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The bike is a Dane's best friend

No Dane would admit to not owning a bicycle!

Photographs: iStock

Text: Mariano Anthony Davies

Danes use bicycles for pleasure, commuting, transport of goods, family travel and sport. Consequently, throughout Denmark, there are extensive networks of bike lanes and bike highways to assist Denmark’s biking culture.

On average, the Danes cycle 1,6 kilometres a day and cycling accounts for a quarter of all personal transport for distances of less than five km.

Over 100 Years of Biking

Bikes were first introduced to Denmark in the 1880s when this two-wheeled form of transport was first introduced as a novelty. The new bicycle trend increased into becoming a household transport item in the mainly agricultural Danish society of the 1920s and 1930s. It soon became a symbol of equality and freedom of movement.

In the 1950s, as Denmark developed into a streamlined industrial society, mopeds and automobiles replaced many bicycles as a primary method of transport. However, the oil crisis of the 1970s resulted in many more Danes once again choosing to bike to work. Combine this with the twenty-first century growing concerns about air pollution and the need for desk-bound people to get more exercise and it is easy to see why the bicycle made a huge comeback across Danish society.

Bikes in Denmark

Did you know that only four out of every ten Danes own a car, whereas nine out of ten Danes own a bicycle? Approximately half a million bicycles are sold in Denmark every year.

Biking is now one of the primary forms of transportation in Denmark. Sunshine, rain, hail and snow are all weather conditions in which you will see Danish bicyclists on their way to work, going shopping, or attending a social event.

The Danes ride many different types of bikes, from racing cycles to the large box-like cargo bikes used to transport goods and often young children. The most famous of these is the famous Christiania bicycle with a box in front.

The Christiania bicycle has become a cultural symbol of, particularly, Copenhagen. It all started more than 30 years ago when Christiania’s blacksmith, Lars Engstrøm, secretly made a cargo bike as a birthday present for his girlfriend, Annie. It had only been intended (and built) as a practical aid for her, but Annie had hardly unwrapped her gift before their first Christiania neighbour had ordered one too - and so the production of the Christiania bike began.

This unique practical cargo bike also drew the attention of those outside Christiania Freetown and increasing demand prompted the relocation of production to larger premises on Bornholm in 1990. Since then, the bike has become popular all over Denmark and is currently exported to more than 20 countries.

The latest bike trend is the electric bike – a conventional bicycle with a battery and built-in electrical assistance. The electrical assistance can be turned off and then it just becomes a regular bike. The market for these and other two-wheel variations (electric scooters) is growing very fast.

Cycle Superhighways

Denmark is now building national cycle superhighways. To serve the large number of cyclists, contemporary urban planners are working to develop a new physical cycling infrastructure all over the country. This includes wide cycle paths and cycle bridges to increase safety, and these ‘cycle superhighways’ are being expanded in the greater urban areas to increase access and reach.

The main purpose of the cycle superhighways is to create better conditions for cyclists. This form of transport infrastructure is safer and makes it a lot easier for commuters to bike to and from work instead of taking a car. Furthermore, the cycle superhighway infrastructure connects with railway stations - making it attractive to combine cycling with public transportation.

A 'cycle superhighway' is designed to comply with a set of quality measures such as air pumps, footrests, safer intersections, green wave infrastructure and traffic lights timed to average cycling speed. They are now even marked by road signs as well as orange sign spots in the asphalt to ensure better visibility for cycling commuters. You simply follow the orange C.

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