The Copenhagen Commute

Posted by Samantha Hartke

The best part of living, working, or studying in Copenhagen, Denmark is the commute. Rush hour used to connote blaring horns, traffic jams, or overcrowded metro rides to me, but my 25 minute trip to class at the University of Copenhagen this spring was anything but stressful. It started with a late night, slightly sketchy rendezvous below an abandoned metro station where I exchanged 700 Danish kroner (~110 USD) with an elderly Russian woman for a black bike.

Sam bike
Me and bae on a windy day at the beach.

Copenhagen, like Dallas, is impressively flat, an ideal city for the thousands of bikers who ride through on a daily basis. However, unlike in other cities, the first thing I noticed about Copenhagen’s urban infrastructure was the bike lanes. The standard road consists of not only car lanes and sidewalks, but also raised six foot wide bike lanes on both sides. The city caters to bikers with special stop lights, unique traffic rules, and the many bike racks set up throughout downtown. Most people leave their bikes just about anywhere by wrapping a lock around the back tire and bike frame – a safe practice when the only way to steal a bike is to ride away on it. I frequently took advantage of this to leave my bike right outside supermarkets and snag a croissant on the way to class.

The main avenue heading north to the city center takes me across bridges, past palaces, cathedrals, and at least 10 bakeries, along picturesque canals – all better experienced from a bike seat rather than the passenger seat. During rush hour, the surrounding bike pack forms a transient sort of community and the battle against blustery spring conditions becomes more bearable as a shared struggle (misery loves company?). My climb up the channel-crossing bridge is rewarded with an effortless coast down the other side before I hit the city center. Here, bikes are fashion statements for some, bedecked with bells and baskets and painted in colors ranging from neon orange to pastel greens. Spandex clad riders on road bikes pass by more leisurely bikers (me), and parents tow their children to school in an assortment of bike seats and trailers. This is the Copenhagen commute. Even on the beautiful days when you dread spending six hours sitting in class, you can at least look forward to the ride there.

National Art Gallery

Nyhavn Canal

St Nikolaj's Church
A few of my favorite sights to ride by on the way to class, from top to bottom: the National Art Gallery, Nyhavn Canal, and St. Nikolaj’s Church.

After spending so many of my favorite afternoons in Copenhagen biking through the city’s well-kept parks and waterfronts, the worst part of leaving was probably having to sell my bike. If you travel to Copenhagen, make sure to rent a bike for at least a day; and if you’re comfortable on it, I’d encourage hitting the road around 8 am or 4 pm to join the Copenhagen commute.

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