I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life. I ride a bike to add life to my days.

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle, Scientific American, 1896

One of the biggest changes while living in Denmark compared to the UK is the ability to not have a car and still function day to day.

Only 4 out of 10 Danes own a car. Whereas in the UK only 4 out of 10 people own a bicycle.

Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than anyone else

Not having a car hasn’t been that difficult. I’ve found I rarely needed the 4 wheeled freedom I use to enjoy to go anywhere at speed and with anything I wanted (as long as it fitted in the boot or roof box).

It’s been over a year now (16 months) and I’ll admit there are times where I want to get behind the wheel still. It would make popping to Ikea and bringing back furniture nice and easy (the delivery costs are criminal), or being able to take all the garden waste to the local compost, or even just not getting wet on the way to anywhere when it’s raining.

(Incredibly, only 21% of Danish cyclists choose not to cycle in bad weather).

Before living in Denmark I’d cycled in the UK quite a bit, though really only for leisure (mountain biking) or getting to the train station for my commute.

Back then I had cars queuing up behind me as cycle lanes were rare or non-existent. The near misses as a result of frustration from drivers trying to get past me was a frequent occurrence.

Not anymore!

The Bike is a Danes best friend

Denmark has cycle lanes almost everywhere, and not just a line painted on the road, it’s a separate sidewalk just for bicycles. So no cars backing up and trying to pass you on a bend (phew).

The other thing that’s striking is the lack of potholes or dips, seriously there are virtually no potholes in the bicycle lanes (or roads). So no buckled wheels here.

Got kids? No problem! Cargo bikes are the answer.

A cargo bike (or family bike) is a kind of oversized tricycle with a large box on the front. The Danish government have estimated a quarter of all Copenhagen families with two or more children own a cargo bike for transporting kids, groceries, and other necessities.

We’ve got one and it’s crazy awesome, here’s a picture

It’s also worth noting that like other Danish products, cargo bikes can be just as stylish with some even winning design awards and many being exported all over the world.

What about punctures? I upgraded my tyres to puncture-resistant ones. They have an extra 3mm of rubber between the tread and the inner tube. I haven’t had a puncture since using them (over 6 months ago).

To bike, or not to bike: that is not a question

Apart from the cost of having a car in Denmark (cars are taxed at over 100%) along with the environmental impact, the health benefits are clear.

There are an estimated 1.1 million fewer sick days due to the number of people cycling here in the land of happiness.

More than 60% of people living in and around Copenhagen go to work or school by bicycle ( 49% of all Danish children 11-15 bike to school).

That’s a lot of healthy people.

What’s interesting is that 26% of all trips below 5km are by bicycle. The environmental benefits to this alone are amazing.

When we look at the UK, 71% of the population never ride a bike, that’s a pretty big difference.

Even just going to the corner shop, or taking the children to school, the car is often the preferred method for many.

Let’s change that!

When in doubt. Pedal it out

Own a bicycle? Next time you’re tempted to jump in the car for a short journey, choose your bike. You don’t even need a bike lane as the safety in numbers rule shows us the more people cycle the safer it becomes.

Happy cycling!

P.S. Don’t forget to wear a helmet (Interestingly only 35% of cyclists wear a helmet in Denmark)

Statistics from the cycling embassy of Denmark

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I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to this article by signing up on this page, using your email. That way you’ll get a notification each week when the latest one appears.

See you next week for Episode 10.

You can follow me on Linkedin for daily notes on life and my 5 Share Friday – 5 interesting reads, life hacks or lessons, tried & tested by me.

Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters

5 Share Friday 4 October 2019

Welcome to 5 Share Friday, where you’ll find 5 interesting reads, life hacks or lessons, tried & tested by me, each week.

Here’s this weeks!

Quote I’m pondering “People who can change and change again are so much more reliable and happier than those who can’t” – Stephen Fry

Productivity hack – I’m back to tracking my time as work has become rather full up. I’m using Toggl, a terrific app for any device, one that helps you track and trend what you’re spending time on (the most important activity to becoming effective again). Try it and see, you won’t regret it!

The 2020 recession is going to hit millennials hardestThis thoughtful, well-documented article on how the warning signs of the last 18 months, plus the debt and the failing of capitalism for the younger generation are still not something many people realise or are prepared for.

10 ways to better manage meetings Some great tips here, including tracking who does the most talking & using the info for creating effective future meets. (there’s even a fun web app I’ve now used called ‘Are men talking too much’)

Book added to my Christmas list – Stillness is the key by Ryan Holiday. Yes, it’s only 81 till Christmas! I’m looking forward to this gem and James Altucher has helpfully written an article to see why you’ll want it too.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend doing the things you enjoy with the people you love.

Missed last weeks 5 Share? Find it here.

If you like this 5 share, please share with others. You can also get notified by email every Friday, simply sign up using the signup box on this page.

I couldn’t find a pen, so I used a crayon

“Look, children, the bush pig has lost his parents, so it’s being cared for by mama and papa lion. Even in nature, there are blended families.” – From the movie Blended

I’d never heard the term blended family until I saw the Adam Sandler movie of the same name.

Blended families are where the parents have children from previous relationships and all the members come together as one unit.

In Denmark 15,000 couples divorced last year (2018), that’s nearly half the number that got married.

