Cycling Guide To Copenhagen

26 October, 2017

Recently I took a trip out to Copenhagen, the bicycle capital of the world. I was excited to see what the big deal of cycling this city was all about and was left rather surprised. I had been following Danish progressive city planning policy for years and had been inspired by Copenhagenize's perspective on the potential for a car free cycling city. It had been a few years since I left city life and forgotten my sustainable planning studies and wondered if I was still cut out as a city commuter to handle Copenhagen by bike.

When I arrived in Copenhagen I had underestimated getting around the hustle and bustle of the city. With streets packed full of tourists making their way to the next museum and local commuters stressing about making it on time to their next meeting, it can be very difficult to get out your big map or order a taxi right to your feet.  Which is why in a city that has more bikes than cars, cycling is the preferred way of getting around the Danish capital. Locals do it, tourists do it, everyone does it which is why Copenhagen ranks no1 as the most cycle-friendly city in the world, just beating Amsterdam.
According to the 2015 Copenhagenize Index, the city continues to invest heavily in its bike infrastructure, especially in bike-only bridges, so I've written a guide for first timers on how to cycle around the city. I didn't know what to expect in this city but quickly hopped on a bike and did like the locals, follow my tips to get around Copenhagen the authentic way (on two wheels)...
Renting a bike - The city is full of bike rentals and bike tours. Just look out for racks in traffic-heavy areas and near main sites and attractions.

A common, very handy way of getting around is on bicycles from the company ‘Bycyklen’. To hire these electric bikes all you have to do is enter in a few details onto the touchscreen between the handlebars (inc your card details) then you can cycle off and explore the city at your own pace, it's got gps too! It's a pay as you go system, very smart technology. There are over 100 Bycyklen stations spread across the city and you can return your bike to any of these stations. Payment will happen automatically with the payment card you have attached to your user account. There is an hourly rate of DKK 30 per commenced hour, which is equivalent to about £3.68 in pounds, €4 or $4.75

Rent A Bike -  Most Copenhagen hotels and hostels have bikes for customers to rent and also bike maps to help you through the city.

Other Options - I was told by a local that if you see an abandoned bike don’t be scared to wheel it to the local bike shop, get some free air in the tires and cycle off. Although you may feel a bit wary of doing this, the local police officers agree that as long as the bike clearly has no owner coming back for it, then they don’t see why it isn’t free for you to take.

There are tons of different places to rent a bike in Copenhagen. They vary from bike cafes, guided tours, and do it yourself. There are more quirky places that allow you to hire trendy designer bikes if you want to experience the city in style.  There are guided tours that take you to the main attractions of the city, but there are also tours that have the focus of taking you around the urban areas that the locals like to hang out and the cool architecture of the city. One of these urban tours takes place close to the downtown part of the city.

Cycling around Copenhagen is the best way to explore the city but you must follow these rules. Trust me, I learned the hard way... 

Hand Signals - To avoid collisions and to let other drivers and cyclists on the road know exactly where you’re going. It’s important to know some of the most basic hand signals you’ll need. To indicate a right turn stick your right hand straight out. The same goes for when you want to turn left (the same signals with the left hand instead of the right hand).

Stopping - If you want to stop you need to indicate it by raising your hand in a stopping gesture, if you suddenly stop and forget to use this hand signal, you will most likely get told off by the Danish!

Turning Left - Always remember, you’re not allowed to take a direct turn left! So if you want to turn left, you need to cross to the opposite corner first and then wait for the traffic light to turn green before continuing your journey.

Traffic Lights - At larger junctions, there are separate traffic lights for cars and bikes. You can tell them apart due to the fact that the traffic lights for bikes are slightly smaller than the regular ones and have a bike signal at the top. It’s important to pay attention to them because they don’t always change color at the same time as the traffic lights for the cars.

Bike Paths - Due to cycling being such a dominating feature of daily life in Copenhagen there are many aspects of the city designed favorably for cyclists, such as the well-designed system of cycling roads. It is important to try and stick to the paths and routes designated for cyclists otherwise chaos may occur and you could become a bit unpopular.
Stay Right - In Copenhagen you always cycle on the right side, this makes it easier for you to keep out of the way of cars. Being a city that has more bikes than cars, it also makes it easier for other bikers to overtake you if they are cycling faster than you. If you’re the one overtaking always check behind you (on your left side) to make sure you’re free to go and avoid any accidents!

Bike Lights - If you’re using your bike after dark, it’s mandatory to have lights on the front and rear end of the bike. However, if you’re renting out a bike most of them are equipped with lights but it’s always a good idea to ask just to be sure.

Don't Overtake A BusDON’T DO IT. If a bus stops, you have to stop too. You cannot overtake a bus at a bus stop because pedestrians might be getting off the bus and crossing over the bike lane - and you don’t want to knock over a pedestrian.

Spacial Awareness - It's allowed to cycle side by side, however, you must allow for other cyclists to pass. Be aware of walkers, cars, and stay on the bike path!

Lock It Up - I mentioned before that you're allowed to claim an abandoned bike, however, don't leave your bike unlocked unless you want someone else to claim it.

Bike Tour Copenhagen - There are so many different cycle tours to choose from that will take you through the main sites. I recommend Copenhagen Bicycles, they offer a guided bike tour around Copenhagen to the major sights. They are also partnered with a long list of hotels (found on the website) and if you are staying in any of them you are able to rent the bike directly from the hotel and join a tour for free. I spent a day doing this and was surprised at how much of Copenhagen you can cover by bike in a day!

There is so much more I want to say about Copenhagen like it's progressive society, hygge, restaurants, museums, and architecture but I'll save that for another day. Hope this comes in handy in case you're looking for a cycling holiday in this city.

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