There are bicycle-friendly cities around this planet and then there is Copenhagen which is  arguably the most bike-friendly city with almost half its 1.2 million inhabitants commuting to work or school every day.  The statistics were pause for thought for a visitor eager to join the crowds and explore this Nordic capital on two wheels.

As impressive as today’s statistics are however they pale in comparison to an earlier era in the 1950’s when more than double today’s percentage of the population cycled into the city centre every day.


This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.  The graph showing bicycle traffic into the inner city may be found here.

After bottoming-out in the 1970’s bike use began to climb through grassroots efforts in the 80’s until the late 90’s when city policy was adopted to encourage its use with dedicated bike lanes and a more central role in civic planning. The results of a coordinated cycle-centric policy are evident today with over 454 kilometres of cycle tracks and traffic lights that are coordinated in favour of cyclists during rush hour. It’s also worth noting that 80% of cyclists ride all winter despite the occasional snowfall.

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Return the bicycle! by EUregistry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Before jumping on a bike myself I walked around Copenhagen and encountered a few morning rush hours with a steady flow of cyclists.

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After walking around the city centre for a few days my bike envy took over and I stopped by a rental shop and signed out an pretty standard unisex bike for the day for approx. CAD25 but pricing will vary so it never hurts to shop around for the lowest prices. Many hotels offer bike rentals but check for additional fees or an overall higher cost as there are a number of rental shops in and around the Nørrebro station.

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As with most bikes in Europe my rental was equipped with a key operated lock that goes through the rear tire so no bulky chain and padlock is required. The basket was handy to throw my Eddie Bauer camera bag into while on the road but a plastic bag also is worth keeping handy to slip over the seat in case a little rain falls during your ride.

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Once freewheeling around Copenhagen you can’t help but notice the variety of bikes that stop beside you at traffic lights from fancy road bikes fit for the Tour de France to more rugged knobby-tire mountain bikes and utilitarian two or three wheel cargo haulers.

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It isn’t uncommon to see parents pack the children in a cargo bike.

Thee are a number of pedestrian and bicycle-friendly bridges connecting the various part of the city including the so called ‘kissing’ bridge which gets its nickname from the tongue-like sliding bolts that allow the two sections of the bridge to interlock or split apart to allow ships to pass through.

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The ‘kissing’ bridge is near the picture Nyhavn canal and opened in August 2016 but is far from the only innovative paved path for cyclists as the Cykelslangen – the Cycle Snake – is a 700 foot elevated bike-only bridge for that winds its way above the harbour to help speed riders journey to and from the city center.

At 13 feet wide the Cykelslangen is wide enough to accommodate all cyclists including double-wide cargo bikes.

Not far away is Freetown Christiana,  an 84 acre self-governing enclave that grew out of a 1970’s hippie squatters camp in an abandoned military base. Open to the public this area of Christianshavn has a number of shops, galleries, vegan restaurants and music venues worth exploring on bike or on foot.

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This counter-culture corner of Copenhagen tolerates marijuana use but frowns upon hard drugs as is advertised on some of the walls of “Pusher” street, the community’s main avenue.

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Note that because of ongoing friction between police and Christiania residents photography is discouraged. Reminders of the Do’s and Don’ts are posted at entrances so it’s worth noting the suggested rules so that your visit is peaceful.

Worth seeking out while in Christiana is the bike shop Christiania Cykler as they provide a 24-hour bike rental for the equivalent of CAD$18 which is about $10 less than other rental shops I encountered around Copenhagen. Beyond the budget bike rental this shop is the only place in Scandinavia where you can find the handbuilt Pedersen Bicycle, an odd looking upright bike that is reputed to be both more comfortable and offer a better view of the traffic than the variety I was riding. My next time in Copenhagen I’ll have to rent a Pedersen to confirm or refute this theory.

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With such notable civic cycling landmarks, a flat, compact city center and a wealth of bike rental options riding around Copenhagen is a pure pleasure that affords the visitor the ability to navigate this Nordic capital as the locals do and feel like one of them if only for a short time. My only regret was not having rented a bike earlier in my stay but won’t hesitate to hop on a bike every day of my next visit to Copenhagen.