Bicycle rush hour in Copenhagen

I saw this great YouTube footage of bicycle rush hour in Copenhagen on the Copenhagenize site. As you watch it, imagine how different it would look if each of those cyclists or even the majority of them, were in private motor vehicles instead. Also notice how hardly any of the cyclists are wearing helmets or hi-viz clothing or any special cycling gear. They’re wearing normal clothes and are using bicycles as a way to get to work, school, shops etc. Cyclists in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, by contrast, look as though they’re competing in a race which has the effect of making cycling look dangerous and inaccessible. This is what I want for Christmas: a cycling culture like the Danish have but in Scotland.


36 Replies to “Bicycle rush hour in Copenhagen”

      1. But I haven’t made any argument about helmets other than observing hardly any Danes are wearing them. I can’t see how you can disagree with that if you’ve watched the video.

      2. Soz if I misunderstood. I read it to mean you liked the idea of, amongst other things, cycling without helmets and I think that’s not a clever idea. The freedom to cycle and wear what you like is hugely to be encouraged and I’m with you there.

      3. For what it’s worth I am against compulsory helmet legislation – see the Ben Goldacre article I linked to in another comment -but I certainly don’t object to people choosing to wear helmets if they want to. I wear a Hovding – an airbag helmet.

      4. There you go. We agree then – happy days. Not sure the article helps very much either way to be honest – having just read it – not the writers fault but more the fault of the seriously confused politics that impacts everything cycling.

  1. It’s nice to see more cyclists on the road and not unlike the volume on several of the Vancouver bikeways during rush hour with one major exception. Helmets. We wear helmets not because we are racing but because it is the responsible thing to do.

    1. I think it’s more accurate to say that people in British Columbia wear helmets because it’s mandatory. I’m sure if it were not mandatory there would be lots of people not wearing helmets and there may even be more people cycling. I’m not going to comment on whether it’s the responsible thing to do other than to point out a study published in the British Medical Journal by Ben Goldacre on bicycle helmet legislation:

      1. I’m not disputing that helmets can save lives. I’m disputing the claim that people in British Columbia all wear helmets because they are more responsible than the people in Denmark when it’s really just that they have no choice.

      2. But I do oppose compulsory helmet legislation which does not save lives.

      3. Oh I just saw this: some new research out of Canada – Helmet legislation was not associated with hospitalisation rates for brain, head, scalp, skull, face or neck injuries.

        In the linked medical journal article it says:

        Helmet legislation was not associated with hospitalisation rates for brain, head, scalp, skull, face or neck injuries.

  2. Wow, great footage. Reminds me of my high school days when I used to cycle to school.

    > Cyclists in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, by contrast, look as though they’re competing in a race
    Indeed. This is one of the things that puts me off about cycling in Auckland. You need a lot of cycling gear and accessories to “get noticed” by motorists.

    1. Reminds me of my high school days when I used to cycle to school.

      Was that in India? I’ve heard the traffic is pretty bad in some of the big cities in India and lethal for anyone on a bicycle. Is that right?

      1. Yes, it was in India. I went to high school in a small town next to my village, cycling about 4k a day, both ways.

        This reminds me of my first BSA SLR bike my maternal granddad bought me as I scored higher than rest of my class in the Year 7 final exams.

        It was in 1995. Perhaps that’s why I can’t find that exact bike on their website now:

      2. To answer your question, yeah it is a bit risky to cycle on chaotic Indian roads. But people adapt and manage it. There are cycling groups popping up in all big cities among educated crowds out of enthusiasm. I yearned for a Cannondale and hoped to join when I was in Bangalore.

        Driving or biking on Indian roads is a skill I wish I don’t have to master.

  3. This was my commute for a 5 year period when I lived and worked in Copenhagen.

    Some other fun bits of trivia around bicycling in Copenhagen:

    This is a bicycle parking lot
    This is a foot rest for bicyclists, super convenient: you just bike up next to it, put down the foot and lean. No need to get off your seat.
    – During the morning commute, red and green lights are synced to bicyclist speed, under an initiative called “green wave”. So just bike in a normal speed, and you’ll have nothing but green lights driving into the city from the outskirts.

    The More You Know™!

    1. That foot rest is fantastic! There’s double-decker bicycle parking like that in York at the train station but not nearly as big.

      Were there any negatives to living in a city that’s so cycle-friendly? Were most motorists happy about it? I assume so because I imagine most motorists in Copenhagen are also cyclists themselves.

      1. Negatives? Well, sure, but I don’t think those negatives can be pinned on bicycles themselves, rather human nature. And so if we didn’t have so many bicycles, these negatives would just manifest themselves elsewhere, I’m sure.

