Haven’t you heard? Copenhagen has pedaled its way back to the title of ‘World’s Best Cycle City.’
The award shouldn’t be surprising. Every morning around 7am, the streets of Copenhagen burst into action. People from all walks of life – from men in business suits to fashionistas in their favorite stilettos – hop on their bike and head off about their day. Cycling is ingrained in the hearts, minds, and culture of the people of Copenhagen, regardless of age or occupation. In Copenhagen proper alone, there are 650,000 bikes, 48,000 bike racks, and 429 kilometers of path dedicated to cyclists.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Copenhagen administration has recently added even more dedicated bicycle lanes and paths: the appropriately named Cycle Super Highway. This bikers-only expressway – the country’s first – connects central Copenhagen to the suburban town Albertslund, roughly 20 km outside the city.
To get an idea of just how popular cycling is in the “Bike Capital of the World”, check out these statistics: 55% of the population rides to work or school every day, meaning that there are more bike commuters in the tiny city of Copenhagen every day than there are in the entire United States.
How Denmark Became the Biking Nation
Not long after James Starley introduced the bicycle as we know it – called the ‘Baton Bike’ – in 1885, the streets of Copenhagen were dominated by riders of all types. Middleclass mothers rode their bikes to and from the grocery store, while high-powered bank Directors cruised home from a long day in the office.
Surprisingly, bicycles were almost dethroned as the most popular mode of transportation in the early 1960’s. Automobiles were constantly improving, and many individuals viewed them as a symbol of status and wealth – an unusual display for the inherently-humble citizens of Denmark. The ever-improving standard of living across the small nation contributed to an increase demand in automobiles, seriously threatening the bicycle culture that had once been so prevalent.
A severe oil crisis – coupled with an environmental movement and several controversial road projects – stopped the car craze from gaining too much momentum. In the 1970’s, ‘Car Free Sundays’ were introduced with great enthusiasm. Cyclists rode the streets constantly, lobbying for a car free city. Eventually, many Copenhageners would follow suit, thrusting bicycles back into the top spot as the best preferred method of transportation.
Why Choose a Bike?
While choosing a cycle as the primary means of transportation is environmentally intelligent, the people of Copenhagen love their bikes for different reasons altogether. According to a recent poll conducted by IceBike, 56% of cyclists choose to bike because it is the fastest way to get around, thanks to the countless cycling lanes and bike paths throughout the city. In addition, 29% of riders stated that it was the most cost-efficient way to get around. This is a no brainer, especially when wildly-fluctuating gasoline prices are taken into consideration.
Lastly, the people of Copenhagen choose to cycle every day because their city is an extremely safe place to do so. In 2014, there were only 9 traffic-related fatalities in the city – a staggeringly low figure when compared with New York City, which reported over 250 traffic-related fatalities in the same year.
There’s just no denying it: cycling is the most convenient option for the eternally-happy citizens of Copenhagen. It only takes a few seconds to get going, and bikes can be parked virtually anywhere – especially with the tens of thousands of public racks available across the city.