Saturday, 11 August 2012

Copenhagen


















So, we've made it to Copenhagen! In some ways it's an advantage that we're staying out of town (in Gentofte). The suburbs are quite different from the city, where metropolitan rushing seems to be the order of the day. In fact mobility in Copenhagen altogether seems more frantic than the likes of Bremen. The wide cycle paths don't simply cater for large numbers. They cater for different styles - and speeds - of cycling.

Don't be fooled by the excellent Cycle Chic movement. Large numbers of Copenhagen's cyclists, chic or otherwise, seem to be in a mighty hurry to get to wherever they are going. Maybe they have taken the point that cycling is quicker than driving in a city to heart, and are desperate to prove it with every last heave of the pedal. The funny thing is, this speed cycling is not restricted to the helmet and lycra brigade. Today, for example, we were doing our usual 15 kilometres per hour pootle along the coast, on a lovely sunny day (it's my birthday, all the more reason to pootle), when we were overtaken by a frantic, bell ringing lass in her 30's, sitting more or less horizontal with head right down between her handlebars. Only they were dutch style handlebars, the grips a good foot back from her nose.

Could this strange (in our eyes) cultural phenomenon be simply a result of our having spent too many years in small, provincial Darlington, the "quiet town" of 1970s fame? Or is said birthday (shit, 59!!!!!) a watershed in the ageing process, when suddenly everything and everyone around you seems so young, fit and fast (ok, drop that last remark when applied to the young of Darlo)?

Maybe the Copenhagen Cycle Quick movement is related to the thousands of joggers we've also spotted around the city. There seems to be a positive plague of jogging going on here, and not just in the obvious places like parks and waterfronts. We sat outside our hotel last night here in quiet suburban Gentofte until just before midnight, and the two wildly exciting events were either a bus passing or a jogger jogging on the main street. But then I suppose hectic metropolitan life doesn't stop for silly things like sleep, so maybe we should expect such sights, even in Gentofte at midnight.

As for the serious stuff, cycling infrastructure, well we've done the videos, both in the city and out here in the suburbs, and we'll be editing them together over the next few weeks. Having cycled in to Copenhagen from the countryside, and before that from Germany, there are interesting comparisons to be made between the German rural/urban and Danish rural/urban approaches, and we'll be aiming to do that with the video material. Suffice to say right now, Copenhagen still has its car-centric legacy (motorways going right into the city, traffic jams, appalling noise) in many areas. But this simply illustrates the historical urgency of the pro-cycling policy. Much had to be done, much has been done, and much more is and will be done. And at its core, this involves taking space from motorised transport and using this to create substantial cycling infrastructure to a high standard. A standard, in fact, that needs to accomodate we pootlers, the cycle chic of the city, and the permanent rush-hourers.

Video report to come!

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