        For example, there are bicycle commuters, like I was. We obey the traffic signs, to the benefit of bicyclists and motorists alike. We bike on the right side of the bike lane unless we’re overtaking someone, and when we get to a red light we keep our spot in the queue. Bad bicyclists, on the other hand, run red lights. They bike really slowly, and on the left side of the lane blocking anyone from overtaking them. And when there’s a red light, they’ll pass as many bicyclists they can to get right up in front. On a really bad day, they’ll start messing with their ipod once they finally reach the “tete de la course”, and miss the fact that the light is now green. It can certainly be a bit infuriating. Thankfully the bad bicyclists mostly come out in the spring when the sun is out and energy starts rising. Usually by mid early June they’re either educated about good biking manners, or taking the bus/train again 🙂

        Yes, some motorists are unhappy about bicyclists, especially the bad ones. But these are the minority, as I feel like there’s an almost universal acknowledgement that bicycles are good for the city. It’s also important to state that there are bike lanes nearly everywhere. These aren’t just painted on the road, they’re elevated from the road, separated by a row of cobbles, and if there’s parking on the street the bike lane is obviously on the inside of that. Here’s a picture of it I found. In the end, that means bicyclists mostly annoy motorists when it’s time to cross a red light.

      2. Ok, there are cyclists like that everywhere and also plenty of badly behaved motorists.

        I’d love to live somewhere with proper cycling lanes like that. I’ve been in contact with Aberdeen City Council and they apparently have plans for paths like this but it’s on a time scale of years and so I just have to be patient.

      3. Sorry about how mangled that comment turned out! Looks like I forgot to close a link. Feel free to edit that if you like.

  4. Great, isn’t it.

    On the helmets thing, It’s really funny that the only person wearing a helmet is on a machine that makes it well nigh impossible to suffer a head injury. For people who want to know more the CTC have a good page explaining the pros and cons. One quote “The evidence on this question is complex and contradictory”

    1. Thanks. I support the CTC and agree with their decision to oppose compulsory helmet legislation. Thanks for the link.

  5. Speaking of helmets, they are not legally mandated in Denmark, and I probably wouldn’t be for such legislation. Nor did I wear one during my five year commute. But I do today, and so does my daughter (here she is riding her training bike), because absolutely I feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s so very easy to fall on your bike or be hit by a car, and if luck isn’t with you, well, things could look grim. So most definitely I would recommend bicyclists wear helmets. The fact that I didn’t — silly me, I should’ve known better.

    More on the trivia side of things, I believe the fact that so few danes wear helmets is probably inherent in the fact that there are so many bikes in the first place. Everyone bikes. Everyone has a bicycle. Of course you do, why wouldn’t you have one? How would you get around without a bike? You use it for short trips just down to the grocery store, you use it for long trips. This pervasiveness of bicycles has, I would speculate, perhaps made us lazy in the face of traffic. The cons (you have to carry your helmet around with you when you leave the bicycle) start to feel like they outweigh the benefits (don’t get serious injuries). Yes, I do realize that sounds absolutely crazy, and it is. Oh, and fashion. I suppose that is important to the younger generation too, of which I was part of as mentioned before.

    1. Helmets are not mandatory in the UK either and I am glad of that. Compulsory helmet legislation was introduced in Australia some years ago and had the effect of significantly reducing the number of cyclists. Now obesity is a big problem and sedentary lifestyles are killing people instead. I think the risk of a fatal head injury is far lower than the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. But I do think there’s a benefit to the individual of wearing a helmet when they hit their head.

      1. Oh that Australia thing makes me sad. No I absolutely agree that helmets, while definitely a good idea, should not be mandatory. Golly maybe you just want to take a short stroll through the forest and goodness forbid you forget to bring your helmet, being ticketed for that feels onerous.

        Not wearing helmets on a bicycle, I feel, are one of those risks one should be allowed to decide to run. Like smoking, or driving a car. And yes, the health benefits can’t really be overstated. During my bicycle commute days I did not need to do any exercise other than the transport I did to and from work. Other than the exercise and weight issues, it’s really worth mentioning the cleaner air from reduced motor traffic, I’d wager that makes a positive difference as well! Though I don’t need to take my bike to work anymore, I often go on rides with the family, and I couldn’t imagine not owning a bike.

      2. I cycle my kids to school everyday and love how this means I don’t have to do any exercise. I also always feel so great afterwards.

        Yes I agree it should definitely be someone’s choice to wear a helmet or not.

    2. Great pic btw! She’s cute 🙂 My kids always wear a helmet when they ride their bikes too.

  6. That film is almost hypnotic in places, shoals of cyclists! Some studies have shown that a reduction in lead has led to a reduction in criminal acts, if this is so maybe there are other correlations with other pollution, as well as health ones. More bikes = better lives? I also like the fact that many folk just cycle through the winter.

    1. I’ve never heard about the lead connection with criminal acts. I’ll have to investigate further. Sounds interesting!

      Yes, I like how they’re all cycling in the snow too. It didn’t seem like there was any reduction in the number of bikes either.

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