Copenhagen Cycling Culture

I cycle to work every day. More often than not, I see more bicycles than I see cars on my way. Probably this is due to the fact that the time I ride to work, is after the initial morning rush hour. Even so, it’s still pretty good for a capital.

Mostly there are only benefits to this Copenhagen cycling culture, the most important of all being that Mother Nature really enjoys the lack of fumes.

On the other hand, it’s not a very clever or intelligent culture. In fact, most people riding bicycles in Copenhagen act like mindless drones.

On the off chance that you, the reader, are a bicyclist in Copenhagen / Denmark, please keep the following in mind for your next ride.

Five Pieces of Advice for Riding Bicycles

  1. Obey the most basic of laws
  2. Red light means “stay put”. Green light means “go”. The light is there for a reason. If you think you can get where you need to be faster by crossing the red light, you’re probably wrong. Street lights are usually synchronized, so all light posts in the same direction are green at the same time. Crossing the red light will most likely just get you to another red light.

  3. Slow bicyclists, know your place
  4. There are few things that annoy me more than slow bicyclists that mindlessly stay in the fast lane. I’m not allowed to pass you by on the inner lane, so you’re effectively blocking the way for that growing column behind you. Pull in, for the love of god, pull in!

  5. Don’t smoke while cycling
  6. I generally don’t mind people smoking. But I do mind it if they’re smoking while riding their bikes. Especially if they’re blocking your way like #2. First, there’s the why: Why not wait till you’re where you need to be? Are the cravings really that bad? Surely the enjoyment must be better at point B? Then there’s the how: How can you breathe smoke, while riding a bike? Some air must be needed in those busy lungs somewhere?

  7. Scooters, you’re not all powerful
  8. Some scooters drive on the same part of the sidewalk that is reserved for us cyclists. Most of them think “hey, I’m on a scooter, I’m faster than all of these morons”, and expect the fast lane to be their property. I shouldn’t have to overtake them from the inner lane, just to demonstrate their weak ratio of acceleration. If you must use the cycle lane, atleast follow the same rules we do. That means #1 and #2.

  9. Look for the cyclist green light

In Copenhagen, most larger crossroads have special light posts just for cyclists. They’re just like the normal red/green light posts, except they’re smaller. They commonly turn green in advance of the large light posts, yet cyclists that have problems with #1 usually don’t know this. That means an unnecessary wait for those of us who do.

Did I miss anything?

17 thoughts on “Copenhagen Cycling Culture”

  1. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Sounds about right. However, the most fundamental of laws for cyclists in Copenhagen is: “Don’t flaunt your death wish.”

  2. Nik says:

    There are few things that annoy me more than slow bicyclists that mindlessly stay in the fast lane.

    Wow! That’s a serious cycling culture you got over there when you have a fast & slow lanes! Or maybe it’s just a sign of the very poor setup we have in the UK. Although Sustrans are doing great work to make a difference.

    Anyway, I’ll stick to off-road routes to unwind on the way back from work! 🙂

  3. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Wow! That’s a serious cycling culture you got over there when you have a fast & slow lanes!

    It does sound more impressive than it actually is. The reality is that most bike lanes in Denmark are wide enough to accomodate two bikes next to each other, it follows naturally from the automotive traffic that these two “lanes” should be utilized in the same fashion as on multi-lane roads. However, with the way drivers behave, it should be no surprise that cyclists can’t figure it out either.

  4. gareth says:

    i rode those crazy bikes where you put in some money to unlock them when i was in copenhagen. Great fun, people were really nice, two old guys helped my put on the chain when it came off.

  5. Maarten says:

    You forgot one critical problem i have experienced here in Holland. Three people one their bikes riding next to each other so nobody can overtake them.

    I have come across one strange law in Sweden where it is illegal to have someone sit on the bagagecarrier. Is this the same in Denmark?

  6. Joen says:

    I haven’t been able to reply to this until now. I’ve had something… unfortunate happen to my home computer. For some reason it refuses to identify my network cable, meaning: no internet. On the upside, this very entry is written on my girflriends brand spanking new Powerbook. Further coolness includes this site looking fairly like it’s supposed to, in Safari. Not bad.

    On topic:

    Maarten,

    Nice addition, and definitely something I agree with. Fortunately it’s usually resolved with a ring of the bell.

    As for the bagage carrier law, yes I believe that’s similar in Denmark. No wait, I’m sure it is, because I once (in my na?ve youth) got stopped by a policecar, when I was hitching a ride on the very same carrier.

