Part One of my cycling guide dealt with navigation around the city. This article will focus on the practicalities of owning a bike, the rules, and on safety. Here are my tips for cycling in the city:
1. Buy a lock – don’t be naive. Copenhagen is a safe place to cycle, and people here are more respectful of cyclists than in most other places. However, it’s a good idea to be cautious. I’ve heard plenty of stories about people getting their bike stolen, and apparently, it’s a big problem in the city. But it seems to me that a simple solution would be to get a lock. In a previous post, I was surprised that many bikes didn’t have locks. It turns out that I wasn’t looking closely enough. Many of the bikes here use wheel locks, which immobilises the back wheel. That having been said, you can still find plenty of unlocked bikes.
If you have a standard, used bike, a lock wrapped around the back tire and the frame is probably enough of a deterrent for thieves to look for another, easier target. Attach your bike to a bike stand or a post, if possible. It may sound obvious, but as a rule of thumb, the better the bike you have, the better the lock you should get.
2. Get a used bike – this is a good idea because it’s cheaper, and it’s less likely to get stolen. At the time of writing this, prices for decent used bikes start at around 800 DKK or £90. A good place to look is on popular Facebook groups where people buy and sell used stuff in Copenhagen. If you’re willing to wait you could find an even better deal. There are some bicycle shops which offer pretty good deals, too.
3. Use hand signals – they’re important to indicate which direction you’re going in, and stopping. The signals are pretty obvious. If you’re about to turn left you take your left hand, and hold it out. If you want to turn right, you extend your right hand. The one you may not have guessed is the signal for stopping – you have to hold out your left hand, upwards at a 45-degree angle – kind of like Her Majesty the Queen’s royal wave. The actual waving motion is optional, although I have seen some Danes do it as a courteous gesture to the other cyclists behind them.
Follow this link for a useful illustration of the hand signals. It shows what you’re supposed to do, and what people actually do.
Other cyclists don’t appreciate it if you run into the back of them, so pay attention, and look out for hand signals and stop lights. Remember to stay to the right, and look behind before overtaking. This is common etiquette, and it helps avoid collisions.
4. Use bike lights – It is a legal requirement to have bike lights on your bike. They must be visible from 300m and have a battery life of at least 5 hours. It’s not worth risking it – if you get caught that’s a 700 DKK or £80 fine.
5. Take care of your bike – Buy some proper bike oil to keep the chain running smoothly and to prevent rust. Get a handheld bicycle pump to keep the tires in top shape. A puncture repair kit is a good way to be prepared.
To sum up the most important lessons from my cycling guide – don’t be afraid of getting lost, but learn from your mistakes, be careful as well as prepared, and know the code. With these tips in mind, you can’t go far wrong.