Postcard from... Copenhagen


Cycling around Copenhagen is a stark reminder of how brutal things can be in London. As cyclists in the UK capital weave precariously between buses and articulated lorries in a daily battle for survival, their Danish counterparts peddle around their city like kings. This Copenhagen biking paradise takes place on a 1,000 kilometre network of totally separated cycle lanes, some of them next to the main road, often with two lanes, and others standing completely alone. Many have their own traffic lights and, in places, a “green wave” traffic system prioritises cyclists over cars by enabling them to travel through a stream of green lights.

Surveying the scene just outside the City Hall that is home to the cycle-mad Lord Mayor and was immortalised by detective Sarah Lund’s frequent visits in crime TV series The Killing, it all seems a bit too good to be true. In the throng of cyclists, I am the 2,658th to pass by that morning, according to a roadside monitor, and it’s still only 9am. Parents cycle by with up to three children in boxes on the front, there are footrests at traffic lights and laneside bins are tilted at a 45 degree angle for easy access. Indeed this last accommodation may be a bit too much even for Copenhagen, says Marie Kastrup, head of the city’s cycling scheme, who suggests that the five of these angled receptacle currently in place might be enough. 

She says Boris bikes have, on balance, been good for London because they have got many people cycling again, or for the first time. Many have liked it but questioned the “infrastructure” creating pressure on politicians to make improvements that could help to make the culture more cycle-friendly.  She advocates targeting a reasonably large area of London, possibly around a university, and making it really cycle-friendly. If the area is large enough, the zone may cover people’s entire journey and they will enjoy the experience so much they will call for the scheme to be extended across the city, she argues.

Ultimately, she says cycling needs to become so much part of the culture that people don’t define themselves as cyclists. “We don’t call ourselves cyclists, it’s like brushing your teeth. Cycling is not a religion here, it is just part of life,” she said, of the city where more than a third workers bike to work.

Jorgen Abildgaard, Copenhagen’s climate director, says cycling in his city is a far cry from London but believes it is absolutely possible for the UK capital to emulate it’s success – but that it would take at least a decade.

He says he’d start by building some Copenhagen-style dedicated cycle superhighways running from suburbs 10 to 15 miles out right into the centre to convert people to the cause.

Copenhagen was recently named European Green Capital as it aims to become the world’s first carbon neutral city, by 2025. Although cycling will play a crucial part in achieving this goal, the man spearheading the drive, Mr Abildgaard, says the campaign is far wider.

The city opened the first three of 100 wind turbines planned for the city in January, one of which is owned by the locals.

The city is also pushing hard into organic food, with 75 per cent of the city’s 900 public kitchen serving organic food and a target of 90 per cent by next year. It is also not unusual to see locals swimming and kayaking in the harbour after a mass clean-up of the water.

The city recycles as much of its waste as possible, burning much of the rest to produce electricity and to heat buildings.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears