Cycling in Copenhagen is something everyone should experience once in their lives. With almost unrivalled bike infrastructure, certainly outside the Netherlands, and a mind blowing number of cyclists and bicycles, Copenhagen is a prime example on how a city can rid itself of its oil addiction. Dozens of bicycle enthusiasts, traffic professionals, bicycle evangelicals and environmentalists have made a pilgrimage to the city, in fact 11% of tourists arriving in the city, state that they have come to witness what is known as bicycle nirvana, though its not without its problems. If you are already in the city for unrelated reasons, there is no better way to get around the city's attractions, than breezing along the bicycle tracks feeling like a local for brief moment.
The first bicycles descended on Copenhagen from France in the 1890s and in the space of just 17 years, Copenhagen became the hot spot of bicycling in Europe, and until the 1950s the cyclists of the city never looked over their shoulder, and their numbers continued to balloon until Henry Ford's model T, became cheap enough to be sufficiently attractive to appeal to human laziness and yearning for status. For nearly 3 decades Copenhagen then followed the path of most other cities in the world, and the famous bicycle girl who had adorned the classic tourist posters, withered, and became increasingly unattractive to the city's populace.
It took two oil crisis in the 1970’s before the citizens of Copenhagen again opened their eyes to her simplistic beauty, and decided to take a different path than their peers around the world. As Denmark did not have any significant oil reserves a way of preserving fuel had to be found, and urban traffic was one of them. Massive demonstrations to demand space on the roads for bicycles ensued, and slowly but steadily the town hall steered Copenhagen down the road that would lead to Copenhagen becoming one of the leading cities of bicycles in the world, along with Amsterdam.
Time flew by, global warming (which had been theorized about as early as the 1890s) started coming to the fore, Copenhageners continued to bike like they had done for decades, in increasing numbers but without making much of a racket about the fact, until in the 2000s a Canadian photographer revived the old bicycle girl, this time in the modern incarnation of Cycle Chic, and the world began to take note, mayors of world cities like New York and London biked the streets of Copenhagen for inspiration, presidents came, CNN came and suddenly Copenhagenization had entered the vernacular of global dialogue.
While Copenhagen is still one of the leaders, many other cities, especially in the Netherlands, but also medium sized towns in Germany took a similar approach to urban transport in the 1970s and '80s (largely as a response to the oil price shocks of 1973 and the following years), but despite bike culture being important to the residents and local politicians of Münster, Amsterdam or Erlangen their model has attracted much less attention across the borders and especially in the Anglosphere than that of Copenhagen.
While Copenhagen is often hailed as bicycle Nirvana, its not all a dance on roses. There are more bicycles than people in Copenhagen, so biking in the streets of Copenhagen can, and probably will feel, intimidating for even experienced cyclists, as cyclists mostly bike in a brisk pace without much leeway, in a carefully orchestrated ballet of sorts - It takes very little to mess up the harmony. If you have not biked in a city with the modal share of Copenhagen before, you should probably skip the rush hour (7.30-9 and 15-17), even if you consider yourself an experienced cyclist.
And even outside rush hour there is an etiquette - strictly policed, heavily fined laws - to follow. Breaking most of the points below, carries a 700 kroner fine if you are caught by police.
- Boxed turns on left (Copenhagen left), probably the most important rule. Turning left is a two stage process. First you cross the street straight ahead, stop, wait for green or for traffic to clear in case the intersection is unsignaled, and then you cross the street to complete your left turn.
- No right on red, you’ll see a few locals doing it anyway, but don’t.
- Stay off sidewalks, its never allowed, and if there are cycle lanes, you should also stay off the road, even if the cycle lane feels intimidating.
- Keep right to allow other cyclists to overtake you. Cycling is the main mode of transport for citizens here, so people are on their way to work or school, and not biking for leisure.
