Their Campus: Cycling my way through Copenhagen

They’re everywhere — whether I’m walking down the cobblestone sidewalk or watching them detour around pedestrians and cars, they’re always whizzing around.

I’m talking about bicycles. The city of Copenhagen is a self-declared “cycle city” where 50 per cent of rush hour traffic is cyclists, ringing their bells as they pass each other on the city’s wide and vast bike paths.

I arrived in September, and within my first week of moving here for my exchange semester, I learned about how huge cycle culture is in Copenhagen. Everyone bikes, and I do mean everyone. People on their way to work, women in heels, parents fixing adjustable children seats onto their bikes to transport their toddlers to daycare.

It’s often seen as odd if you take the bus on a clear day instead of biking. People even hold umbrellas while they cycle in the rain — something that UBC students could really benefit from. It’s the quickest way of getting around the mostly-flat city and over the past few months, it’s been the best way to discover my new home.

My first weekend here, my new friends and I decided to bike and we haven’t stopped since.

We’ll be like the Danes! We all thought, drinking cheap beer from the grocery store — one of the first rules I learned about cycling in Copenhagen is that since it’s so safe, it’s legal to cycle while drunk.

Getting off the bus? You better watch out so you don’t get hit as you cross their path. Going out late at night downtown? You’ll hear the echo of their bells ringing as people run across the street and stumble around.

My friends and I often spend over 10 minutes looking for a place to park our bicycles. Sidewalks are constantly lined up with toppled over bikes, creating a domino effect of colourful metal. Despite how many bike racks are installed downtown, the rows of bikes usually extend way beyond, creating a sea of tires and handles as far as the eye can see.

UBC students are used to cyclists weaving through crowds along Main Mall, so what’s so different about Copenhagen? One huge difference is the vast amount of bike lanes that separate bikes from not only cars, but from people as well.

The University of Copenhagen has multiple campuses, and the two where I have class have designated areas so cyclists can to get to where they need to go or even cycle to another campus if need be. This infrastructure keeps cyclists and pedestrians safe, and also gives cyclists the freedom to rush to class without worry of running anyone over.

That’s one thing I’m going to miss about this city when I leave — I’m going to miss the ease and freedom that come with riding your bike wherever I want to go.