The first part of our journey and to a place many in the cycling world believe is the very incarnation of all of our aspirations. It may be a bit more crude to say that landing here is like arriving on the set of Planet of the Apes - where everything appears inverted: Cycles rule and cars and trucks yield - even bus drivers wave you through should your Sydney-borne reflexes kick-in.
And yes, my wife and I rode for three days in and around Copenhagen without helmets (though I wore a hat to shield my remarkably efficient sun collector). But it wasn't that the lack of helmets that set us free it was that we felt so at ease in an environment where 35% of the population cycle to work and fewer than that even own a car. Why would you? The city is compact and there is a separated cycleway (one double width on each side of most roads). Yes, ti is flat but also windy and was unseasonably cool. And not a permission button, stop here box or coil to be found!
Bicycle racks are somewhat rare as nearly everywhere is a bike stop and they line the streets. A notable exception are the main rail stops where racks are double decker and stretch 50-100 meters in multiple rows in more than one direction.
Cyclists are mostly very gracious and when you get accustomed to those that appear older (and more stylishly dressed) than you passing you on a regular basis. You just learn to go at the speed that is comfortable not one that marks you a deserving athlete. It's a lot less pressurized and macho. In fact, I'm pretty certain women outnumber blokes on bikes here though I thought it reasonable not to begin that survey or make that point out loud. Hook turns are the norm as one goes from one bike lane to a crossing one. Everyone just casually flicks a hand in the air with a bent elbow and creates ques in front of the other waiting cyclists. Cycleway right turn lanes are marked and strictly adhered to. No cramming to the front for a sprint at the turning of the signal. No noticeable antagonism with pedestrians either.
Speaking of helmets for the last time, my wife and I did random counts this morning all through the city and concluded 20-30% of riders still do wear helmets. Annecdotally we believe this drops off for the non-commuters during mid-day but goes up significantly for those on longer distance fast riders out of town that we encountered on the extensive paths by the sea.
So what concerns them here? You'd think nothing but that is not the case. First, the local cycling organization informed us that they are pushing for (even) wider bike lanes and that cyclist be allowed to make right hand turns (our left) on red signals. Mind you, there is no delay today for cyclists, they are well looked after with signals that provide flow with traffic and some special arrows too. Turning motorists are held up and allowed extra signal time on the back end of a sequence change. How lovely!
Bicycle theft of anything beyond the ubiquitous upright models is apparently a growing problem. Perhaps that's why you see fewer sleek fixie's than in the major cities in Australia? Cargo bikes of all shapes are around. Surprisningly few trailers. Lots of cycle taxies - nothing fancy and just as likely to be pushing around blokes on a pub crawl... Very few carbon road bikes ply these roads - some still cobblestoned.
But Copenhagen according to a series of "The Good City" posters just in front of our hotel (what a coincidence!) proclaimed that they are worried in Copenhagen that everyday ridership has stabilized at 35% for some years. They believe the city is ready for a complete re-think that is based on a roadway that is invented specifically for cyclists not a patched-up motorist roadway. The posters all in a row had ideas from the leading firms on how they would each propose to do this. Some fascinating and out of the ordinary sort of thinking.
Depending on your perspective, this is a place that either time forgot or has leaped ahead to the last chapter of the book on liveable cities and transport solutions. One has to remember that both nations grew up nearly identically with cycling usage before the paths diverged.
I leave inspired and as I scan the SC pages (from my wi-fi enabled train carriage going 160 kmh) I am left knowing that we have a lot of work to do but also that we have a lot of energy In the cycling community that oddly - but predictably - seems to be more galvanized than here where "now what?" is more perplexing - and indeed - somewhat less motivating.
If it's of any interst, I'll try to write more as we visit regional Norway, Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris...