Copenhagen is a bike rider’s paradise. Wide lanes are built on almost every main street just for bikes, the city is pretty much flat, and there are places to park your bike wherever you go. This “biking infrastructure” makes riding a primary mode of transportation for locals and it is what draws tourists like me to rent a bike just to ride around and see life outside the crowded tourist center.
I can imagine that many Americans are skeptical of all of this biking nonsense but the Danish grow up riding inside cargo bikes, and as soon as they can pedal they are placed on a seat and told to get moving. Biking is not a counter-culture movement pushed by a group of fava bean eating, patchouli wearing, left-handed cigarette smoking, no-shower November members of the community, it is the community. Here is a quick list of the types of people I saw on bikes: Everyone.
You can’t swing a Schwinn without hitting a bike in Copenhagen. After spending a day and a half watching all of Copenhagen parade by on bikes, I decided it was time to travel like a local and rent a bike. It didn’t hurt that the blisters on my feet forced me to either sit in a park all day (not a bad choice on a day like yesterday) or get on my bad bicycle and ride. I picked up a six hour rental bike at Bikesetti for $16, I went with the deluxe model because it was a little larger than the other bikes and thought I deserved it. The bike dude (he was a dude in every sense of the dude moniker) gave me a few brief instructions, “Arm like this to stop. Arm like this to turn right. Arm like this to turn left. Always look around before doing anything.” This was solid advice and he then gave me directions to get to the Elephant Gates in the most scenic way possible. I was lost within 10 minutes, but it didn’t matter, I was roaring along the paths like a pro. My first realization was that there are two types of riders on the paths, ones that want to get somewhere fast, and then me. I spent most of my day on the right side of the path watching people flow by me like water in a river. At first I was a little competitive and didn’t want to be passed, but I eventually realized that it was not a race and I had six hours to get wherever I was going. This realization occurred about the same time I was riding up a hill. I also decided that everyone else must have a much better bike than me because my deluxe model was pretty slow.
After a few more wrong turns, I found myself out by a bunch of railroad tracks and had to adjust my progress. I stopped found the Carlsberg Tower and headed in that general direction. I knew the gates were close to the tower and within ten minutes I was taking pictures of the Elephant Gates. The gates are really cool and initially I had intended on taking a brewery tour, but decided that I needed to maximize my six hours of bike riding so I went up to the south side of the Frederiksberg Garden and checked out the zoo from the outside. There was no bike riding in the park, so I looked, walked seven meters, and then sped off to ride along the waterfront.
For another two hours everything went well. I saw some cool stuff, ate some ice cream, and then proceeded to get very lost. How lost? More than usual. On a bike you can get so lost that the streets you are on are not on the tourist maps they hand out everywhere. I didn’t panic, I just took out my phone and used my compass. Turns out I was a little turned around and had been heading the wrong direction. Eventually, an hour later, I found my way back to the city core and dropped off my bike. I was a bit on the exhausted side and decided to take a nap when I got back to my hotel.
I don’t think there is any lesson to be learned here, but I do think my ability to get lost is something I should only do on foot.
Biking Copenhagen is certainly easy and something most tourists should do, even if you are directionally challenged like me.