“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.
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.
P.S. Don’t forget to wear a helmet (Interestingly only 35% of cyclists wear a helmet in Denmark)
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!
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See you next week for Episode 10.
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Originally published as part of LinkedIn newsletters here: Marcus Purvis Newsletters