From their sex-education to social housing, gender equality and cycle lanes – Denmark keeps getting it right.
We visited in February 2015 and despite a close shave with terrorism I’m 99% sure we’re in love with Copenhagen.
Subtract five degrees from the temperature and the weather was just like home and it didn’t take long to acclimatise. (But yes, grey and sometimes pretty damp.)
Now, we’re not made of money. In fact after rent, bills and food we’re lucky to afford ourselves a G&T at The Pen & Wig on a Friday night. But nearly two months after our visit to Copenhagen I’m still left wondering how on earth we managed 7 nights self-catering, flights, food, cake and coffee for £350 each. (£700 overall). We usually travel cheaply with minimalism in mind, but £700 all-in for a week in one of the top ten most expensive cities.. (in the world!)? Madness.
Despite seeing a Christiania Bike (complete with kids) being pedaled past our local hangout, The Little Man Coffee Co. a couple of days ago, the contrast between Copenhagen and Cardiff in terms of cycling is almost immeasurable.
An everyday cycling culture is definitely emerging in Cardiff but the growth is slow and doesn’t seem to have all that much support from the local authority. We’re the Capital of Wales and statistically also the most dangerous place to cycle in the Country. With under 60 miles of cycle network, aggressive traffic and knee-deep potholes the entire length of Newport Road; Are we failing the Cardiffians who really want to cycle but are just too scared? This is in contrast to the 250 miles of cycle-way in Copenhagen.
THE MOST NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCES COPENHAGEN/CARDIFF CYCLING
1. In Cardiff male cyclists hugely outnumber women. In Copenhagen the split is pretty much 50/50 with more girls in the saddle if anything.
2. In Copenhagen you have some right of way. When they say ‘cycle lane’ they actually mean a complete cycle way totally separated from the road, with its own sophisticated traffic control/pedestrian crossing system. At no point are you required to interact with cars or people on foot. (And it is FAB!)
How does this compare to the cars parked on top of the paint-lane on Cathedral Road? Or maybe the narrow sections recently built on the bridge over to Riverside?
Google maps – Cycle-ways Copenhagen vs. Cardiff
3. Theft. **I had here initially written about the lack of bicycle theft in Copenhagen. A few days later I had a brief chat with the chaps at Cyklistbuttiken 1905 – they informed me that over 70,000 bikes a year are stolen in Denmark and that it is a huge problem. I’m left thinking that the same obstacles exist in every city; be it a brewing cycle city with little infrastructure, or the world’s best and most connected.
4. The cargo bikes are AMAZING.
5. There is less lycra, fewer clipless pedals/shoes – cycle snobbery is pretty non-existent.
WHERE TO RENT YOUR BIKE IN COPENHAGEN
We couldn’t afford to fly our bikes over to Copenhagen so we rented from Baisikeli. (An ethically minded organisation who provide bicycles to communities who need them.)
The service was great and they weren’t expensive – You can rent for a week and expect to pay about £25-£30.
*Baisikeli can be easily found from CPH central station, just follow the road around the back of the station or catch the metro to just outside (by the mall).
BEST BIKE SHOP IN COPENHAGEN
Cyklistbutikken 1905 – It is in parts pretty expensive, but they did have tastes for every budget. With a focus on trendy lifestyle cycling featuring vulc-soled clipless trainers, ass savers (mudguards) and seriously arty wooden hardware and components. All of this is well-balanced with practical cycle-kit, apparel and accessories delivered by relaxed yet great service – this design-led shop is definitely one to check out, it is right opposite the Norrebro farmers market too.
BEST COFFEE IN COPENHAGEN
We have already plugged our local cyclist friendly shop in Cardiff (The Little Man Coffee Co.) –
Catch them on instagram: @littlemancoffee // Twitter: @littlemancoffee
But what about a caffeine hit in Copenhagen? Well, as it goes they’re pretty tuned in to the coffee thang.
Our favourite was Democratic Coffee Bar. Located on Krystalgade, near the round tower and city centre, a street laced with both prolific and more underground street wear brands & boutiques. (Don’t miss the Carhartt WIP store and Sticky Brick Fingers).
Democratic Coffee has a wonderful selection of home-made pastry, great espresso coffee and two V60 filter options. Our drinks were expertly made by friendly and relaxed staff. We bought some beans and caught up on some people-watching through the long windows.
In close second was the Coffee Collective – much raved about and pretty damn stylish. These on-site roasters have built a pretty solid brand in Copenhagen, have three vastly different sites and come highly recommended by local coffee-heads. They roast on site and serve their coffee crafted by skilled baristas. We stuck it OG and visited their first coffee bar on hipster-hotspot Jægersborggade. This is a street laced with independent D.I.Y shops and pop-ups, think vinyl, kooky clothing and beards.
It’ll take you ten/fifteen minutes by bicycle from town and don’t forget to check out Enghave Kaffe – (a kaffe bar run by motorcycle enthusiasts) and Sort Kaffe and Vinyl – (a must visit for music lovers).
In short we LOVED everything about cycling in Copenhagen life as a pedestrian can be a little daunting at first though. Despite the criticisms in this guide we do feel inspired to help push cycling forward in Cardiff and whilst we feel privileged to have had the opportunity to experience the infrastructure that Copenhagen holds for us knights of the road, cycling is so heavily integrated in the lifestyle of the city that it seems almost invisible, sort of hidden in plain sight.
What we really love about Cardiff couldn’t be found in Copenhagen. No Ninjah on the bins, no melodic church bells on a sunny Sunday, and you’d be hard-pressed to find strawberries for a pound like you can on Queen Street. (And you couldn’t find a Welsh cake for love nor money.)