I stood in the bike path to take a quick photo of the large white bike painted in the asphalt. Only seconds. However. It was almost long enough to get myself killed in this city of cyclists. Seconds later a man, his wife and their young child shouted at me in Danish to move out of the way. I leapt aside, nearly flying through, what else, a bike shop window. I stopped myself using, what else, a parked bicycle.
Copenhagen, at lunchtime. The wide avenues allow for lots and lots of room for an army of bikes that surge forward at each light change. More room for them than for cars, which are sparse. There are buses as well. Plenty of walkers. This is a city designed for people-powered movement and it shows.
As I walked around the immediate vicinity of Hotel Jorgensen, the warren of dorms that is my landing spot here, I learned a lot about what happens when a city commits itself to cycling. Large swaths of land are given over to parking for cycles, which in Saigon would be a sea of motorcycles.
Except here there are two notable differences. Nobody here has to wear the ubiquitous cotton face mask to protect against the pea soup pollution that makes the eyes water. And here in Copenhagen the skies in all their blue glory are on bright display.
As I drank a delicious coffee in Kafe Klimt, I watched a pensioner whiz by, pipe gripped firmly in his teeth, grey hair flying in the breeze. I noted that big bellies and broad bums were few indeed. The few that I did spot appeared to belong to tourists. Regular walking, cycling as a way of life will do that for you. That and the apparent diet of very fresh food in the market.
Mind you, the Danes love their chocolates and cakes. But cycling (yes, in the rain and snow as well) goes a long way towards keeping the waistline down.
These are, of course, all just impressions. Copenhagen, like any city, has its challenges. Obesity doesn’t happen to be among them. As someone who appreciates a city that supports human powered movement as a way of life for the majority of its population, it’s nice to note what seems to be working well. I’ll pass on being given a 750 DKK fine (about $250) for the metro machine that spat out the wrong ticket at 4 am en route to the airport. That’s another story.
I should have ridden a bike.