Trace the route of the Tour de France in Denmark
After driving to the Kong Arthur Hotel, located on Copenhagen’s historic lakes in a cobbled lane, we do as the Danes do and take two hotel bikes to cross the Queen Louise Bridge, the world’s busiest cycle street. . Yes, hotels have bikes and bike shops have hotels. In a cafe on Blagardsgade Avenue, you really realize the place is crazy about cycling, especially now with the victory of Vingaard, which takes the sport with it. Two-wheeled travel has simply taken over. Sipping our Tuborg beers, we see bikes from all walks of life, from recumbents and other low-riders to breakdowns, those with carts in front and behind, and even those with seats suspended by strange straps. It’s like a scene from Dr. Seuss, from straight-backed bike-boozas to pedal-paloozas. If they are not mounted, they are parked. Hundreds of bicycles are angled next to each other in neat rows. Just beware of the domino effect if you accidentally knock one over.
In the morning, we pick up our bikes to ride the Tour route with Christian Hougaard from Copenhagen Cycling. The reason cycling is so popular here, he says, as we cycle, is because the country “is totally flat, the infrastructure is great and everything is close”. And in the city, he adds, built before anyone even thought of cars, “you can get everywhere faster by bike than by car”. In addition, cars are heavily taxed and parking is expensive. “Only 30% of people in Copenhagen have one,” he says. “Cycling is much easier than walking, running, driving, getting on a bus or taking a taxi.”
Thanks to the foresight of municipal architect Jan Gehl, now 80 and retired, the government helped the cause by building bicycle-specific bridges and lanes while reducing car-only lanes. As we ride, Christian points out bike-friendly features, such as bike lanes having their own curbs to protect against cars, their own speed bumps, and painted crosswalks and turning lanes. In some places, bikers even have their own traffic lights, as well as ankle-deep metal rails so they don’t have to disembark. Even the bins are positioned at a forward angle to throw trash away as it passes. When winter comes, the bike paths are cleared of snow before the car lanes. At school, children get cycle training certificates at ages 6 and 10, and there’s even a government-funded ‘bike play area’ where kids can practice, complete with mini-tracks bike lanes, traffic lights and angled garbage cans.