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Denmark: A kingdom of bicycles

Editor: zhangrui 丨Xinhua

05-15-2017 07:59 BJT

COPENHAGEN, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Copenhagen, voted as the "Best City for Cyclists" and "World's Most Livable City", has a profound bicycle culture, one that is ingrained in almost every Copenhagener's daily life.

For Copenhageners, bicycles are one of the best means of transportation. They are convenient, fast and environmentally friendly.

Every morning, when I head to school, I can see a great many cyclists from all age groups riding their well-equipped and beautifully designed bicycles to school or work.

Some cyclists are young, professional ladies wearing trendy clothes and high-heels, but they don't seem tired at all from pedaling so hard. Some are children approximately 5 or 6 years old, but they already know how to keep a good balance when biking. Some are mothers or fathers riding cargo bicycles with a huge bicycle basket behind or a covered basket in front with two or three kids in tow.

What is most unbelievable for me is that even those aged 70 or 80 still prefer biking as their main mode of transportation.

The Danes' passion for bicycles is akin to the Chinese craze for ping-pong or Brazilians' love of football; there are many great cyclists arise in Denmark who have already achieved immense success in the international sporting arena.

One example is Larsen Norman Hansen, a Danish professional road and track racing cyclist, who won one gold medal and one silver medal at the men's Omnium (a multiple race event in track cycling) and one silver medal at the men's team pursuit (a track cycling event similar to the individual pursuit, except that it involves two teams, each of up to four riders, competing on on opposite sides of the velodrome). All of these accolades were won at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Jakob Diemer Fuglsang is a remarkable representative, too. He won a silver medal at the men's road race at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

In addition to huge success in the sporting arena, bikes are also huge part of the recreational life of many young Danes.

One of my Danish friends, Laurits Genz, a 21-year-old Chinese studies student from Copenhagen University, has a hobby of rebuilding old bicycles. He has collected many old bikes from a recycling station near his home and completely restored them, giving them new parts and a fresh coat of paint.

Currently he is working on his sixth bike, an old red bike which was made by a Danish company in 1976. He is doing some of the white detailing on it and says it's going to have a very classic look.

All of the bikes he has rebuilt and redesigned have something in common: they are all an older style of bike typical of that time with a raised handlebar. He believes that eventually, all of these bikes with that "classic" look are going to be very sought after and valuable.

"The kind of bike that is most popular in Copenhagen at the moment is the bikes that are called 'fixy' bikes. These bikes are without any gears and you ride continuously and if you try to stop, you cannot hold the pedals," he says of the bikes he likes to restore.

There are many young Danish guys with a similar interest in old bikes who make a hobby of restoring them; their work is a testament to how engrained biking has become in Danish culture. They find old bicycles and rebuild them, either riding the bikes themselves or selling them to other people.

Some people might wonder why bike-related culture is so pervasive and popular in Copenhagen, but not as much so in other parts of world. I would name a couple of reasons: first of all infrastructure constructed in Copenhagen very cyclist friendly.

On many roads in Copenhagen, if cyclists can pedal their bikes at the speed of 20 kph and remain stable, they can surf through on a wave of green traffic lights through the city without putting a foot down. It's definitely a great environment.

Another factor is the government's friendliness to cyclists. For example, during the winter season, when it's snowy, cycle tracks are always the first ones to be cleared rather than traffic lanes for cars. Because of this government policy, bikers enjoy a sort of incentivized state of privilege, meaning they will stick to this means of transportation even during the coldest winter season.

Danes' inclination toward a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle also lends itself to their propensity to choose cycling. Biking allows people to really embody this cultural value: it is healthy for the individual and non-polluting.

Although many Danes own cars, they still prefer riding bicycles to driving in order to make their 'fairy-tale kingdom' more beautiful and clean and for their own health and well-being. As far as I can see, this can be a lesson for Chinese people. We should raise our environmental awareness and encourage biking culture to make our country a better place to live in.

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