A bridge connecting Islands Brygge and Kalvebod Brygge in
Copenhagen is all set up for cyclists. Photo by Mikael
If I had ever actually run with the bulls through the
streets of Pamplona, then I would be more certain. All I can
say is that I think
maybe commuting to work by bicycle
in cycle-friendly Copenhagen is a little bit similar.
In Pamplona, you probably have the fear of being trampled
from behind by a mob of angry beasts with horns.
I know for a fact that in Copenhagen you have the fear of
being run over from behind by a horde of grim-faced office
workers with bells.
In New Zealand, it is mostly motorists who are seen as the
natural enemies of cyclists. Do away with them, and there
should surely be peace on Earth.
But, Copenhagen demonstrated to my wife and I that if you
take hardened, impatient commuters from behind the wheels of
their cars and put them on bicycles, then they are likely to
be just as hardened and impatient.
Copenhagen bicycle commuters gave off an unspoken but simple
message: Get out of my way!
And, it applied equally to motorists, pedestrians and fellow
We inadvertently cycled into central Copenhagen during
Two pannier-bag-carrying New Zealand tourists expecting a
leisurely canter to the radhuspladsen found themselves
instead enmeshed in a perilous headlong gallop - women in
dresses, men in suits; not a helmet in sight.
Only four things mattered - avoiding a collision with the
cyclist in front, the cyclist to the left and the cyclist to
the right and avoiding any let-up in the pace, so as not to
be run over from behind.
Careering along narrow footpath-cum-cycleways, our commuter
peloton was constantly weaving, veering, merging, condensing
and expanding like a flock of starlings.
There should have been a crash.
But, each time disaster loomed, a cyclist here would make a
slight adjustment to speed; a cyclist there would make a
subtle change in direction.
The momentum barely altered as the peloton rounded cars,
diggers and pedestrians parked on the cycleway.
Central Copenhagen felt like a city ruled by cyclists - its
motorists and pedestrians subdued and perhaps a touch nervous
of either running one over or being run down themselves.
It is a city where you really do need eyes in the back of
your head or at the very least a reversing video camera.
And now, it seems, the beginnings of cycle-rule is being felt
Cycling Action spokeswoman Barbara Cuthbert told the New
Zealand Herald recently she was aware that "motorists
find the high volume of cyclists on Tamaki Drive
It seems hardly credible that motorists should be intimidated
by cyclists - a bit like the elephant being scared of the
But that is exactly what appears to be happening throughout
Europe, as cyclists claim the moral and economic high ground
and overrun city centres - adding a rolling metal maul to
footpaths and roadways and a parked-up scrum of rusting metal
to public open spaces.
It seemed as though cyclists had seized power by dint of
numbers and an attitude that even when in the wrong they were
in the right.
And it seemed motorists, in response, had become exceedingly,
even excessively polite, to even the most dithery cyclist.
Cyclists - in European cities at least - now have the power,
but your view on how well they exercise it might depend on
how you travel.
Population: 1.8 million.
Between 2000 and 2012 Copenhagen expects to have: Increased
bicycle commuters from 34% to 40%.
• Reduced the risk of serious injury or death among cyclists
• Increased the number of cyclists who feel safe from 57% to
• Increased cycling speeds by 10%.
• Reduced unsatisfactory cycle track surfaces to less than
5%. It also plans to add another 10,000 cycle spaces by 2013
to address inadequate parking.