One of the first things you will notice when you arrive to Copenhagen as a foreigner is the huge amount of bicycles.
Most Copenhagen citizens use the bicycle as their main mode of transport and it's the most common way to commute to work in Copenhagen.
You will find bicycles in all shapes there.
Some of them cheap budget bikes that people have bought simply to commute to work and you will see fancy designer bikes that belongs to the trendsetters who use the bicycle big time too in Copenhagen.
Inspired by my bike rides to and from work, I thought I'd write a tip about some dos and don'ts. There are lots of cyclists in Copenhagen - I read in the local newspaper a while back that well over 50% of Copenhageners cycle every single day. Most of the big roads and plenty of the smaller ones too have separate cycle paths, between the pavement and the car lanes. When you're new to the city, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to differentiate between the areas for pedestrians and cyclists, but it pays to be careful - cyclists get a bit tetchy when they have to swerve around a wide-eyed tourist in the wrong lane (plus, you don't want to get knocked over!). Just look out for a slight kerb - if you've stepped down a little, you're in the bike lane!
Likewise though, if you're renting a bike, don't cycle on the pavements, across squares like Rådhuspladsen or on pedestrian streets like Strøget, as this can get you a hefty fine from the police if they see you. On both foot and bike, you should always wait for green lights at crossings - jaywalking is illegal in Denmark (and as a cyclist I can see why; you might see a street empty of cars, but there's bound to be a bike just around the corner!). There are separate lights for bikes and cars, look for the smaller set for cyclists off to one side. Cyclists usually get a head start!
Ok, so now we have already established that bikes are a big deal in Copenhagen, and here are some rules for good biking behavior:
1) Bike on the right side and let others overtake on the left side. Don't bike in a way that you're blocking traffic.
2) Your hands are like a car's blinkers, so to indicate fellow bike riders that you're turning left or right, this is what you do:
- To turn right: extend your right arm and keep it straight out for a few seconds.
- To turn left: same as above, but with your left arm.
- If you want to stop, indicate so by holding one arm in a 90 degree angle, hand up. I usually do it with my left arm but either arm will do. See pictures of the hand signals at http://cycleguide.dk/2010/05/hand-signals/.
3) Turning left at an intersection: the safest way to do it is best described here: http://cycleguide.dk/2010/05/how-to-do-a-hook-turn/.
Copenhagen is a city of bikes. The city is best experienced on 2 wheels, they say, and after giving it a try I can't help but agree. It is safe, the bike lanes are separated from the rest of the traffic and you get fresh air and exercise as bonus.
During the summer there is a schemed called "Bycykeln". This is bikes for rent at several points in the city. Simply put in a 20-kroner coin and release and there you have it. Return it by parking the bike at the dedicated posts and get your 20 kroner back. But you are only allowed to ride these bikes in the city center, which is more than enough for most people. How do you know where the center is? The bike has a map marking the area where you can pedal to the medal, tourist spots and where to return/rent the bike.
Now, if you look for something off season, 2 alternatives come to mind: Baisikeli, who rents second hand bikes to fund their work in Africa, and Cykelbørsen, renting bikes since 1881.
My following remark concerns bicycles. Though, probably, my remark may seem to Europeans far-fetched. Presence of a plenty of bicycles in streets of many European cities and in Copenhagen does not cause surprise.
Soft climate allows to use this type of transport within all year. Presence of bicycle paths makes use of a bicycle convenient and safe. Another surprises a lot! Practically all bicycles have very out-of-date design and shabby view!
In Russia and furthermore in Moscow you will not see such bicycles! If you see a bicyclist he will drive a very modern and prestigious model of a bicycle. In Russia bicycles are not only means of transportation and sports accessories, they also make the status!
Cycling is big in Copenhagen and in Denmark as a whole. Everywhere you go you will see bikes especially around the city centre. You are able to hire bikes for free with leaving of a deposit (city bikes) or there are others you can a hire at a charge. Drivers beware that cyclists seem to always have right of way over car drivers. It is probably the quickest way to get around copenhagen and to get to the sights. It is also good for you and the eviroment. However if you are not a very good cyclist or have never tried it I would not recommend it as if you are insecure on a bike in the road its a secure way to get yourself killed or seriously injured
When you first arrive in Kobenhavn, you will definitely notice the large number of bicycles. Be as wary of them as you are of cars when you cross the street. Also, just because you are in Denmark doesn't mean you have to do as the Danes and ride a bicycle. I was perfectly content walking; that way I was less likely to be hit by a car or run into a pedestrian. I suggest not using a bicycle unless you are an avid cyclist.
Originally invented in the "free town" of Christiania, the Christiania bikes is a definate Copenhagen street sign. They are popular for people not wanting a car but who still need to transport children (some have seat belts) and luggage around the city in something sturdier than a bike trailer. The couple who invented them has left Christiania for a more quiet life on Bornholm so that is where they are made these days and they are starting to hit it off as a success in Stockholm too these days but they are veeery much a part of Copenhagen. If tempted to order one, check the link below.
There is unwritten rule: car driver gives a way to a bike driver and bike driver gives a way to pedestrian.
So, it's just a pleasure to drive a bike in the streets of Copenhagen.
But as always, just be careful, as some bike drivers drive really crazy. And, as I've experienced, some car drives are not so polite on the roads and don't follow this rule. But this happens very rare and these drivers aren't Danish.
One of my fellow travellers suggested that the symbol of Copenhagen should be a beautiful blonde on a bicycle. There's certainly no shortage of either :)