Scandinavia – cities where bikes come first By Jess Monson - Cycle Cities Blogger
Travelling around Scandinavia one could be fooled into thinking that cars were obsolete and pedestrians second class citizens. Everywhere you go there are signs that cyclists take precedence. Row upon row of bike racks inhabit any spare piece of pavement. Mountains of bicycles of all shapes, styles and size overflow from the designated bike bays and everywhere you look new racks are being built to keep up with the ever-growing bicycle population. In London people complain that finding a parking spot is tricky. In Sweden and Denmark you’ll be lucky to find a spare post, railing or drainpipe to park your bike!
Those wielding a bicycle inhabit a separate and sacred place in Scandinavian cities. Wide, smoothly paved cycle lanes are safely set apart from the road-hogging tendencies of car drivers. Pedestrians must look left and right to cross the cycle lane, or wait for the green man to let them pass. Bikes even have their own sets of traffic lights!
Outside the cities the story is no different. Not only do cycle paths run alongside most motorways, where one can often see weathered cyclists giving Bradley Wiggins (or even neighbouring cars) a run for their money, but there is a plethora of more leisurely routes to explore.
While in Copenhagen we took a particularly splendid bike route following the railway out of Copenhagen, northwards along the coast towards Helsingor, the closest tip of Denmark to Sweden. Our destination was the incongruously named but beautifully located Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a sight worth checking out even if you’re not an avid art lover.
Being in the throes of April, we set off in dazzling sunlight only to stop for a very early “coffee break” amidst an angry rainstorm. Undeterred we headed forth, battling the lusty headwind blowing in off the North Sea and whizzing through the outskirts of the city on a smooth, traffic-less cycle lane.
The ride is just under 40km and should take around 2 hours but our merry troupe took 3 hours thanks to a combination of our leisurely pace, the buffeting wind and a number of petulant rainstorms that soaked us within minutes only to disappear just as suddenly, off to bother some other poor sods elsewhere. And then the sun would be shining defiantly again.
Unpredictable weather aside, the ride was nothing short of breathtaking. Spring had just sprung, the signs of which were seeped in our surroundings. Spring flowers carpeted the woodland underfoot while hungry birds of prey circled overhead. The greens of the grass and the hedges and the trees, and even the sea, were kaleidoscopically bright. And that smell of spring that emerges after fresh fallen rain enveloped our senses so subtly and completely we arrived in Louisiana half giddy, from fresh air, hearty exercise and the joy of spring. Even the most resolved bike-loather could be persuaded of the merits of cycling after this particular ride.
Denmark and Sweden are havens for cyclists of all ages and abilities. And the best part is that they are genereally pretty flat too! So what are you waiting for? Get on yer bike and head to Scandinavia for a cycling experience to write home about.
Jess is a Londoner who loves travelling and cycling and works writing blogs for London Bicycle Tour Company and Cycle Cities.