Within five minutes of arriving it was clear that this city was like none other I'd seen. Check out the bikes parked in front of the train station:
A block away I encountered a full-width lane dedicated for bicycles, physically separated from car traffic. Turns out the whole city is like that - and the lanes are packed.
Sounds great, doesn't it? But if you picked up a Seattle biker and dropped him in the middle of Copenhagen the response might not be as euphoric as you'd think.
Did I mention the bike lanes are packed? That means that a substantial portion of the population (the city itself claims 35%) is commuting by bicycle. And it looks it - the bicyclists represent a true cross-section of humanity. High-heel wearing, cell-phone-toting commuters abound, sometimes texting while they pedal. They pile up in great crowds at stop lights.
I suspect a Seattle cyclist would be pulling his hair out in frustration if he thought he could make the same kind of time getting from point A to point B in Copenhagen as an equivalent trip would take in Seattle.
I floated this theory to a friend I met up with who had moved to Copenhagen a year ago. He rolled up to our rendezvous point by bicycle and deftly locked it to a stand with a one-handed flick, acting impressively native, I thought. He confirmed that it took him a while to adjust his expectations and adopt an "I'll get there when I get there" attitude.
The good thing is that everyone seems to have adopted this attitude. I saw no evidence of the short tempers and aggressive weaving I would have expected (and have at rare times experienced) in such a crowded field of cyclists. Somehow, despite the crowding, the Danes have avoided creating a bicycle rat race.
This gives me hope that such a fate can be avoided in Seattle, too, as bicycle usage rises and our routes get crowded with ordinary people (i.e. not Racers and Fitness Geeks). Let it be so.