It’s a country with one of the highest divorce rates in Europe and until recently the act of divorce was almost as simple as filling out an online form and hey presto ‘you’re now divorced’.

This results in a lot of blended families.

The headteacher of a Copenhagen state school once famously said “There are lots of divorces and our children have from one to six parents. It’s not uncommon to hear a child say, ‘I heard you had Charles’s father last year. I have him this year’”

I’m not sure this is a true depiction of reality, though blended families are much more common here and they work (as divorce tends to be very amicable in Denmark)

What’s interesting is that whether blended or not, 50/50 split parenting between mums and dads is the norm.

My kids need their father as much as they need their mother

Danish men take on parental responsibilities almost as much as danish women do, which is rarer in countries like the UK & USA.

In fact, there are many more males in Danish kindergarten and education too. It’s sad when I think about the UK, where the mixed messaging for males has created a culture where they’re encouraged to be good parents inside the home, then treated like potential paedophiles anywhere else.

Not so in Denmark.

What’s more common here is that Danish men and women split 50/50 when it comes to getting the kids to school, picking them up at the end of the day and looking after them when sick.

Work is flexible for this, with gender equality for parenting being closer to reality than many other countries (though it’s still got a long way to go).

Don’t let your luggage define your travels, each life unravels differently

While in the UK my wife chose to give up teaching law in order to parent our children in their first 4 /5 years (before they attended school).

So she did just that.

“But how will you define yourself?”

Came one of the questions my wife was asked at the university where she lectured. This was right after announcing she was moving to full-time parenting.

Neither of us defines ourselves by the job we do or where we work, so the question didn’t offend her, it made her chuckle.

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.” – Maya Angelou

Yes, I wipe up poop, but I deserve to get paid

If you choose to stay at home and parent full time in Denmark, that choice is confusing to many. Society has little understanding as to why a person would do it and how it could be fulfilling.

In the UK, while it’s more common to give up work completely or work part-time to parent as much as possible, it can also be judged negatively by many women (my wife experienced this first hand).

My older brother was a stay at home dad in the USA for many years. I got to see first hand it wasn’t all sitting back drinking coffee and watching your favourite TV shows all day.

So why have many societies begun to look down on women (or men) giving up work for full-time parenting?

I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is that in Denmark, while it’s less common and can be a lonely existence (as everyone is working full time), no one is judging our parental choice, they’re simply interested as it’s not a choice many people make.

In reality, all mums are working mums, and all mums are deserving of respect and support

Denmark is great for flexible working, whether that’s to enable your hobbies and / or to parent your children while working.

It’s also great for not being judged on choices such as not working in order to parent.

For me, the type of society I want to live in is one which enables choices. Choices like making it easy for mothers to work full time, while at the same time making it easy for those that don’t, and crucially, not then judging whichever choice is made.

If you are a mum, you are a superhero. Period

Women and men should have equal status, equal rights and equal opportunities.

Whether one chooses to parent full time or work full time is a personal choice. Making it so there is an opportunity to do either is our responsibility as a society.

If you feel forced to work full-time when you want to parent full-time, there’s an issue to solve.

If you feel forced to parent full-time when you want to work-full time, there’s an issue to solve.

In Denmark, it’s not perfect, but at least mothers tend not to be judged by their choice.

And that’s a good place to be.

“When we are judging everything, we are learning nothing.” – Steve Maraboli

Extra reading – Here are two terrific letters that might interest you. One is from a working mum to a stay at home mum, the other a stay at home mum to a working mum.

Enjoy!

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I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? Please give me feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to this article by signing up on this page, using your email. That way you’ll get a notification each week when the latest one appears.

See you next week for Episode 9.

You can follow me on Linkedin for daily notes on life and my 5 Share Friday – 5 interesting reads, life hacks or lessons, tried & tested by me.

Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters

5 Share Friday 27 September 2019

Quote I’m pondering “If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.” Jeff Bezos

Favourite app – I heard about BrainToss from a David Allen conversation with Tim Ferriss. Photo, talk, type and it sends directly to your inbox. It’s amazing for getting more organised.

On getting a good nights sleepHow I finally learned how to sleep is a sometimes harrowing, often inspiring read about a woman’s struggle and the ultimate cure for insomnia. If you’re wondering on how to get better sleep, this is a must-read, I’m trying some of the tactics described and it’s already improving (like not looking at the clock and getting out of bed if it’s more than 20 minutes of being awake).

12 rules for life – I finally started reading  Jordan Peterson’s best selling book. I shouldn’t have left it so long, it’s a cracking set of rules that are far more than rules. If you like the content of this 5 share each week, you’ll definitely like this book.

On being a life long reader – The Atlantic wrote a piece on life long readers. I like to consider myself an avid reader and it’s interesting to learn the influences that turn a person into one. My mum read a lot and I remember reading a lot as a child too. Here’s a little snippet …“When I’m sitting there on my couch, reading a book, and my kids are doing their own thing, I like to think, ‘I’m parenting right now—they can see me reading this book..”


I hope you have a fantastic weekend doing the things you enjoy with the people you love.

Missed last weeks 5 Share? Find it here.

If you like this 5 share, please share with others. You can also get notified by email every Friday, simply sign up using the signup box on this page.