Copenhagen City of Bicycles (Book Review)


Photo of Copenhagen City of Bicycles by Michael G.R.
"In Copenhagen everybody cycles."
His Royal Highness Frederik, the Danish crown prince, can be spotted regularly riding his children around in a cargo bicycle, and it is completely normal to see politicians parking their bicycles outside the Parliament building, or a famous actor riding around town with shopping bags balancing on the handlebars. This excerpt from Copenhagen City of Bicycles gives you a good idea of just how normal cycling can seem to the citizens of Copenhagen, yet to the rest of us, it is a real treat to discover their amazing bike culture, and short of a plane ticket, this book is probably the best way to do that!
Photo of Copenhagen City of Bicycles by Michael G.R.

The text in the book, which is in both English and Danish (the Danish text is in black, and the English text is in blue), was written by Cecilia Vanman, and the photographs - which are half the story - were taken by British photographer Robin Maddock.

I'll admit that the first thing I did before reading a single word was to browse through the book and look at the pictures. If you love bikes, you'll find a lot to appreciate here, especially all the scenes of everyday life in Copenhagen and the amazing variety of cargo bikes.


Photo of Copenhagen City of Bicycles by Michael G.R.

The section about "bike wars" was probably the most unexpected one for me. Apparently it's a kind of tournament of "punk knight", with all kinds of weird modified bikes (some incredibly tall ones) and special "lances" to unseat your adversary. Exciting stuff!

I also particularly liked the chapter about the various bike shops and artisans in the city. They are a very important piece of the puzzle, and we in other cities should try to find way to encourage a healthy networks of such places, because they support the rest of the community. It's not enough to have bike paths...


Photo of Copenhagen City of Bicycles by Michael G.R.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I think it's a must have for people who are interested in Copenhagen (which is almost impossible to separate from its bike culture) or just about bike culture in general. The book isn't as long to read as it seems because of the bilingual text, but the high quality of the photos mean that you can come back to it often and even leave it on the coffee table for visitors to browse (great conversation starter!).


Photo of Copenhagen City of Bicycles by Michael G.R.

The chapter titles give a good idea about the content:

1 / Everybody Cycles
2 / The Danes and Their Bikes: A Love Story
3 / Danish Bicycle Culture Goes International
4 / The Bicycle Brands, Builders and Workshops
5 / The Legendary Bicycles of Christiania
6 / Copenhagen Customization
7 / The Couriers and Svajerne--The "Swayers"
8 / Business Bikes
9 / Free Time and Night Time

And you can find longer descriptions of each chapter on the official book site.

More on Copenhagen
Copenhagen's SUVs (aka Cargo Bikes)
How Copenhagen Became a Great People-Oriented City (Video)
Copenhagen is Our Future (If We're Smart)
Velo-City's Awesome Bike Parade in Copenhagen (Video)

Tags: Bikes | Book Reviews | Copenhagen

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