A bike is an essential form of transportation in Copenhagen. It’s affordable, healthy, and in many cases, it’s faster than using the metro or the train. And it’s safe – they have many seperate, wide lanes for cyclists. But after getting lost on more than one occasion, I felt compelled to write a guide for cycling around the city. Some of the things that I will mention I had to learn the hard way, and others are just some tips that I’ve picked up.
If you stay in Copenhagen for any extended period of time, you will get lost at some point on your bike. The city is deceptively compact, so it’s easy to underestimate how long it takes to get places. In addition, many of the streets look similar. I can say to myself that I’m exploring when I get lost, but it gets tedious pretty quickly, especially at night.
Here’s some practical guidance to help you out:
- Bring a decent map – This is my number one piece of advice. Notice that I said: ‘decent map’, because until recently, I’ve been relying on a free map that cuts off some of the city and it doesn’t have a detailed index. If you have a map on your phone, that’s a good idea, too. But I prefer using a paper map which is less fiddly. This first tip makes life easier.
- Plan your journey in detail – I’ll explain what I mean by ‘in detail’ – a quick glance at Google Maps usually isn’t enough. At first, I took photos with my phone of the journey on my computer screen, and I referred to the pictures for navigation. This is the lazy way to do it, and it only works so long as you make no mistakes along the way. A couple of wrong turns could mean that you can’t find where you are on the map.
- Allow extra time – For some reason, Google Maps seems to suggest that almost every single bike journey that I go on will take 18 minutes. This obviously doesn’t account for getting lost. Here’s a relevant concept that comes to mind:
Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.
— Douglas Hofstadter
- Use landmarks – Remember the position of recognisable landmarks and features like towers, railways, and unique buildings as a way to orient yourself – if pigeons can do it, so can you. For example, I know that I have to turn right to get to the Solbjerg Plads CBS campus building when I see this:
That concludes Part One of this guide. The information has been pretty basic stuff so far, but it’s important, nonetheless. Now, you won’t have to rely on the lyrics: ‘Any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me’ from Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for inspiration to find your way around the city. I felt that I should start off by stating the obvious. Keep a lookout for Part Two of my Copenhagen Cycling Guide for more tips.
In upcoming blogs, I’ll write about my experience at CBS so far, now that my courses have just begun.