  7. Nik says:

    On the upside, this very entry is written on my girflriends brand spanking new Powerbook.

    Ha! That for sure sounds like a comment from someone on their way to switching to the Mac? No? 🙂

    Back on topic:

    Fortunately it’s usually resolved with a ring of the bell.

    A while ago I wanted to get a bell for my bike, and it was pretty damn difficult! Trip Computers, MP3 Player holders, a variety of Halogen and LED lights, but a bell… nope, sorry sir.

  8. Joen says:

    Ha! That for sure sounds like a comment from someone on their way to switching to the Mac? No? 🙂

    No, definitely not 🙂 But that’s for a different article. Suffice to say OSX disappointed me, something I imagine happens rarely. One example is: “Where’s the maximize window button?” – “Plus”, she says. “Plus? Why plus? Plus means add something”.

    A while ago I wanted to get a bell for my bike, and it was pretty damn difficult! Trip Computers, MP3 Player holders, a variety of Halogen and LED lights, but a bell… nope, sorry sir.

    MP3 players !? Wow, why not just an iPod holder?

  9. Jonas Rabbe says:

    One example is: “Where’s the maximize window button?” – “Plus”, she says. “Plus? Why plus? Plus means add something”.

    Yeah, you add to the space the window takes up. Plus is also for increase, which is what you do when you maximise. However, it’s not really maximization and is also called “zoom” in official Apple terminology. You are probably right, though, this is a matter for a different entry.

    MP3 players !? Wow, why not just an iPod holder?

    Like this ?

  10. Chris says:

    Living in America and reading noscope I’m beginning to imagine Copenhagen as some sort of Utopian city. Here, cyclists take their life in their hands. It’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk, though most don’t know this. Bikes are expected to act like cars even on 55 mph roads. My one biggest problem though are cars filled with people being nice.

    Scenario: Here many intersections have pressure sensitive strips through the asphalt that can tell when a car is waiting at a light. Car pulls up, trips sensor, light changes. This doesn’t work if your bike weighs 200 pounds including rider. The problem comes up when I’m in a lane, acting like a car, waiting for a light. I can’t trip the sensor and no matter how much I indicate to the car behind me to pull up and trip the sensor for me, they won’t cause they’re nice.

    Off-topic, but by this point I’m on topic: the green blob (zoom) expands the window to fit the document. It doesn’t expand to fill the screen. If the screen is 1024 wide but the document is 800 wide then zoom expands to 800 wide. Oddly this can have a different effect with Finder windows and whether a window remembers its state from launch to launch is a magical mystery.

  11. Jonas Rabbe says:

    When I lived in San Luis Obispo, riding my bike (which I did often) was an extreme sport.

    In contrast to most other American cities, SLO actually has bike lanes, narrow patches of asphalt seperated from moving traffic by a 4 inch white painted line, every time a car passed it felt like it might clip my elbow.

    The biggest problem, however, was that most people didn’t expect bikes there. I was cut off by cars turning right several times within that year, one time a van swerved into the right turn lane halfway down the lane causing me to slam on my brakes and watch my life pass before my eyes, but nothing else happened.

    The second time a young guy pulled his pickup into a parking lot causing me to run into the right front fender and roll across the hood of the car, fortunately nothing happened to neither me nor my bike. You could see it on the guy after I had checked myself and my bike thoroughly, it was a whole-body sigh of relief that I was unharmed and didn’t want to sue him.

  12. “this very entry is written on my girflriends brand spanking new Powerbook.”

    You proved too hard a nut to crack, so we assessed the situation and went for her instead.

    Join us!

    “But that’s for a different article. Suffice to say OSX disappointed me, something I imagine happens rarely.”

    Would you just write that damn entry already?! As for OS X, here’s something which I fight with every damn day in Windows: There’re no toggleable pseudo-modes. Like in Windows, if you press and release ALT, everything you do from there on is applied to the menu bar… WTF?! In 3ds max, where ALT is a modifier key that combined with the middle mouse button allows you to rotate the camera, well it’s more than a little annoying.

    That said, the zoom button is one of OS X’s largest problems, since it never quite acts how you’d think…

    “It’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk, though most don’t know this.”

    Chris, that’s also illegal in Copenhagen.