- Keep two hands on the bike
- Remember to signal, if you care to avoid crashes this is important, a hand straight up in the air to signals you intend to stop, a hand horizontally to your left or right indicates you intend to turn.
- Pay attention to lights and signs, cycling is highly organized here, and both drivers and fellow cyclists expect you to adhere to these, so if you don’t you may cause accidents.
- Use bike lights a night, when the streetlights are turned on, it is also mandatory to turn on your bike lights. Police strictly enforce this, and fines are heavy
While most visitors arrive in Copenhagen by plane or cruise ship, and then rent a bike in the city, it’s also possible to arrive by your own wheels on long distance routes. The most popular options are from Berlin and that other bicycle Mecca Amsterdam. There also used to be a ferry from England, offering access from London, but service on it was discontinued in 2014.
From Berlin you can take the Berlin-Kopenhagen Radweg . The journey is around 630 km. Between Denmark and Germany you cross the Baltic sea on the Rostock - Gedser ferry. Once in Denmark follow the signs of national bicycle route 9 to Copenhagen. Fast cyclists need a week to complete this journey, most people take longer.
From Amsterdam you can take a leg on the North Sea Bicycle Route along the North Sea to Denmark. Once you enter Denmark you can either continue along the coast to Esbjerg and follow the same bicycle route 6 to Copenhagen as from London, or you can follow the Hærvej route further inland and join up with route 6 in Vejen. Via Esbjerg it’s a 1860 km trip, so most people will need a few weeks to take this journey.
Once you are in Denmark, the Danish Bicycle association has an excellent resource in Cyclistic to help you plan your journey
If you want to explore destinations further afield, such as Køge and Hillerød it’s free to bring bicycles on the city’s S-train system. The first, middle and last carriage are equipped with bike racks (46 of them in total). Remember to use the back wheel when you park your bike in them, since this prevents the bike tipping over when the train stops at stations. Notice that you are not allowed to enter or exit S-trains with a bike on the Nørreport Station during rush hours.
It’s also possible to bring your bike on the Metro, during the summer (1 June - 31 August) there are no restrictions, but the rest of the year there is a rush hour curfew from 7-9AM and 3.30-5.30PM. Either way you need to buy a special bicycle ticket (12 kroner i 2013) for your bike in the automatic vending machines.
It is free to bring your bike on the harbour bus' boats, although space is limited. Try to avoid rush hours.
Finally it's also possible to take your bike on the Øresund trains between Elsinore and Malmö in Sweden. There is a carriage with a flexible compartment for bikes marked with a pictogram, usually one of the middle carriages. Within Denmark you use the same bicycle ticket as on the Metro, across to Sweden, you’ll need to pay a much higher surcharge, equivalent of children's ticket on the same route.
The bridge route
10 km, or ca 36 minutes at local speed
One possible excursion that is relatively easy to follow starts at Dronning Louises Bro (see), from where you cycle down one of the busiest bicycle streets Nørrebrogade, the cycle tracks are so wide here that a local shop owner quietly wondered if it was needed for planes to land on after they had been installed. At the first intersection look up and behind you to see the Bicycle mural (see). Another 500 meters down the road the long yellow wall of the Assistant cemetery appears on the right, a popular picnic spot during the summer, and the final resting place of cultural giants H.C. Andersen and Kirkegård. Continue ahead until you reach ‘The Red Square’ as locals have dubbed it, if you are interested in urban design, the Superkilen park which stretches 500 meters north is a good place to explore. Once done, head south on the Nørrebro cykelrute (see), after about 1,5 km you will reach the Åbuen bridge (see) and another 1 km later you’ll reach a large shopping centre and metro station on Falkoner Allé, turn left here, and after about 5 minutes you’ll reach Frederiksberg Park, along the street there are many family (some would call it beer-) gardens, which is good place to break for lunch, a little later there the road up the hill will take you to Frederiksberg Palace, Cisternerne and the Zoological gardens (see Frederiksberg for details). Continue down Pilé Alle, and just when the road make a right turn, turn left down the cobblestoned street (Ny Carlsbergvej), which will take you through the old Carlsberg brewery and the iconic Elephant gate. Continue straight ahead, across the wide boulevard, until you reach the train tracks, and follow them left for another 500 meters, until you can cross them on the bridge at Dybbølsbro station. Here it gets a bit tricky but at the end of the bridge you follow the cycle lane outside the Fisktorvet shopping centre 360 degrees until you are facing the bridge again and then you turn sharp right onto the Cycle Snake (huge ramps for cyclists) which takes you own to the beautiful ‘bryggebroen’ bike bridge (see), across the harbour. Turn left and follow the harbour towards the city, during the summer the Islands Brygge park is full of life and people swimming in the harbour. A good place to take a break, since they haven’t quite finished the 3rd bicycle bridge to take you back to the city yet (estimated to open by May 2013).
