Friday, August 3, 2012

Bicycling Through Copenhagen

Just one of hundreds of Copenhagen's bike parking lots
The final leg of our Scandinavian adventure took us to Denmark.  Using Copenhagen as our base we ventured out to Legoland in Billund "because Sidney really wanted to go" and spent one afternoon at Carlsberg Brewery "because Glenn really wanted to."  Both of these trips were fun; its amazing what one can do with those tiny plastic blocks and visiting the most famous brewery in Denmark, one that produces over 3 million bottles of beer a day, is always more interesting when you have a home brewer in your midst.  The best part of our Danish stay, however, was doing like the locals and bicycling through the Copenhagen.

It seems as though everyone in Copenhagen uses bicycles as their preferred mode of transportation.  The International Cycling Union awarded Copenhagen the first Bike City Award and claims that at 1.3 million kilometers per day, the 37 percent of Copenhageners who bicycle daily log more miles than any other city in the world.  There are dedicated bicycle lanes and bicycle traffic signals throughout the City and you can't go more than a block without coming across large bicycle parking lots.  It feels as though bicyclists have the right of way and motorized vehicles and pedestrians need to cede to their oncoming traffic.  During rush hour you see women in their skirts and high heels peddling alongside disheveled students, tourists with maps in hand, and parents with toddlers in tow.  Regardless of your age, size, or medical condition (I saw more than one obviously pregnant women peddling right along with the rest of the crowd), Copenhageners get around on two wheels.   Bicycle Copenhagen, the city's free bicycle borrowing program allows you to pick up bicycles at numerous locations throughout the city and bike to your location.  They make it so easy that there isn't any excuse for not using pedal power to get around.
The boys getting around using pedal power

We joined the locals and rented bicycles from Baisikeli, a company that uses its profits to send refurbished bicycles to Mozambique and Sierra Leone (by renting from them we got our exercise and supported a good cause!).  What they say is true; once you learn to ride a bicycle, getting back on one is easy.  It has been over two decades since either of us rode a bicycle but we quickly got into the rhythm and kept pace with the hundreds of other bicycles speeding along the streets.  On a bicycle, the city just looks different.  We were able to really notice things that you just don't see when you are traveling by car.  We were able to take in the beautiful architecture of some of the city's more historic buildings, feel the bumps of each cobblestone paver on the narrow secondary streets, and easily stop to take in the sights when something looked interesting.  We also discovered how much easier it is to cover more territory on a bicycle than it is when you are on foot.   It definitely didn't hurt that the weather was a perfectly comfortable 70 degrees (the warmest weather we've experienced on our entire trip) and that Copenhagen is a very flat city.

Sidney loved having a front and center view on the world.  He laughed when riding over the aforementioned cobble stones and was able to see so much more from his front row seat.  We peddled through the Copenhagen Citadel, stopped to put our toes in the water at The Little Mermaid, and had lunch at a sidewalk cafe with our bicycles parked nearby.  As is the norm, we also stopped at numerous water fountains and watched the boats in the canal.  (We saw several tour boats, or as Sidney calls them "furgon boats").  All of this was so much easier than it would have been had we needed to find a parking space for our car.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to ride a bicycle.  Sadly, riding a bicycle is neither a safe nor convenient option in Albania, but we are now talking about how we need to buy bicycles when we reach our next post.  Its just another criteria to add to our "must have" list.

Visiting The Little Mermaid

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