Swapping seasons for April
For April, I’m swapping seasons and travelling in Denmark and Norway. It’s early spring in the northern hemisphere and although the air is very cool when we arrive in Copenhagen, hiring bicycles and learning to ride the streets like the locals, makes me very happy.
Denmark’s Copenhagen and Amsterdam in The Netherlands are the world’s cycling capitals with brilliant infrastructure and high participation for everyday use. They provide models to which many world cities aspire where streets pulse with bicycles and make city living lively, making bodies healthier and air cleaner.
After adjusting to the time zone, I couldn’t wait to get on my bike!
Copenhagen has a bike hire system called City Bike. These distinctive white bikes have a front carrier, a tablet display with built-in GPS and can be collected or left at one of the many stations around the city. To use them, each rider has to sign up for an account, register a credit card and then bike hire is charged by the hours used.
However, it was easier for us to hire from our hotel and probably cheaper, with each bicycle costing 150DKK or about A$28 for the entire day. I hadn’t thought about it at the time but the distinctive white City Bikes signal tourist and I was glad that we chose to hire bikes from our hotel. Even with the hotel name printed on the bicycle, at a glance, they blended into the cycling streetscape.
Something we didn’t have to hire were bicycle helmets. Wearing a helmet is optional. While some cyclists do wear a helmet, many don’t. In this cool weather, it’s more practical to wear a warm woollen hat or beanie. I didn’t miss wearing a helmet at all and I’d like it to be optional in Australia as well. In 2013, a parliamentary review of cycling in Queensland (the State where I live) recommended a two year trial for removing the mandatory helmet rule for cyclists (16 years and over) in parks, on footpaths, bike paths and roads where the speed limit is no more than 60km/hour. However, the minister rejected the committee’s recommendation.
I love moving around by bicycle and in Copenhagen I notice how mobile it makes me. I can cover more distance than I would by walking. I can move more easily than by car. There’s no trouble with parking. I just park outside where I want to be. I feel energised by the exercise and the fresh air. I just have to remember to stay on the right hand side of the road. That takes some brain gym – “stick to the right and look left first”… and again “stick to the right and look left first”… and again.
Yet the infrastructure – the lanes, traffic lights and priority given to cyclists – makes it easier to adjust. To be continued...
When I was 10, our family visited Italy. It took mum and dad a few goes to get comfortable with driving on the other side of the road (well, mum didn’t drive unless she had too over there – too many crazy people even in the small town we were in!). I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to adapt…
Now, having had a licence for over 15 years (although I hardly drive at all these days) I can appreciate exactly why they found it so tricky! So your captions on the photos… “keep right”, “stick to the right”… certainly made me smile. I think I’d be saying exactly the same thing to myself – possibly even louder in my head! 🙂
It’s amazing how programmed our brains become, which is an advantage for doing things, but when there’s change, well, it has to learn all over again.
I found I kept floating over to the left hand side of the road all the time … “stick to the right” was definitely my mantra on two wheels… 🙂
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What a wonderful time you appear to be having Gail! Copenhagen, the perfect city for cycling.
It’s certainly is Gina. I hope someone at the Gold Coast City Council gets to read these blog posts and is inspired to create a cycling city on the Gold Coast. That’d be fantastic!