Day six: Copenhagen-Copenhagen - 50km
Time's up in Copenhagen. Tomorrow I will be riding south again. Probably for the better, because this evening it started to rain. I really can't complain about the weather otherwise. It had been sunny even today most of the time (despite the bleaker forecast). Copenhagen is definitely a unique city and I tremendously enjoyed the experience.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the many bicyclists in town. As one guy put it, "it is a tradition here." I asked some people riding in areas without bike paths if they weren't afraid. They said no and mentioned that it is a very safe place to ride. I did notice, however, an unusually high number of box turns even on very small intersections with little traffic. Are Copenhageners losing the ability to ride?
In fact, one time I saw two guys making a left turn. One did a box turn, the other one a direct left turn. The guy who did a direct turn had one of those bicycles provided by the city to ride around (like Paris program and that truly is a great idea). My guess is that he was visiting whereas his friend was a local and is thus accustomed to box turns - at this point I was on foot, so couldn't ask...
The youth hostel could also be more bike-friendly. Being voted the best hostel in Denmark in 2009 is great, but not providing any storage place for a bicycle is not so cool. Near the hostel there is also a vehicle detector to change the light. In seven tries it did not work for me three times. Ok, not the hostel's fault, of course...
After unsuccessfully trying to use the 20kmh street over the weekend (after my first botched attempt I noticed the sign that said something like weekdays 12-18 only) I finally visited it again today. I know now why they chose 20km/h - it is the highest speed the narrow bike path can handle - and even that is quite interesting to watch. Many people actually ride faster than 20kmh when they can (not that hard to do, really). But the 20kmh belt is a narrow path with lots of businesses, so riding faster is very difficult to do in an at least remotely safe way.
I once went down around 20km/h (actually, the average was only 18km/h - the 20kmh marking must not account for the slow start and I also had to slow in front of some traffic lights, despiting only going around 20kmh on the approach). After three km a light went red (I actually thought that green belt was longer?), so I used that as my turnaround point. On the way back, I tried to ride around 33kmh (the max speed limit is 40kmh). That was an interesting experience in itself (the average here was 23kmh).
After all my complaining I should say something positive: A lot of people scan before they pass other cyclists - still, one guy forced me off the path as he went to the left. He actually scanned, but didn't expect someone coming at 30+kmh - the problem is that the narrow paths force you to pass other cyclists without sufficient space). I had checked that it was clear, otherwise I would have needed to rear-end him.
Today I talked to a bike messenger, who confirmed all the problems I have been seeing. He said in order to deliver quickly they have to bend the rules and therefore are not very popular. Can you blame them? A simple ride from the hostel to the soccer stadium can take 18:44 when following all the rules or 15:50 when sometimes making - illegal - left turns. Both of those rides were ridden at around 20kmh, to make for a fair comparison.
There is an unbelievable number of traffic lights here and it is sad that Hans Monderman is no longer around - he could do wonders to this place, I am sure.