Tag Archives: Cycling

Cycle touring around Copenhagen

Few sensations are more soothing than the reassuring feel of a mild breeze on the back and the sound of tyres caressing a bicycle path as it meanders through the outskirts of beautiful Copenhagen. 

Before this summer’s holiday to Denmark, the last time I had climbed aboard a bicycle coincided with the last time I fell off one. Despite this mishap, I was eager to explore Copenhagen on two wheels.

The Danish capital remains the benchmark for cities around the world as they try to figure out how to take the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport.

With the beautiful medieval city centre streets and the unlimited access for cyclists to ride on, Copenhagen continues to inspire, but where did the Danish cycling craze start?

History

Denmark is the epitome of a bike-friendly country. The opening of the city’s first bike lane in 1892 saw cycling become hugely popular, and in just 15 years the number of bikes on its streets rose from 2,500 to 80,000.

By 1960, however, using cars had become the norm, which brought with it pollution and traffic-related accidents.

The real problem, however, was the international energy crisis in the early 1970s. For a country which at the time depended on imported oil for 92% of its energy, this was a major issue.

This meant that much of the country went green and bikes now seemed more than just a cheap exercise.

Throughout the 1980s, Denmark saw a bicycle renaissance. Individuals lobbied for the introduction of bike lanes in cities and since Copenhagen began to observe its cycling rates to see how many individuals were using bicycles in 1995, the continuous rise has been spectacular.

In 2004, 41% of Copenhagen commuted by bike and by 2010, it had reached 50%. Today, the country sets a gold-standard for renewable energy and efficiency.

Cycling in Copenhagen 

Copenhagen is a cyclist’s dream. Throughout my week there, I biked to restaurants and famous sights such as the Little Mermaid statue, and through the city’s most elegant parks and attractions like Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park.

Biking around in Copenhagen is so relaxing, it almost felt like meditation. People in Denmark obey cycling’s etiquette, so an obvious factor in feeling assured and pedalling at a safe pace.

After hiring out my bicycle, what really struck me about cycling round Copenhagen was how seamlessly one could weave through the city without feeling vulnerable. Sometimes the ride to a new destination in the city was as enjoyable as reaching the destination itself.

Difficulties 

Despite the highs of my cycling experience in Denmark, I did experience moments of frustration, mainly down to my general unfamiliarity with the city. Being someone who doesn’t speak Danish apart from the word ‘Hej’ – hello – remembering street names was a difficult task.

Parts of the city were a bit of a labyrinth, too. This is, of course, mainly a problem for visitors, and there were plenty of times when, seeing my confused looks at road signs, helpful locals asked if I needed help. There is a reason why Denmark is officially the happiest nation in the world.

Danish drivers were very patient with minor cycling indiscretions that would have caused road rage in London. Nothing in the city was hurried, and the main difference I observed from cycling in London is that in Denmark, cycling is an incredibly social way to get around.

I came across many friends and families cycling with one another and this is important for making a mode of transport more appealing.

The country’s wide cycle lanes mean people can ride side by side and despite the overcrowding at times, it is one of the most amazing things to witness.

Cycling and pollution 

It is common knowledge that cycling in polluted air is harmful to people’s health, but does that mean you shouldn’t cycle because of pollution?

If there is a cleaner alternative the answer is yes, but if the alternative is to drive or use bus, cycling is not necessarily the worst alternative.

Cyclists are exposed to pollutants more than car drivers – however studies have shown that the concentration of pollutants at rush hours is substantially larger inside cars than outside.

The reason for this is that cars’ air intake is close to the exhaust of the car in front, so depending on the relative speed and volume of air taken in per minute, cyclists may not be exposed to a higher amount of pollutants over the same distance.

Health benefits

If the thought of experiencing a capital city on two wheels is daunting, Copenhagen will help you conquer your fears, and as the cycling craze intensifies, so do the health benefits.

Cycling may save money and help the environment, but its biggest benefit is for health, and as a low-impact form of exercise, it is easier on the joints than running.

