Saturday, 16 July 2011
Danish life: Is this why cycling works?
It was during the London tube strikes a couple of years ago that my husband first started cycling to work. We lived in Swiss Cottage and he worked at Canary Wharf so it was quite an effort to add the 35 minutes of hard pedalling (70 mins for a return journey!) to his weekly workout schedule. Then he gave up his annual tube pass and cycling became his preferred means of commuting. I was already a cyclist but this was how we became a biking family. When we moved to Copenhagen, maintaining our cycling lifestyle was effortless but we upgraded our wheels with two major purchases: first we invested in a cargo bike, which is used for school runs and whenever we need to transport both the children, and then my husband bought a very stylish road bike (see pics). If you also take into account our little boy's first bike with stabilisers, we're now a 13-wheel family!
Cycling here in Copenhagen is so easy. Looking back, the London commute was a death wish. Here there are cycle lanes on most roads and at junctions there are usually separate traffic signals for cyclists. There are different rules from London too: for example, you signal to slow down and when you want to turn across traffic you have to cross with pedestrians not the cars (ie you continue across a junction and then wait for the signal to change and cross again). But it isn't just the cycling rules and etiquette that makes it a very agreeable way to travel, there is a different attitude between the road users of Denmark and their English counterparts. It is an attitude of mutual respect. I have encountered only one incident of 'cycle rage' and that was a woman who swore at me when I was cycling along and eating ice cream with a fellow mum-friend in slow moving mid-afternoon traffic. She stood out like a sore thumb from the otherwise very pleasant biking masses.
P.S. I can't imagine that anyone would use this blog as an advice on Danish road traffic law but, just in case, here is my disclaimer: this blog post is written for the purposes of comment and discussion only. It is not a statement of the law or how it might apply to any particular set of accident circumstances and should not be relied upon as such.