral part of the government’s drive to promote a healthy lifestyle. Copenhagen seems to be designed for bikes rather than cars, but it’s not just the infrastructure that makes for such pleasurable pedal-pushing, the beauty of the city’s architecture, and numerous waterways and lakes give the bike rider much to see and enjoy every mile of the way.

From the historic buildings of Slotsholmen, the island that sits in the harbour, to the bars of the meatpacking district, you can navigate around the centre of Copenhagen incredibly easily. Its cycling bridge, the Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake, should be on every visitor’s cycling itinerary. An elevated orange bike lane, it curves over the harbour, seamlessly connecting the highway and the harbour bridge. Needless to say, a journey out to the suburbs is also best made by bike.

If you’re thinking about visiting, bike hire is easily available and cheap. There’s even a company called Baisekeli that hires and sells second-hand bikes and uses its profits to make cycling accessible in the poorest areas of Africa. To find out more about this and Copenhagen’s many attractions, check out Visit Copenhagen.

London’s cycling infrastructure can only get better