My family and I just returned from an amazing trip to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. In both cities, the majority of people get around by bike. For the most part, everyone is riding a one-speed or a three-speed junker of a bike with a basket in the front and saddlebags in the back. For people with kids to transport, they had kid seats on the handlebars or at the back of the bike or they rode a utility bike with a big wagon that sat over the front wheel. People wear normal clothes and shoes, not spandex and bike shoes and they pedal along at a nice pace but they are not racing. What makes it so easy for them to do this is that there is an amazing infrastructure to work with. On all streets, there is a sidewalk, a dedicated bike lane with curbs on either side and a traffic lane. Each lane has it’s own traffic lights so you know when its time to walk, pedal or step on the gas. There is an awareness of others as you navigate the streets and there didn’t seem to be any accidents (although I’m sure they happen). No one wears helmets, except we did see some cool blow up helmets that people were wearing. They looked like neck collars and when I asked someone what it was, they said that if you are in an accident, it will trigger the collar and an inflatable helmet with envelope your face and skull to protect you from damaging your teeth, skin and brain. Check out this video… it’s pretty cool! https://hovding.com/.
My husband and I both commute by bike most of the time. And we had an on-going discussion of why can’t more Americans ride bikes to work and to run errands? To make it safe and accessible the infrastructure has to be there. A dedicated bike lane that is protected on both sides is a must. Currently in Denver they are adding new bike lanes in all the time. But some of them disappear into a turn lane or they are not protected from traffic at all. There have already been 7+ deaths this year which will not help to convince people to ride their bikes to work. Also, both Copenhagen and Amsterdam are pretty flat. I can’t imagine those same people we saw in Copenhagen wanting to ride up a hill from downtown Denver to the Highlands. E-bikes (electric-assisted bikes) may be a good solution for hillier terrain. And finally, there has to be a good option of transportation when the weather doesn’t permit riding. In both the cities we visited, there was an excellent public transportation system in place. It was affordable and time-efficient and got you everywhere you wanted to be.
So for the time being I will continue to ride my bike to work and to the market and around town. I hope you will give it a try too!