Call it the most anticipated “kiss” in Copenhagen’s history. Last week, after years of delays, the Inner Harbor Bridge (Inderhavnsbro) opened at last. The bridge—which connects the centre of the Danish capital with more residential neighborhoods such as Christianshavn and Holmen—was scheduled for completion in February 2013. But a series of setbacks—including engineering errors and the bankruptcy of its first financial backer—saw the deadline repeatedly extended. For months, the incomplete sections of the bridge jutted out from opposite sides of the harbor, like lovers straining to smooch. That earned the bridge a cute nickname: the Kissing Bridge (Kyssebroen).
Little wonder that city officials were in ebullient mood when the bridge opened last Thursday (July 7). “It has been chaotic, confusing and ugly,” the city’s deputy mayor for technical affairs, Morten Kabell, told the Danish newspaper Politiken. “But now it’s done, and I think all Copenhageners have been looking forward to this day, when we can finally put our bridge to use.”
The bridge—which is 180 meters long, eight meters wide, and one of three inner harbor bridges—will allow pedestrians and cyclists alike to zip from postcard-pretty Nyhavn to the canals of Christianshavn and beyond. It also helps cement Copenhagen’s reputation as the world’s best city for cyclists. Other recent infrastructure upgrades include the serpentine Cycle Snake (Cykelslangen) and Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s Circle Bridge (Cirkelbroen).
After months of seeing the bridge incomplete, cycling over it for the first time may be a peculiar experience. It is certainly hard to ignore the fact that a series of construction problems delayed its opening—including the revelation that its interlocking sections hadn’t quite aligned. (That error has since been corrected.) Its design is unusual, too. While the Cykelslangen snakes through the sky like the Silver Surfer, the Inner Harbor Bridge is distinguished by a zigzag in the cycle path about halfway across the harbor. Approaching from the Nyhavn side, the cyclist must first negotiate a lurch to the left, before darting back to the right.
And when it rains—as it often does in Denmark—the surface of the bridge can seemingly become slippery. The zigzag doesn’t help. Nor does the proximity of pedestrians. Many will be tourists unused to cyclists. Many will be brazen or daft (or both) and eschew the designated viewpoints to wander into the cycle path to get better shots. (The views don’t disappoint: to the left, the opera house; to the right, the Black Diamond.) Officials expect up to 7,000 cyclists to use the bridge daily. If the bridge proves too popular, some may simply revert to their old route.
And now that this much-mocked bridge has finally opened, what does it portend for the neighborhoods it connects? Perhaps there will be less congestion at Nyhavn. Perhaps fewer tourists will take the metro to visit Christiania and instead march on the infamous commune from the city centre. And businesses in Christianshavn will doubtless see a fillip in footfall. (Not that some of them need it: the bridge terminates near Noma, which isn’t shy of customers. In any case, the restaurant is moving to new digs about a mile up the road at the end of year.)
More intriguing, though, is the potential effect of the bridge on the effervescent food-truck scene on Papirøen (the Paper Island)—a stone’s throw from the bridge on the Christianshavn side of the harbor. Ever since its launch in May 2014, Copenhagen Street Food has lured hungry diners with its eclectic range of food trucks and equally Instagram-friendly views of the city.
For some, Papirøen’s charm lies in its relative inaccessibility. Maja Tini Jensen, head of PR and communications for Copenhagen Street Food, agrees that the location may have made the spot even more interesting and helped create its special atmosphere. But, she points out, the Inner Harbor Bridge was meant to open before Copenhagen Street Food did—meaning its launch was always part of their plans. “We hoped the bridge would open much earlier,” Jensen says. “But obviously we managed without it. And that showed us that people were willing to make an effort to go somewhere if it’s interesting enough.”
In a way, too, the failure of the bridge to open on time was a blessing in disguise for Copenhagen Street Food. The delay meant it was able to incubate numerous businesses without hordes of visitors. “Without the bridge, the stallholders—who are all start-ups—got more established, and if we had had tons of people coming from the beginning, it might not have been the same experience,” Jensen explains. “Now we are ready for that volume of people.”
Likewise, local chef and Oakland native Amanda Yee hopes the launch of the Inner Harbor Bridge will spur the development of an even greater artistic and creative community on Papirøen and the surrounding neighborhood. “It could lead to the creation of Copenhagen’s Gourmet Ghetto”, she says, referring to the cluster of restaurants, galleries and boutiques which developed around Alice Waters’ celebrated restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
However, Papirøen is earmarked for redevelopment—housing will be built, along with underground parking—and Copenhagen Street Food will have to find a new home from 2018. Jensen says the architects redeveloping Papirøen appreciate the impact of the local food-truck scene, and are keen to retain it. Still, 2021 would be the soonest Copenhagen Street Food could return. Jensen welcomes the eventual move, and likens it to a blood transfusion. “We have to reinvent and renew ourselves,” she says. “And street-food culture is a mobile culture. You have to move, you have to look for new opportunities. So it’s natural for us.”