*for an update on how my face is healing from my crash last week, go to the end of this post.
After several short, wet, nasty riding days, our tour arrived, triumphant if frazzled, in Copenhagen. Here’s our route: it’s not exact, but it’s close.
Gmaps puts it at 999km, and I’m okay with that. It doesn’t reflect how much we got lost, so the total actual kilometerage is probably closer to 14 trillion.
We’ve been here in Copenhagen for four nights, and I can therefore offer you some Copenhagen cycling observations in no particular order:
*No bicycle wayfinding signs of ANY kind. None. No “Centrum” signs, no pointers towards “ideal” bike routes, no “Nørrebro, 2km ->,” nothing (that I have seen).
*Almost no bicycle parking. This is the most striking difference from Amsterdam. Copenhagen has a small number of racks that clutch the front wheel of the bike. I have seen zero racks that accommodate locking the frame to the rack. Most blocks are bike rack free. Many of the supermarkets have no bike racks or bike parking places, and the same is true of the major cultural sites. People warned us about theft here, and then elaborated saying that what we needed were the rear wheel locks. That is genuinely all that is used here, even at night. They talk about a bike theft problem but no precautions are taken beyond those rear wheel locks.
*Feels like a big, car-oriented city. The roads are exceptionally wide and the auto-traffic is not impeded in the same way that it was in Amsterdam. There is a greater sense of stress on the road; the zen of the dance is not present in Copenhagen. But I still feel safe enough, much safer than the US. Cars expect bikes and do not cross a cycle-track without yielding.
*The bikes are different. There are a good number of Dutch bikes around, mostly from Batavus and a Danish brand called Kildemoes. But there are a lot more sporty, road, or flat-bar commuter bikes. The upright riding position is much less common here. Bikes are also less likely to have racks and even fenders. And as I mentioned, the bikes aren’t locked. This is an American bike thief’s dream. I have seen so many full carbon mountain bikes locked just to themselves with the kind of cable lock you can get at Hiron’s for $4.95. But rumors that “all the bikes are nice” are inaccurate. They are nicer and newer and higher-tech as a set than the collected Amsterdam fleet, but there are still plenty of clunkers, spray-painted bikes, etc. All that said, I strongly desire to import one of these. The fixed gear aesthetic is a much bigger deal here than in Amsterdam.
*Helmets are common. This was a relief to me, actually, because I’ve been wearing my helmet since my accident and I was concerned I would look out of place. I don’t. It’s certainly not a majority of people but it’s probably 10% of people. There are bike racing-style helmets, skate-style urban helmets, etc. A similar mix to what you see in Eugene. Males wearing helmets seem to be among the faster riders on the road. I have not observed the same with females.
*Sidewalks are very narrow. I’m trying to make this a list of observations rather than judgements, but I am tempted to call Copenhagen a bad city for pedestrians. Blocks are long, roads are frighteningly wide (four car lanes, a bus lane and wide cycle tracks on each side is a common configuration) and the sidewalks are narrow even before shops put out signs and chairs and tables; with those, the sidewalks barely accommodate two people walking next to each other. Bikes ignore pedestrian striping but cars seem to be pretty good about observing it.
*The cycle tracks are great. They are wide, they are on just about every street, they are orderly (people follow the rules and clearly signal their intentions), and they keep things flowing well. I quickly got used to the two point left turn and I like it pretty well. I like how consistent the bike network is in Copenhagen. The cycletrack is uniform on every street. It’s the same color, the same pavement type (asphalt-yessssss), starts and stops in a consistent fashion at intersections, and is signalized with clear, uniform lights. Germany had a mishmash of different pavers, shared-sidewalk, sudden dumps into the road, etc. Even Amsterdam would put you on cobblestoned canal streets or make you learn to figure out new turning arrangements. It just feels more clear here in Copenhagen.
*Signals. Just before they go green, both the red and yellow spots light up to let you know it’s about to turn. People use that signal to mount and start that first slow pedal stroke, so that by the time the light is green they are proceeding through the intersection. This system seems to keep traffic flowing really nicely. I also appreciate that there are absolutely NO bicycle or pedestrian demand buttons at intersections. Nowhere do you have to declare your intention to cross in order to get a signal. All the signals are automatic. This simplifies things and helps me feel like a legitimate user of the road, not one who is always requesting exceptions with the use of special buttons. Finally, these signals are much easier to read than those in Amsterdam. There are usually about five places you can look in the intersection to see your signal; every signal light lights up on all sides, so you can look across the intersection to see your signal, you can look next to you (like in amsterdam), and you can even look at the master signal hanging above the very middle of the intersection. The bike right-of-way corresponds with the car right of way in all but a few very clear cases, and so you have plenty of assurance about what your status is.
That’s probably good for now. On to the Face Update. This part is a bit disgusting, so don’t read it if you aren’t into scabs, etc.
My face is healing nicely after my nasty crash last week. My wounds have completely scabbed over, and the scabs have chipped away to the point where I have a nice, neat goatee-shaped scab on my chin and a nice, neat Hitler-stache shaped scab on my upper lip. In fact, I can see people mistake the scabs for facial hair when they look at me. It’s all in their face. At first glance they’re like “oh, my, what a pleasant and orderly goatee this fine young American is sporting, a tasteful soulpatch if ever I saw one.” And then their eyes narrow and then widen a bit and then narrow again and they are clearly like “oh wait, oh… oh no, that’s… that’s flesh. What on Earth… no, no..” It’s a fun silent exchange to have. I’ve taken to calling the scab my meatbeard. It’s okay, you don’t have to like it. Katy calls me Pangaea-face, because the scab is breaking apart and flaking off just like that bygone Paleozoic supercontinent.
That’s it for now. We are trying to mail or bikes back to the USA and guess how much fun that process is? We will leave Copenhagen either today or tomorrow.
VERY SPECIAL THANKS to the good folks at Ben Ben Cykler for helping me out with advice and with bike boxes for us to get rid of these bikes. They build beautiful custom rigid mountain bikes.