    As for the subject of this entry, I’ve got one thing to add:

    • Bikes belong behind the white stripe at intersections, not in front of it. The time you save by pulling 25% into the intersection with your bike is probably not worth it anyway. Adding insult to injury, most cyclists pull all the way out into the intersection and then when the light goes green, they turn out to be the slowest cyclists in the queue! FFS! Get out of my way you slackers!
  13. Chris says:

    Jonas, regarding that feeling of doom using american “bike lanes” there have been many times whilst riding in the area of concrete where curb meets road and an 18 wheeler whizzes past it feels as though the entire left side of my body has vaporized for just a moment.

  14. Joen says:

    Wow, 5 replies while I was gone. I still haven’t got Internet from home, so I can only respond here from work. Maybe I should do this more often.

    From the top (I wish I had fixed the threaded comments by now):

    Jonas,

    Yeah, you add to the space the window takes up. Plus is also for increase, which is what you do when you maximise. However, it?s not really maximization and is also called “zoom” in official Apple terminology. You are probably right, though, this is a matter for a different entry.

    Hmm. Well. I can understand that. I might even agree slightly. Still, I’ll delve more into it at a later point. I’ve promised this for years now 🙂

    Like this ?

    Like that, yeah… hehe. Crazy.

    Chris,

    […] pressure sensitive strips […]

    Hmm. Sounds hi-tech, but in favor of cars. Did I tell you I mostly don’t like cars?

    With that said, Copenhagen is not a bicycling utopia. Several times I’ve seen my life flash before me due to some car not aware of #1.

    Off-topic, but by this point I?m on topic: the green blob (zoom) expands the window to fit the document. It doesn?t expand to fill the screen. If the screen is 1024 wide but the document is 800 wide then zoom expands to 800 wide. Oddly this can have a different effect with Finder windows and whether a window remembers its state from launch to launch is a magical mystery.

    That’s another thing I don’t like, but more on that later 🙂

    Michael,

    You proved too hard a nut to crack, so we assessed the situation and went for her instead. Join us!

    Oh she’s joined you already! She’s saving to get an Apple Cinema display as well. There’s nothing I can do!

    Would you just write that damn entry already?!

    Yes I know, I’m terrible. But I also figure I have to kinda try it out a bit before I lay down the law.

    As for OS X, here?s something which I fight with every damn day in Windows: There?re no toggleable pseudo-modes. Like in Windows, if you press and release ALT, everything you do from there on is applied to the menu bar… WTF?!

    Yeah.. I’m not defending that trainwreck!

    In 3ds max, where ALT is a modifier key that combined with the middle mouse button allows you to rotate the camera, well it?s more than a little annoying.

    Actually, with regards to 3ds max, I completely disagree. I know there are 10 ways to rotate your view, but I’m actually using that “Alt + middle mouse button” method. CTRL + Alt plus middle mouse button is zoom. It’s just so close to eachother and precise. I like it.

    More importantly, I’m pretty sure that you can reconfigure it.

    Oh, and in your response to Chris, it seems you had one too few copy/pastes. I’ve guessed what you meant 🙂 correct me if I’m wrong.

    As for your addition to the 5 pieces of advice, I heartily agree. In fact, I’d place it as #2 or #3 had I remembered it. My blood is boiling just at the thought.

    Funny story: That same thing happened a month ago at the WRONG intersection. A guy overtook me on the inside (I was parked BEFORE the white line, and he overtook me to park 1? meter in to the intersection). I’m sure he hadn’t noticed, but he was parked where cars will swing by when it turns green for them. In other words, he’d have to move in 20 seconds when that happened. So what did I do? Nothing. I should’ve told him of course, but I new the car would honk his horn, and I wanted poetic justice. True enough. He was honked all the way back behind the white line. Had this been Kotor 2, I’d have gotten Dark Side points for that!

  15. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Actually, with regards to 3ds max, I completely disagree. I know there are 10 ways to rotate your view

    I think what Michael meant was that once he’d used the alt+middle mouse button then key presses went to the menu. The two parts of his comment seemed connected.

    Had this been Kotor 2, I?d have gotten Dark Side points for that!

    I’d be so dark you wouldn’t be able to see me at night by now. All the little things. Scenario:

    Girl is sitting in the s-train, puts her shoes on the seat opposite hers. I think of a witty retort to make her put her feet back on the floor and brush of the seat, but say nothing. Later, after she put her feet down on her own accord, a man comes in and sits down on the dirt from her shoes, I think of something to say before he sits down, but say nothing.

    Am I a bad person?

  16. Joen says:

    Am I a bad person?

    I say no. I’d do the same thing.

  17. mo says:

    😀

    Really enjoyed reading this Joen, nice to know more about the how these things work out in different places. I’m coming from Binary Bonsai :]

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