Bikes. A Danish must.

You can't understand danish lifestyle without thinking about bicycles and biking. Go to any road, any school, any station or any forest at any time of the year and you will see danes of all ages and conditions driving their bikes. You will find this in Copenhagens most crowded streets and also in the agricultural towns of Jutland.

They use their bikes for everything. They go to school, to work, to the supermarket and even to clubs (be careful) by bike (cykler, in danish language). Of course, the whole country is prepared to make life easier for bikers. Every road has a biking lane while every station, big shop or school has a bike parking. The public transport is also prepared for passengers with bikes and it is very common to see people with their bikes in the train if their daily displacements are too long. Most people have indoor parkings in their apartments in order to protect their bikes from windy and stormy nights. Everything is ready to make bicycles the main mode of transport of Denmark,.

Why is biking a good alternative to cars? Let's talk about the advantages of biking both for the environment and for users. Everyone knows that greenhouse effect gases are a direct consequence of the climate change that our generation is fighting against. Everyone also knows that biking does not involve direct emissions of this harmful gases while driving cars, motorbikes or trains does. So, it is clear that by driving a bike you contribute to mitigating climate change and to reducing the pollution of cities and towns. Biking is also interesting because it is healthy. It makes you segregate endorphins that improve your well-being and as all physical exercise it keeps you fit. Besides that, it prevents you from being infected or infecting with the feared Coronavirus because you usually ride alone.

I wanted to live the danish experience to the fullest so I got myself a bike on my first week. Instead of buying one (they are quite expensive, starting at 100 euros for a semi-decent second hand bike) I have rented a bike from a company started by students called Swapfiets. I pay 20 euros/month and I can use the bike as if it was mine. Besides that, if it breaks you can get a new one for free. You are not that lucky if you lose it, then you have to pay for it. You have to be very careful and use a lock because otherwise the probability of your bike being stolen is very high. Furthermore, I have already lost my keys twice and they have provided me with a new copy and have charged me only 10 euros each time. That's the main reason that makes me stick with Swapfiets even after 6 months in Denmark, most of my friends have their own bike.  If I decide to stay in Denmark for a long time I will probably buy a more expensive and good bike because right now the one I have works for me but it is true that most people drive faster than me and I have the feeling that the reason is not my poor physical shape. The first days I was very surprised by the speed at which old people drove their bikes, you should see them! They used to drive bikes to school 60 years ago so why not going to play cards with friends by bike after retirement.

What do I use my bike for? I live very close from campus but getting there from my house would take me 30 minutes walking and there is no direct public transport from my house to university so a 10 minutes bike ride is a perfect alternative. I do that when I go to class or to the library. There is a small hill that was tiring at the beginning but now I am completely used to it. I also use the bike to go from one class to another because DTU campus is huge and moving by bike is the fastest way. Besides that, I also use the bike to go to friend's houses or dorms, to parties or to do tourism around the city. It is also very refreshing to tour the many lakes and forests that the country has. Many people also use it to go to the supermarket and add big baskets where you can transport bags or whatever you need to carry around.

You might be wondering that maybe danish weather is not the best to make biking comfortable. The truth is that you are quite right. It can get cold during the winter (not as much as you might expect) and it rains very frequently but if you use good winter clothes it is not a huge problem. There are also things about Denmark that make it ideal for using bikes. The most important one is that Denmark is a very flat country (highest point is at 170 m above sea level) and even if there are some hills it can't be compared to many countries in the world. I can compare it to my hometown Barcelona. If you have been there you will know that the sea and the Collserola hill (516 m) are only separated by 10 km. This means that there are many steep streets in Barcelona's downtown and in many of its most populated neighborhoods. This makes biking less comfortable in the Mediterranean city even if its climate is perfect for it.

There is also an economical driving before behind the popularity of bikes in Denmark. You might have read about the high taxes in Denmark. One of the highest one is the one on petrol and diesel cars. It is as high as 85 % on the value of the car while the tax on electric cars is only 20 %. This is one of the reasons why besides many bikes you can see a lot of Teslas around.

In conclusion, even if biking has its pros and cons danes have integrated  it into their culture and now life in Denmark cannot be conceived without the danes' best friend: a cykler.


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