Know why I love to bike in Copenhagen?
Because it requires nothing of you.
Just two wheels spinning.
A helmet if you want to be extra safe. A basket for the double bags of groceries, or books, or flowers, or, let’s face it, those two bottles of wine, a loaf of bread, and cheese. Your legally obligated front and back lights, so you can join the twinkling rows of merry-makers at midnight on a Friday, heading into town to shed coats and step into smoky bars and sip cold, sweating glasses of Carlsburg in uniform sea of black and beauty.
So you might need a few extra things, but it’s just two wheels spinning in the end. You don’t need attitude, you don’t need years of experience, and biking doesn’t have to define you. It will become an essential part of you, make no mistake, but Copenhagen biking isn’t roped off for the hardcore, the ‘gangs’, the fixie-junkies, the road-ragers, the Portlandia-esque gauged ear million tat folks. It’s for everyone. It’s for the girl in high heels, the man with his kid in the back, the old folks, the unsure, the five year olds with their first whiff of independence.
If I am not biking in Copenhagen I do not feel like I am in the city at all. Driving is sterile, removed. Walking is nicer, but slow. Where’s the rush of wind? Where’s the montage of sights that shift with every minute, the changing of light, the snatches of sound, the snapshots of neighborhoods as you flash by, a scent of something lingering (is it the bakery? is it someone’s perfume? is it a fall fire?).
Here is a Sunday afternoon and everyone has taken to the lake, dappled light dancing on water, and I catch a glimpse of the swans as I lazily slide past the bridge, and now here is a young couple kissing, and next is a teenager learning chess, and now I am pausing at a red light to listen to the sound of a herd of brakes, quietly shifting like metal grass blades.
And here is the city on a Monday morning, and every single Dane is yearning for sunlight, and I catch the smell of a dozen freshly showered citizens heading to work, and there are toddlers babbling in the bike lane strapped to the backs of their long-haired mothers and bearded fathers, who coo at them in the gutteral Nordic language of which I am only beginning to be able to pick out melodies.
Biking is meditation. It is the cure for everything, they’ll tell you: a bad mood, a hangover, a feeling of joy that you fear may erupt inside you if you do not move fast and sing. You can sing in the bike lane, at night if you’d like, weaving in between glittering carcasses of beer bottles. It’s lifeblood, this way of being. It’s 3D. It’s surround-sound, it’s IMAX.
You begin biking in Copenhagen because although daunting it welcomes you, promising you don’t need to be anything other than yourself. And then before you know it, you’ve drank the koolaid. You’re just on top of two wheels spinning. You’re ruined forever.