Danes and Cycling

Two-wheeled Vikings and why I own 3 bikes


In a country where new cars are taxed at 180% - that means a $20,000 car will cost you $56,000- bikes are bound to be popular.


Everybody bikes in Denmark.

You'll see executives, male and female, in grey pinstriped business suits on bikes.

You'll see people toting their kids around in special bike trailers.

You'll see old ladies biking very, very slowly with a lot of people behind them, and you'll see me, trying to balance my fresh dry cleaning on my bike because I don't have a car.




The fact that Denmark is relatively flat helps - nobody likes to bike uphill - as does the fact that the climate is temperate.

Denmark is as far north as parts of Alaska, but it usually isn't bitterly cold in the winter. So even in the winter you'll see Danish commuters pumping their bikes through the snow.

In Copenhagen, the bike lanes get plowed before the streets do.




Most people in Copenhagen have more than one bike, sometimes three. One might be a sport racing bike, or a mountain bike, and the other might be a 'shopper' bike, with a big basket for bringing home groceries.

It's also quite common to have an extra, ugly bike.

An ugly bike is a bike that gets no love, and often no maintenance. It's a rusted, broken-down bike you use for short commutes and leave at the train station.





When I used to work at Carlsberg, the beer company, I'd take my shopper bike to the train station by my house, get on the train, get off at the stop near Carlsberg, where I had another bike waiting - an ugly bike.

It wasn't a nice neighborhood, so I needed not a very nice bike, something that wouldn't be worth the effort to steal.

I'd ride the ugly bike to work. At the end of the day, I'd ride the ugly bike back to the station by Carlsberg, leave it there, get back on the train, get off at the stop by my house, and ride my shopper bike home. Two bikes and a train - that's a pretty typical commute.




If you want to live in Denmark, you will need a bicycle. Bikes are so important that the government actually teaches immigrants how to bike so they can get around.

Apparently it also teaches the immigrants good bicycle etiquette, because they have much better cycling manners than native-born Danes.




For Danes, bicycle lanes are the Viking's last stand.

Those gentle blond people, these people who will wait two minutes at a red don't walk sign instead of crossing an empty streets - armed with a bike, they turn vicious and brutal.

They will scream at you, lose their temper, start pointless arguments in the bicycle lanes.

They ring their bicycle bell dozens of times if they think you are holding up their all-important trip to the supermarket.



They also text while they're cycling, talk on the phone while they're cycling, groove to music through giant headphones while they're cycling.

They go through red lights and intentionally go the wrong way in bicycle lanes.

They ride straight down sidewalks, ringing their little bells to tell pedestrians to get out of the way.



Occasionally the police in Copenhagen do bicycle raids. They hide around a corners and watch Danish bicyclists do all the things they do on a daily basis anyway.

Then they hand out tickets for DK750, which must be a nice little money-earner for the commune.




You know, now that I think about it, if they could write a ticket every time Danish Viking bicyclists did something aggressive or illegal, you could cut down on some of those notorious Danish taxes.

Think about that, guardians of the welfare state.