Hej far Kobenhavn,
Too many cars in peak hour? Too much pollution in the city? Too many fat people getting fatter with the sedentary lifestyle of city work? The Danes have an answer. The solution is to encourage more and more to ride bicycles to and from work and whenever they need to move from one place to another.
Copenhagen must be a world leader in getting a greater number to take up bicycling rather than using fossil fuels to get around the city. There are literally hundreds of thousands riding bicycles around the place. Linda and I joined the throng to test our wits against the road traffic in the centre of the city.
In most countries cyclists are the odd ones out, battling to have a fair go on the roads and resigning themselves to playing a minor role, subservient to the king of the road: the car. Here the tide has well and truly turned. It’s great to behold and even better to participate. The number of cycles on the road is roughly equivalent to the number of motorised vehicles.
The numbers have passed – long ago in the case of Copenhagen – the critical mass which renders the bicycle a relevant player: one to be catered for by civic planners as well as by drivers negotiating turning points and busy intersections. They are much higher in the pecking order here by virtue of their numerical status.
Civic planners in Copenhagen have instituted lots of incentives for bicyclists. There are special metal races up staircases to allow movement of bikes, special traffic lights, lanes designated for exclusive use and hundreds of thousands of bike racks around the city. Helmets are not compulsory but hardly necessary as most drivers give due reverence to the bicyclists anyway.
The women have taken to the conveyance with relish. There are equal numbers of men and women riding to and fro. The women certainly don’t lose any womanly dignity in the activity. Many of them seem to be going to or from work, dressed in good clothes, with neat coats on and long blonde hair blowing in the breeze behind them.
The city has undergone a metamorphosis but the conversion is not yet complete. The market is not yet saturated, it has to be said. There still is a peak hour of motorised transport and many still prefer the car. They could feasibly treble the numbers on bikes before any design problems would arise.
But there is clearly no turning back for the city. This is no craze that will run its course, like a tawdry fashion which peters out after a short period of time. These people have embraced the bicycle and have set a new standard for flat, cool cities. We enjoyed getting in among them riding around from one end to another, and haven’t finished yet. After dinner this evening, we plan to ride off to see the bronze mermaid in one of the many canals. We know we’ll at least have a fair go in the traffic on our push bikes and mostly fresh air to breathe on the journey. Copenhagen has set a new standard for those measures.
Farvel from Copenhagen