The blue route
9 km, or ca 35 minutes at local speed
Start at the bicycle counter by City hall (see) while not as impressive as the other counter, around 7000 cyclists pass here every day. Continue straight ahead down H.C. Andersens Boulevard and enjoy the separated bike lanes on the busiest street in the city as you pass the city hall square and the Ørsted park which is a reminance of Copenhagens old ramparts. As you reach the lakes, you will pass an white old beautiful building, now a nightclub it was build in 1896 as the home of the Copenhagen Iceskating Union. At the end of the lake, turn right to follow the cycle track along the lakes, hailing back to the 1910s this bicycle track is among the first build bicycle infrastructure build by the city, as you continue along the lakes two tunnels will take you under the crossing streets, the end of the lakes is a good rest stop at the two cafés with lakeside seating. Turn right along the end of the lakes, and then make a left at the signalled intersection down Classensgade. This street is one of few in Copenhagen to have painted bike lanes rather than the standard raised bicycle tracks, but notice how you still have parked cars to protect you from traffic. Follow the street all the way to the train tracks at the end, where you should turn right down the lovely bidirectional cycle track until you reach the bicycle-pedestrian only bridge across the train tracks. Cross it, and continue straight ahead along the ramparts of the Kastellet citadel, dating back to 1624 and well preserved it's a lovely place to disembark your bikes and go for a stroll. When you reach the lower end of the hill, The Little Mermaid, is on your left, when the road ends under the restaurant, it turns into a cycle path that will take you the harbour front promenade, it's not common, but perfectly legal to cycle here, so zig-zag between the walking tourists at slow speed until you reach the big fountain, where you can make a short detour to see the Royal Palace. Continue along the harbour you'll pass the modern Royal Danish Playhouse and reach the famous Nyhavn, if the sun is out, join the locals for a beer at the bulwark. Cross the water on the short road bridge and turn left to cross the harbour on the brand new 30 million dollar bicycle bridge (opening May 2013). Continue straight over another short bicycle bridge and you'll reach Prinsessegade where you should end this tour, with a stroll at Christiania free town. Don't let the rather shady area at the main entrance, known as Pusher Street, put you off.
- 1 Dronning Louises Bro. With up to 36.000 cyclists crossing the over the bridge on two cycle tracks wider than the car lane (more than 3 meters wide) and a live bicycle counter clocking them all, this is the epicentre of Copenhagen cycling. If you want to take it all in, install yourself on one of the benches during the morning rush between 8-9 pm and lose yourself in people watching. Following the removal of two car lanes and a widening of the sidewalk, the bridge has also become a hotspot for hanging out, oozing and beer drinking during the evening and afternoon when the sun is out.
