06 November 2009

Copenhagen vs London 5: Bikes of a different colour

Copenhagen is a superb city for real cycling – for getting from A to B on two wheels. In fact, most Copenhageners say they cycle because it's quick and easy, not for environmental or health reasons (though they're pleasing by-products). That happens to reflect my view, too.

The Danish capital will be in the media spotlight from 7-15 December when it hosts the Climate Change Talking Shop, so look out for more articles like this one in the Independent recently in praise of the city's well-developed cycling culture.

Very pleasing, to me, is the dominance of real bikes and real clothes. Lycra, reflective gear and helmets are definitely the exceptions; most people just cycle in their normal stuff.

And if you go into a bike shop, you find a very different range of machines on sale to those you'd see in London.

In an Evans or Halfords over here, there are only rows and rows of MTBs or featherweight road bikes; you'll look long and hard for anything with mudguards, or a rack or basket, essentials for city shuttling. It's as ludicrous as going to a car showroom in search of a little hatchback to run around town and being told they only sell sports cars or 4x4s.

The bike shop in Christianshavn (right) shows the Copenhagen style: just about every bike I could see on sale was a real bike, with mudguards, rack or basket, upright riding position, and practical additions such as chainguards.

That's the pattern of machine you see jamming the bike parks round the city, such as this one (right) outside the main rail station.

But Copenhagen's bikes could fill a book by themselves. I'm fond of the bright and simple appearance of the self-coloured models you see parked around the city - a small selection is here.

Whoever owns the luminous Pedersen on the right is unlikely to struggle finding it on their way home from their evening out.


  1. You still see plenty of Real Bikes in Cambridge (as shown in your own photos). Not as many as in Copenhagen, but far more than in London. Setting off at traffic lights in Cambridge, I'm usually the only cyclist clicking into cleats. In central London, almost everyone seems to be doing it.

  2. Indeed. Cambridge's scenes of bike infestation at station parking areas, like some sort of tubular knotweed, are reminiscent of the Danish capital too... (obviously, that's a good thing)