My view of cycling across central Copenhagen

The capital region of Denmark estimates that the city’s high cycling levels save one million fewer sick days per year and regular bike riding contributes to increased cardiovascular health and decreases in stress and obesity.

Visit Denmark 

If cycling is your thing, you would be hard-pressed to find a better-equipped destination than Denmark. With over 12,000km of signposted cycle routes, eye-catching scenery and short distances between amenities, the place is made for pedal-powered travel.

Copenhagen leads the way and the rest of Denmark follows. Cycling networks have allowed cities such as Odense to reinvent themselves as eco-friendly destinations, while Bornholm has made a huge transition from a simple beach escape once, to a place that boasts 150 miles of cycling routes.

Denmark has many cities to visit and cycle from and it is safe and great fun. So get on your bike and pedal away to take a cycling holiday in Denmark because it will be the most enticing thing you will ever try!

Click here to learn more about cycling in Denmark.

I’ve got Olympic fever again after my first velodrome visit

Since the 2012 Olympics, I’ve only felt truly patriotic three times.

They were when the England Lionesses were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup last year, when the Tour de France passed by the top of my road and yesterday: when Sir Bradley Wiggins led Team GB’s Men’s pursuit team to the final in the Track World Championships at the Velodrome.

“I honestly hadn’t felt such pride in my country since we were in the thick of the Olympic and Paralympic Games”

The only time I’d ever actively watched cycling before yesterday’s session at the Olympic Park, was during the 2012 Olympics when I watched on TV as Wiggins won the road race and Sir Chris Hoy score his final gold medal on track. And aside from the 10 seconds of action during ‘Le Tour’ opposite my local pub, I’d never seen cycling live.

That changed when I attended the UCI Track World Championships, to get a real taste of why it’s becoming so popular in the UK.

The Lee Valley VeloPark is a very impressive venue in which to watch live sports. It’s small, but feels huge, it’s enclosed, but not overwhelming, and modern, but not bland. I must admit however, that my first impressions of the actual event weren’t all that good.

Shaky start

The women’s pursuit qualifiers after a while, became quite monotonous, with little notable action. When it comes to motorsport for instance I’m quite happy just relaxing and watching the ebb and flow of quiet moments – because I find just ‘watching cars’ move interesting. But bikes don’t give me the same feeling of excitement.

“Team pursuit in country vs country form encapsulates everything I love about sport”

That quickly changed after that session was finished, and the 6000-strong sell-out crowd were treated to some pure competition in the form of keirin heats, 1k time trial finals and team pursuit heats; three events I hadn’t seen before, even on TV.

Keirin gave me a real sense of speed, as the women participating took part in two-and-a-half laps of sprinting after the warm-up laps behind the motorbike. It extremely entertaining to see just how often the finishes were decided by thousandths of seconds, with some riders using slingshot tactics on the banked turns similar to that of NASCAR drivers on super-speedways.

Seeing Theo Bos dominate the men’s time trial, with an early time that was over a second quicker than seemingly everyone else – only to be pipped on the final run by Germany’s Joachim Eilers was mind-boggling to witness. But that wasn’t really what grabbed me during the afternoon, instead, it was the sheer patriotism expressed by the fans surrounding me when the Team GB riders were competing.

I honestly hadn’t felt such pride in my country since we were in the thick of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It was the men’s team pursuit which I will remember for a very long time.

Unforgettable

Team pursuit in country vs country form encapsulates everything I love about sport. I love the speed, the endurance, the strategy, the teamwork and the ability to get an impression of just how hard the athletes are working.

“I took the energy out the door and back onto the train home”

When Sir Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Owain Doull and Jon Dibben all stepped onto the track to face off against Italy to secure a place in the final, the crowd erupted, it was exactly how I’d pictured the atmosphere to be during the Olympics when I entered the velodrome for the first time a few hours earlier.

Soon after the two teams set off, it seemed that Team GB were set for the win, taking a lead and holding it for the remaining tours. It wasn’t the dominance that got the crowd going though, it was the pace.