- 2 Nørrebro cycle route (The Green route) (Northern entrance at Rovsinggade & Tagensvej, Southern entrance at Valby Langgade & Carl Th. Dreysersvej). This off-street bicycle route, meanders 9.2 kilometres through green spaces through the Nørrebro, Frederiksberg and Valby districts. At an estimated cost of 76 million kroner (US$13 million) it’s widely considered the crown jewel of bicycle infrastructure in Copenhagen. Near Nørrebrogade it flows through the unique and award winning Superkilen urban park on black, green and screaming red asphalt and urban furniture sourced from all over the world
- 3 Cyclist Mural, Ravnsborggade 2. Fittingly cyclists on the city's busiest cycling street, a massive modernist mural of a female cyclist by Danish-Finish artist Seppo Mattinen (b. 1930) greets cyclists going towards the city centre, and has done so since 1993.
- 4 Åbuen Bridge. is a striking bicycle bridge which carries cyclists on the Nørrebro cycle route safely over a busy 6 lane road 4,6 meters up in the air. It’s striking arched design has made it a much photographed symbol of cycling in the city.
- 5 Bryggen Bridge. When this 200 meter long bridge opened in 2006 it was the first bridge across the harbour for more than 50 years, and as a symbol of Copenhagens changing priorities, it only carries bicyclists and pedestrians. 10000 cyclists now cross the bridge every day.On the northern end of the bridge a unique 33 million kroner (US$6 million), 233 meter steel ramp carries cyclists up the 5.5 meter elevation gap between the bridge head and the Dybbøls bridge across the train tracks..
- 6 Nørreport Station. is the busiest transportation hub in the country, and in Copenhagen that means lots of bicycles. Unless you are from the Netherlands, you will never have seen this many bicycles in one place before, take it all in, while you grapple with how exactly the locals manage to locate their own bicycle in the sea of bikes around it.
- 7 Amager Strand. On warm days this urban beach is packed to the brim with parked bicycles, there is around 5000 bicycle stands, and they barely suffice for the early arrivals, as there is tens of thousands bikes parked here on a warm summer day.
- 8 City hall, Bag Rådhuset. is home of another automatic bicycle counter on the west side of the building on H.C. Andersens Boulevard. The city hall itself actually also has some pretty cool bicycle parking, if you enter through the back entrance, which is located between city hall and the fire station on the south side of the building (opposite end of the main entrance).
Nearly all larger hotels rents out bikes, a select few even lets you borrow one for free. If you need to arrange your own set of wheels there are ample choices
- Donkey Republic. 24/7 bike rental. The orange bikes of Donkey Republic can be found all over Copenhagen. Thanks to the smart Bluetooth lock they can be rented with few clicks via smarphone app. Bikes can be reserved and unlocked via app without the need of an internet connection.
- 1 Baisikeli, Ingerslevsgade 80, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 9-18. Is a philanthropic bicycle shop which sends 2nd hand bicycles to Africa to improve social mobility. They rent out all sorts of bicycles, including the cargo bikes which has become a Copenhagen icon, friendly and knowledgeable staff. 80-450 per day, discounts for longer rentals.
- 2 Bike Rent Copenhagen, Ved Stranden 16, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 9-18. A new outfit that rents out 200 or so bikes. 75 kroner per day.
- 3 Copenhagen Bicycles, Nyhavn 44, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:30 – 17:30 Every day. Rental rates are anywhere from 80 kroner for 3 hours, to 775 kroner for 4 months.
- 4 Cykelsmeden i Nørregade (Rent your bike here), Nørregade 30, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Bike shop that both rents out bikes and conducts bicycle tours of the city by a trained guide. Also has another location in Ny Kongensgade near the parliament. 100 Kroner per day, discounts for longer rentals.
- 5 Københavns Cykelbørs, Gothersgade 157, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F 9–17.30 Sa 10–13.30. That this company has been in business since 1881 should be something of a recommendation. It rents around 500 bikes in two categories. 75–200 kroner per day, discounts for longer rentals.
- 6 Rent a bike (Pedal Atleten), Oslo Plads, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M–F 10–18 Sa 9–14. Probably has the largest selection to choose from, including bicycle trailers, child seats and children's bikes 85–230 per day, discounts for longer rentals.
