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Copenhagen: Bike City for more than a century

The Danish cycle-culture is as old as the bicycle itself. Copenhageners have used bicycles to transport themselves to work since the 1880s. Back then, commuting by bike was the fastest, easiest and most environmentally friendly way to move around the city – and it still is.

Bicycle, Penny-farthing, bike and Iron Horse. Both the name and the bike have changed during the last centuries. The bicycle (the word means two wheels) was first introduced in 1871 by the British Engineer James Starley. This bicycle, also known as a Penny-farthing, had a big front wheel which should make the bicycle run longer per pedal game. Unfortunately the Penny-farthing was rather dangerous and impractical to ride.

Few years later, in 1885 Starley then developed the ´Baton bike´ which is the bike we know today: Easy, safe and fast.

Copenhagen developed a cycle-culture

In Copenhagen the popularity of the bike evolved, especially through the 1920’ties and 1930’ties. In the streets of Copenhagen you would find Copenhageners from all social classes biking side by side. The middleclass mother rode her bike home from the grocery store, the wealthy bank Director took his bike on his way to work and the young craftsman transported his goods by bike.

Times changed after the Second World War. In the 1950’ties new machinery was introduced and bikes were put back into their bike racks. Copenhageners replaced their bikes with mopeds and automobiles, and when the city planners looked into the crystal ball in the 60’ties, they did not see many cyclists. Instead they saw cascades of gasoline, wide highways and tall skyscrapers.

The oil crisis put an end to that dream in the 1970’ties. ‘Car Free Sundays’ was introduced in Copenhagen along with cyclist demonstrations for a ‘Car Free Copenhagen’. Many Copenhageners voted for a clean city and choose the bike instead of a car. 

Future of the Bike City

Copenhagen got its first bike lane in 1910 but most parts of the important net of bike lanes have been established within the last 25 years. Today 50% of the Copenhageners choose to commute by bike every day. Most of them do it all year round – even in rain and snow.

Currently the city is building green routes through Copenhagen to ensure a safe and green transport route for cyclists while creating green spots in the cityscape.

Cycle-routes out of the city are soon a reality. When the first City-to-suburb ‘cyclesuperhighways’ opens in the end of 2011 they will reach a distance of 15 kilometer from central Copenhagen.

Infrastructure is not the only thing Copenhagen is working on at the moment. These days the Copenhagen Municipality are sending 50 ‘karma-policemen and women’ out on the bike lanes to make sure, that the good Danish cycle culture and positive ‘cycle-karma’ is uphold. For two weeks they give karma-cakes to cyclists who show a good behavior and creates positive ‘cycle-karma’ towards their fellow cyclists.


Encounter the city on your bike. Choose among six different bicycle routes.

Bicycle routes