Living Here

Cycling – find our BEST TIPS to help you make a safe trip all year round

Cycling is an important part of life here and many cyclists are present at all times of the day; whatever the season.  Our cycling GUIDE helps you safely on your way.

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By Bente D.Knudsen

The cycling culture in Denmark is, together with Germany and Holland, quite unique compared to other Western European countries and North America.

Actually, both the United States and the United Kingdom are at the low ends concerning bicycle usage.

According to the Danish Transport Survey carried out by DTU transport, Danes ride their bikes as a means of transport rather than for leisure.

The latest figures show that using the bicycle to commute, to run errands or to go to school (any educational institution) makes up for 64 percent of all cycling kilometres.

The Danish cycling culture is important for expats to be aware of, certainly for those used to using their bicycles as a means of leisure rather than a means of transport, says Klaus Bondam from the Danish The Danish Cyclists’ Federation, Cyklistforbund.

He recommends that expats learn the cyclist rules even if they don’t think they will be cycling a lot in the cities.

Take note that wearing a helmet is not mandatory in Denmark, but it is highly recommended to use one, he says.

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Although Danes claim that “they all bike a lot”, Copenhagen is the city with the highest bike share of trips and kilometres.

33 percent of all trips are done by bicycle and the bicycle share, of the total transported kilometres, is 13 percent.

Commuters in Copenhagen take their bicycle in 37 percent of the cases. In Amsterdam this figure is 34 percent, in Berlin 13 percent, whereas in San Francisco, Washington D.C., Sydney and Montreal it is below 3 percent.

Copenhagen is linked to a strong history of lobbying for better conditions for bicycles, so that might explain its high number of cyclists.

Even if you think that you will never ride a bicycle in any Danish town, understanding the basic traffic rules for cyclists is essential to survive when you are out and about – no matter if you are on foot, by car or on your bicycle.

When driving in any city in Denmark you will typically have cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians moving about, and you just have to adapt.

The most important advice to give, regarding how to behave when driving a car in an area with many cyclists and pedestrians, is to show, and exercise, due care and attention, says CEO Klaus Bondam of The Danish Cyclists’ Federation, Cyklistforbundet.

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Important as well is to always stay on the right hand side of the road and remember to use your hand to give signs to the other road users (even if you find that Danes do not use hand signs – this does not meant that you do not have to).

Remember to:

  • Raise a flat hand when stopping and take out your arms to indicate a change of direction – for instance your right arm when turning right.
  • When changing direction or overtaking someone else, remember to turn your head over your left shoulder (or right) to check what is going on behind you.

The so-called Danish turn can be new for some expats, says Klaus Bondam about his and the federation’s experience.

The Danish turn is when you in Denmark want to go left in a traffic light or a road crossing; as a cyclist you are expected to go from corner to corner, and not to take the left hand lane. This is important, as cars don’t expect you to be in their left hand lane, and being there makes you more vulnerable.

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Is cycling even safe?

Statistics for traffic deaths in Denmark are registered by Vejdirektoratet and in the latest available statistics (2020) five cyclists were killed in the so called right wing accidents, in total in 2020, 20 cyclists (all types of accidents)were killed.

The right wing turn is the most dangerous traffic situation for cyclists: the traffic light is green for the cyclist who goes straight, as well as for the car or truck turning right.

If the latter doesn’t see the cyclist, who is in the motorist’s blind spot, the cyclist may be caught under the heavy tires of trucks with a fatal outcome.

Rarranging the right wing turn at traffic lights has been a priority in many of the more traffic dense area and have  helped put the cyclists in front of the right turing cars, thereby avoiding that cyclists end up in the blind spot.

Important to note is that most bicycle accidents are due to the cyclists’ own mistakes and are so-called solo-accidents.

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Solo accidents happen because:

  • The cyclist failed to notice bumps or holes in the asphalt, misses roadworks or objects lying on the road
  • Has bags or other luggage which is not properly secured and gets caught in the wheel
  • It is icy and the cyclist loses his balance
  • The bicycle is not properly maintained and malfunctions cause the accident
  • The cyclist is under the influence of alcohol

Don’t cheat yourself of the experience of cycling in Denmark, nor of doing it with your family, Klaus Bondam recommends.

Just start slowly, maybe in a quieter area like the parks or forests. In the Copenhagen area, remember that you can take your bicycle with you for free with the S-train, so your range of possibilities for trying it out outside the city centre is quite high.

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For safe cycling observe these guidelines and regulations

1.Always keep to the right.

2.Remember to look over your shoulder to check what is going on behind you

3.Riding two by two is allowed if it does not bother others – always let others pass

4.Always  cross intersections from corner to corner – never turn left directly from the road

5.Do not go against the direction of the traffic unless it says bicycles may do so (in some one-way streets in big cities this is allowed to enhance cyclist flow)

6.Always walk across pedestrian crossings

7.Do not drive on the pavement or on pedestrian streets

8.Make sure you have a bell – that works

9.Have the correct reflectors: a white reflector visible from the front, yellow reflectors on the pedals and wheels and a red reflector at the back.

10.Have the correct light as soon as the street lamps are lit: you must have a working white light at the front and a red at the back. You can pick these up from convenience stores and bike shops in Denmark.

11.Only pass others on their left side – never on their right side

Be careful though because many of the cyclists on racing bikes do not use a bell, and instead tend to shout out from behind when they want to overtake you.

During the winter or late at night, it can be a good idea to wear clothing with reflectors on, as dark clothes and dark nights are a bad combination as a cyclist.

Children and bicycles

Taking children on your bicycle – if you are over 15 years old, you can transport two children below the age of eight on your bicycle providing you have the necessary seats.

If you have a trailer, you can take two children of any age. Children on bicycle seats and in trailers must always be fastened in, remember to make sure the childrens’ helmet is fastened.

Helmet: You are not legally required to wear a helmet. But it is a great idea to use one and certainly strongly recommended for children – also for the children you take on your own bicycle 

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Source: The Danish Cycling Federation. For more information (only in Danish) check out their website: cyklistforbundet.dk