- 7 Velorbis Bike rental, Nørre Farimagsgade 63, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F 10–18, Sa 11–16. If you want to look stylish while cruising down the streets of Copenhagen, this is where to go. 100 kroner per day, discounts for longer rentals.
Rickshaws and pedicabs are a common sight in the city centre, there are 36 taxi stands at 10 different locations spread throughout the medieval city where you can. While it's sometimes possible to haggle a set price for a destination, all the different operators have a fixed 40 kroner flag fall charge and then 4 kroner per minute.
- Copenhagen Rickshaw, Vermundsgade 21, ☎ . 100 Kroner booking fee.
- Flying Tigers, Strandlodsvej 15E, ☎ . 50 kroner booking fee.
- Cykeltaxa, Ravnsborg Tværgade 5, ☎ . A small company that also offers rides on a so called Octopus where up to 7 persons can bike through town facing each other, alcohol is welcome Octopus: 300 Kroner per 15 minutes, minimum charge is for 30 minutes.
- 8 Bicycle Innovation Lab, Holmbladsgade 71 (Prismen), ☎ . M & Th 16-18. Copenhagen's cultural centre of the bicycle with lectures, exhibitions and materials. They have a bicycle library where you can borrow all sorts of more or less unusual bicycles, however while it's mainly meant to help locals try out alternatives, it is possible for visitors to borrow one, but its intentionally inflexible and there is a hefty 1000 kroner deposit.
- 9 Danish Cyclist Federation (Dansk Cyklist Forbund), Rømersgade 5, ☎ . M-F 10-17.30,Sa 10-14. This small shop is a good stopping point for information and buying cycling related maps and books.
There are 300 bicycle shops just in central Copenhagen, so wherever you are, chances are you will have a bicycle shop just around the corner. However most of these shops sell stylish hand-build bicycles and accessories that you are not likely to get your hands on anywhere else.
- 1 Andersen Copenhagen, Ny Kongensgade 4, ☎ . Hours vary. Custom made chopper, cruiser and Pedersen bikes and handmade accessories, how about a skull for your front fork?
- 3 Christiania Bikes, Mælkevejen 83A (Christiania). M-F 10-17, Sa 10-14. If you had to choose a single bicycle as symbol of Copenhagenization, the Christiania tricycle, also known as the Copenhagen SUV, would be it.
- 4 Copenhagen Bicycles, Nyhavn 44, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 08:30 - 17:30 Every day. Copenhagen Bicycles, while primarily a bike rental shop, sells a small selection of men's, women's, and children's bicycles, electric bikes, bike trailers, and bike accessories. They also are well known for quick and competent cycle repair. Visit the shop in Nyhavn, or their website for more info.
- 5 Cykelbanditten, Nørrebrogade 9, ☎ . M-F 9.30-18.30 Sa-Su 10-15. Chain of 5 stores with it's own line of classic bikes, that also offers to pimp up your existing ride, and a good selection of bicycle accessories.
- 6 Cykelfabrikken, Istedgade 92, ☎ . M-F 13-18 Sa 11-15. Handbuild ergonomic designer bikes, if all parts is home, they can deliver in 3 days.
- 7 Cykelmageren, Store Kongensgade 57, ☎ . Complete custom and handbuild biycles by industrial designer Rasmus Gjesing, also caries handmade components. M-F 10-17.
- Enghousebikes, Kirkeholtvej 4, ☎ , e-mail: Simon@Enghousebikes.com. Offers you to design your own custom made bike . Online orders accepted.
- Second Hand Bikes, Ved Klosteret 12, 2100 Østerbro (By bus with 150S and jump of a Vibensrundel - 500 meters from there.), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11-17. Second Hand Bikes is a used bicycle shop built by students that buys and sells used bicycles only in their store. Their service is for people who need a cheap and reliable used bicycle to get to work or school. 1000.