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City of Bikes

Here I am, Velo-City Global – Copenhagen, the city of bikes. Even at the airport, the depot for planes, taxis, and travelers, you get a sense of how in-grained bicycles are in the culture of Denmark. There are ads for various products and services featuring bikes all over the airport; the promotions for the city wouldn’t be accurate without featuring the high density of bicycles. It is wonderful and inspiring.

I arrived to the conference sight by train, bikes are welcome on the train at any time of the day. I, however, did not travel with my bike. Instead I will be using one of the many of bikes offered through the conference. Surprisingly, this is the first bike conference, of this magnitude, I have attended that actually provides bikes for the participants.  My registration packet even included the ticket for my conference bike. “Take your first left, cross two alleys and then turn left again; the warehouse with the bikes will be on your left,” said nice man at registration. Terrific!

The conference is being hosted in the old meat-packing district of Copenhagen, which means we are congregated in an immense open venue with exposed support beams, high ceilings, high windows, tall white-painted walls, surrounded by cobblestone streets (which is much of Copenhagen), and located in a maze of buildings . It all makes you feel so small but at the same time, I know I am part of something very BIG. Some of the meat-packing district is still used for pick-ups and delivery of goods, so finding the correct building that housed the hundreds of conference loaner bikes was a bit of an obstacle course around delivery trucks.

I found it finally and entered another beautifully renovated warehouse. Inside was a sea of bikes, people cruising around on bikes, mechanics by worktables working on bikes, lines of cargo bikes, and a small stand of reflectors and lights to purchase. On the far side was a woman with a laptop, registering and sending each participant on their way. The bikes were, to my standards, clunkers. They were recycled or recovered bikes from the city – which in itself was quite amazing. I couldn’t believe the city had recovered hundreds of working bikes, enough to provide for a conference of 850 participants. There were single speeds, 3-speed cruisers, and multi-speeds. Most all of them had the essential commuting features: a rack, basket, kickstand, chainguard, integrated lock, and bell. I set out to find my ride for the next five days.

I listened to the instructions – choose a bike, test ride to make sure it works, take it to a mechanic if it needs adjustments and then check out with the woman with the laptop. Simple enough. I was drawn to a yellow, up-right 3-speed cruiser, containing all of the commuting essentials, of course. It was quite rusty and even had a few cobwebs still on it but I liked it, and it fit perfect. The only thing I needed from the mechanic was a little WD40 to help free the rusted lock on the back wheel. I was off and free to experience Copenhagen by bike. What a beautiful and inspiring way to start a conference.

I have not seen a car parking garage nor have I seen anyone arriving to the conference by car. Instead, the atmosphere is reminiscent of my college campus, which was mostly closed to cars so that everyone had to arrive to class by foot or by bike. Arriving to the opening session of Velo-City Global you walk through another sea of bikes – rows and rows of bikes to the left and right of you.

Copenhagen and this conference visually remind me what we at the League are working towards, why we are here in Copenhagen, why we are a sponsor of this conference, and what great effects a bicycle can have. Stay tuned for more adventures from the seat of my rusty yellow bike in Copenhagen; there is much more to come!

Other resources:

Check out Copenhagenize – Denmark’s Bicycle Ambassador Mikael Colville-Andersen’s blog. He, too, is covering the conference, and posted a picture of the League’s State and Local Advocacy Coordinator Jeff Peel biking around Copenhagen.

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