The announcer over the PA began getting louder and louder as the race continued, and at one point revealed that the four riders were on pace to break the record they set back in the Olympics.

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Infectious

The fans went mad – and I did too. Union flags started being waved furiously in the stands and the riders seemingly used the energy coursing through the building to spur them on to the finish.

In the end, they didn’t break the record, but that didn’t detract from the experience. Any time 6,000 people are loud enough to sound like 60,000, it’s impressive.

I took the energy out the door, back onto the train and all the way home; I had caught ‘Olympic fever’ again for the first time since the Opening Ceremony almost four years ago.

For me, visiting the Track World Championships in the end was the best way to spend a quiet Thursday afternoon in March.

Bring on Rio!

Cycling in London is getting safer

Being a cyclist in London is garnering a reputation as being a risk-filled exercise.

All too often we hear of another tragic tale of a cyclist suffering an accident on the road – 14 were killed last year in the capital, while over 400 were seriously injured.

Measures are being taken to ensure the safety of cyclists, such as introducing cycling ‘Super Highways’ across the city, placing much-required distance between drivers and their two-wheeled adversaries.

But with the number of cyclists in cities increasing worldwide, will the roads become far more perilous? How dangerous are they in reality, and are we moving towards all out war between motorists and cyclists?

The relationship between the two is steadily dissolving into a tribal state of affairs.

Each side tends to accuse the opposition of foul play, whether that is lack of awareness from those on bikes as to the laws of the road, or the poor driving of the petrolheads who believe most cyclists are just accidents waiting to happen.

Road rage

I’m a cyclist myself, perhaps jeopardising my impartiality, but I will attempt to discuss the problems for both sides here.

Thankfully, I have never been involved in a serious altercation, however, I have been subject to the road rage of an angry motorist. Apparently, the reason for their fury was based on the assertion I was riding too slowly…

It appears to me that those in cars feel are far more easily agitated about sharing with cyclists than vice versa.

“Overall my experience of cycling in the city has not been a terrifying one”

London’s cycling population is at an all-time high. According to Transport for London (TfL), the total number of journeys rose by 5% to 610,000 a day – 23 million a year – in 2014.

Against that backdrop, the number of deaths and serious injuries last year was actually the lowest since records began, yet cycling is increasingly seen as a gamble.

According to national cycling charity CTC, 67% of non-cyclists in the UK feel cycling on the road is too dangerous, and yet the same website claims the risk of injury from cycling in Britain is just 0.05 injuries per 1,000 hours of cycling.

I may not have cycled for that amount of hours, but so far I’ve never felt overly at risk.

Yet precautions tailored to protect cyclists are appealing to me. Along with an increase in cycle lanes, proposals to allow cyclists to ignore traffic lights in certain circumstances have also been floated.

In the spotlight

Many cyclists already runs lights, and doing so in a designated lane with the knowledge that what you are doing is safe and legal is surely a positive step.

Similar schemes are already working in a number of cities globally, most notably in the Netherlands and Germany, with Paris introducing its own this summer.

Signs at 1,800 junctions across the French capital allow cyclists to continue on (with due care and attention) even when the signal is red.

“In my eyes, cycling is getting safer”

Overall my experience of cycling in the city has not been a terrifying one.

I’ve cycled on roundabouts, T-junctions and had to annoy many a motorists whilst pedalling furiously up a hill, but I’ve never felt in danger, and from the numerous cyclists I know, not one of them has been troubled either.

A mixture of tragic incidents which sometimes lead to fatalities, along with rising agitation amongst motorists over the rocketing numbers of commuters using a bicycle, has led to a glaring spotlight placed firmly on the topic.

In my eyes, cycling is getting safer, and the furore from motorists is utterly in vain; people who regularly cycle understand the risks and do their best to avoid incidents.

New measures to aid them will minimise accidents, and I – along with more and more every day – am looking forward to my next ride through London’s gridlocked roads.

Feature image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons.