Indiana University Overseas Study

Cycle Culture


There is something you have to know if you are coming to stay in Copenhagen. There are bicycles everywhere.

Copenhagen is one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world. Over 35% of the population commutes by bicycle. It’s not uncommon to see mothers riding funny bicycles with tubs on the front, filled with children like a bicycle mini van.

Copenhagen is designed for cyclists. Cyclists have their own lanes and their own traffic lights. Bicycle lanes are to the right of parking lanes, so cyclists don’t have to worry as much about drivers opening their doors into bicycle traffic. During commuting hours, certain paths from the suburbs to the city center prioritize cyclists, giving them green lights all the way though, so they can get to work quickly. Bicycle paths are plowed just like roads.

People in Copenhagen don’t cycle primarily because it’s “green” or even because it’s healthy. Mostly they cycle because it is the easiest, cheapest way to get from point A to point B.

I was lucky enough to see a talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen the first week I arrived in Copenhagen. He was the blogger who, in terms of cycling, put Copenhagen on the international map with his website CycleChic, which features pictures of Danes cycling and looking cool in all kinds of weather. This project expanded into Copenhagenize, a company which gives lectures and talks to city planners about simple things that can make cities safe and accessible for cyclists.

It’s really expensive to own a car in Denmark. There is a 180% percent tax on cars, and an additional monthly tax that’s dependent on the Miles per Gallon of your car (gas guzzling vehicles are more expensive here even if they’re just sitting in your driveway). While this might seem outrageous, remember that Denmark is a small country, and has significant infrastructure to support commuters and travelers.

Moral of the story? Try for a bicycle or public transportation whenever possible, especially if it’s part of the culture. It is good for health and good for the environment, but more importantly, cycling can get you where you need to go.

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