I have been in Copenhagen for the past week and have had a chance to experience some really really great things, culturally, physically, and emotionally. I attribute many of these things to being able to ride a bike around the city which allows me to experience city life in a closer, more personal way. Below are six reasons why one should ride a bike which were fueled by my experiences in Copenhagen over the past 7 days.
You will see the city in a whole new way.
Our first full day here we had the pleasure of taking a Bike Mike tour. Mike is a Copenhagen native and a bicycle enthusiast. He believes that seeing the city by bike is the best way to absorb the culture, and I could not agree more. Unfortunately, we absorbed a lot more than just culture during our three hour tour. It poured rain, absolutely poured, for the larger chunk of the morning. I was completely unprepared for the 58 degree temperatures and sideways rain, but we did get to see some notable Copenhagen landmarks while with Mike.
Just as we approached the Carlsberg Brewery’s famous elephants the rain disappeared and we had blue skies for the remainder of our tour. After riding with Mike I began to understand the city’s flow better. I recognized where I was in relation to other things. I had a sense of direction, which for me is a big deal.
You will rediscover your sense of adventure and search for things you never thought to look for.
Marc, our professor, scheduled us a very loosely regimented scavenger hunt around Copenhagen, but it was mainly just to ripen our sense of exploration. Being on a bike allows for the opportunity to hop on and off at any given moment to more thoroughly explore.
I scavenged with two of my fellow trip mates and we encountered many things that we would have passed by otherwise. Below is a photo checklist of the neatest things we encountered:
A new family purchasing the Danish minivan- a Nihola cargo bike.
The Carlsberg brewery complete with beer and horses? Yes horses. They still use these bad boys to pull beer carts at local events.
A bicycle green wave! A green wave is a light system along a cycle track that signals to the cars that a bicycle is to the left of them, and if that cyclist keeps at a consistent speed (usually around 12 mph) the light will remain green for them if they are within the green wave portion of the path.
Double-decker bike parking, enough said.
You will encounter delicious Danish foods (well, not guaranteed for everyone).
This is a flu(super soft d)-boh-leh, a traditional Danish sweet filled with meringue, marzipan, and covered in chocolate. My bike brought me to it.
This is a traditional Danish lunch spread. After a few hours of biking in the cold, wind, and rain it tasted awesome. Included are four little pieces of rye bread all with different toppings.
You will meet remarkable people.
This is Eva. Eva took some of my trip mates and I out on a country ride to the King’s Castle this past week. It was raining, it was windy, it was about 50*. Eva looked fabulous in her poncho and rain cap and could show us around all day. I, however, was tired, cold, and feeling rather defeated by the mud and gravel we were riding through. Eva smiled the entire time and completely turned my attitude around. She is a phenomenal person, and her family has welcomed us into theirs for the duration of our stay in Copenhagen. Eva even invited us to their community spa for some top notch treatments after our cold adventure. I cannot thank Eva, Henrik (Eva’s husband, a fantastic chef), and their family enough for the hospitality to not just their home, but to Copenhagen as well.
Eva took us to the Jægersborg Dyrehave. Dyrehave means deer park and we saw tons of deer! We also saw Sweden just across the sound. The picture above does not do the view justice. It was breathtaking.
You will see that cycling can change urban form in fantastic ways.
We had the amazing privilege of meeting with some very talented architecture firms while in Copenhagen. Marc and Kory, our two trip planners, arranged for us to meet with an architect at the Big 8 affordable housing complex, Jeffery Risom at Jan Gehl architects, and Rune Boserup at Cobe Architects.
Our meetings were centered on the current projects at these firms and how they play into the overall cycling infrastructure. A major theme throughout each of these meetings was that these housing and development projects were not created to support the image of cycling, but rather cycling is just a normal element of the city that they must consider while planning these major projects.
The first site we visited was the Big 8 housing project by the Bjarke Ingels Group. This housing development is a mixed income, mixed demographic project that is already 80% filled with owners. Big 8 is located in a section of Copenhagen accessible by bicycle and Metro, but not yet fully developed in the surrounding areas. Surrounding the Big 8 project is every service and commodity a person may need in addition to wildlife and scenic views. It was interesting to hear later the next day that other architects did not support this type of development. It was eye opening to hear that Copenhagen is still going through trials with new land use experiments and combinations. Read more about it here.
We then had the amazing privilege to visit Jan Gehl Architects. Jan Gehl reconfigured how architects think about space. His architects start with the people and how they use the space and build atop of that. It sounds like a basic idea, and it sounds like every architect should be pursuing jobs in that manner, but it is groundbreaking and effective. The firm is recognized world wide. I had a chance to talk one on one with Jeff, below. It was inspiring. Jeff took us on a tour around Copenhagen, pointing out notable spots of architectural design. He gave us an American viewpoint on European planning. He was honest. I’ve never felt so positively about architecture until meeting with him. Please look up Jan Gehl Architects if you are not familiar. And someone please buy me Jan’s four books for Christmas this year.
Finally, with Cobe Architects we had the opportunity to see their project at North Harbor which will be one of the largest undertakings in urban planning in Copenhagen. They are planning to actually extend Denmark’s land further into the sound separating Sweden and Denmark to supply housing for the growing populations. On this land Cobe is trying to recreate a natural Copenhagen community feel by keeping one out of every five existing structures, cutting canals into existing and new land, and encouraging the same bicycle and lifestyle behaviors as in Copenhagen’s city center. It is a humungous and novel undertaking. Rune, below, seemed quite optimistic about its turnout.
You will begin to see cycling as a normal, everyday thing.
Less and less do I think swaths of cyclists are an odd or exciting thing. Oh who am I kidding, large swaths of cyclists will always be an exciting thing for me. But I now realize that it is a completely normal thing in other countries. Below are two photos with the times visible on them. This is the bike counter on the busiest bridge in Copenhagen, Dronning Louise’s Bro or Queen Lousie’s Bridge. This bridge can achieve between 20,000 and 30,000 cyclists crossing it a day! The times are visible in the photos. You can see just how many cyclists travel across this bridge on a daily basis. These numbers in the photo below are some city’s entire level of ridership! And it occurs all before 10:00am almost every morning!
120+ cyclists in 12 minutes! Bike Mike pointed out this bridge on our tour. Thanks Mike.
This city now holds a special meaning to me. Copenhagen reminds me a lot of my hometown of Pittsburgh. That post is soon to come! I could spend months exploring all of the nooks and crannies Copenhagen has to offer, but that will have to wait until another time.