Med en “lånt” cykel jeg op fra min fætter Mortens lejlighed på Nordre Fasanvej og gjort den velkendte venstre på Mariendalsvej, der ville tage mig til Centrum. Øjebliket jeg ramte fortovet, følte jeg en utrolig følelse, som jeg ikke havde følt i lang tid … jeg var konge af vejen igen. Nå, ligesom alle andre dansker. Mariendalsvej bliver til Ågade, Åboulevard, og derefter Gyldenløvesgade, og kører over vandet, indtil du begynder på HC Andersen Boulevard. Med vinden i ryggen skyde mig over vandet, var jeg overvældet. Min lille genvej er at drejer til venstre på Hammerichsgade, højre på Jarmers Plads til Sankt Peders Stræde, højre til Nørregade, og derefter venstre på Skindergade indtil jeg ankommer på Strøget. Jeg plejer at gå min cykel til springvandet hvis jeg møde nogen, spise, eller gå shopping. Som jeg parkeret nær springvandet følte jeg noget andet velkendt, helt sikkert noget, at hver New Yorker føler … at jeg var på et tidspunkt i midten af verden.
I had the chance to take two junkets to Copenhagen to visit my cousin this Year and had, as always, the time of my life.
I wrote above about the borrowed bicycle waiting for me and my nostalgic, familiar trip into the City Center. Having not been back to my second home in a while, I was not only overcome with joy from being back on a bicycle in Copenhagen, but also with a sense of calm, inspired determination from being “the king of the road” on that bicycle on that road. Biking in most other cities is not quite the same, and not just because they don’t have the infrastructure. The culture of being accepted on a bicycle, let alone being possibly the most preferenced mode of transportation, is unusual, and I would argue that
infrastructure is secondary to this culture. This is what makes cycling in a city truly great (though bike lanes don’t hurt). Cycling in Copenhagen also produces perhaps the most “local” experience. Everyone cycles, so drivers, straphangers (metro users), and even walkers experience
the city in a manner largely unlike a Copenhagener. As a fake local, I rarely have any other experience than on my bicycle, but I won’t forget the few hours I spent one day walking with a friend, and how different the experience was, of such familiar places to me. I felt like a tourist, and I hated it! How very un-Danish, one might argue. On the flip-side, for some reason I also biked around Amelienborg for the first time (it seems that I’ve always walked the area), and that experience was all the more dissimilar, and very special.
Thinking of the distinctions in the development of cycling systems between Copenhagen and New York, the latter of which notably has been fomented by the growth of Citibike – infrastructure in NYC is paramount to this
development, as we do not HAVE a cycling culture, let alone yellow cab, UberX, or suburban drivers who yield to cyclists on a given avenue (though Via drivers are mostly very polite). From the limited history of cycling in Copenhagen that I know, it was the *culture* that drove the infrastructure. In New York, we have needed and will continue to need infrastructure to give rise to such a culture, a culture of truly sharing the road. Exactly the reverse process. Thankfully, over the course of this year (nicely summed up in this older article Citi Bike to Begin Service in Queens and Expand Service in Brooklyn and Manhattan ), we began to seriously expand in the Outer Boroughs, including building 79 new stations in Brooklyn and 12 new stations in Long Island City (Queens). Having worked for the New York State Department of Transportation on highway engineering and planning in Long Island City, I can confirm that the neighborhood, exploding with commercial, retail, and residential growth, will substantially benefit from the Citibike option, particularly as
Manhattanites begin to commute there more and more, and vice-versa. Indeed, the Outer Boroughs are the next frontier in NYC’s cycling infrastructure expansion…though far from the final. Just as it’s a bit of a schlep to cycle to Papierun to grab dinner in Copenhagen, it’s even more difficult to get to Main Street in Flushing for the same *exotic* fare. This is quickly changing, though. By 2017 the system hopes to have 12,000 more bicycles in action all over New York City.
Perhaps bike sharing, as I’ve noted in earlier posts, as a “gateway drug” for cycling in the United States is morphing into a more substantive piece of infrastructure in its own right. This is obviously quite distinct from what went on in Copenhagen. More importantly, even, it is fomenting the growth of a cycling culture beyond that of the participants in the Tour de France (or Bronx, for that matter). Indeed, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams proclaimed to constituents this year that “bike riding is more than recreation…it is daily transportation for an increasing number of commuters…” affirming even in the public rhetoric the robustness of this growing culture. While I may have thought, from a (fake) Copenhagener’s perspective, that bike sharing was incapable of doing much for sharing the road, perhaps bike share programs like Citibike all over the Nation (there are hundreds…) is the most substantive answer to growing our commuter cycling culture, at least in urban areas. The road and regulatory infrastructure still needs to catch up, but if culture leads, it all won’t be far behind.