Why are Danes crazy about bikes?

Biking is part of the Danish culture. Even Nobel Prize winners and the Danish crown prince ride a bicycle to move around.

By Rūta Činkaitė


Danes own about 4.5 million bikes. In Copenhague people commute more by bicycle than in the United States. Photo: Stefanie Brüning

The first thing that pops into my mind when I think about Denmark is bikes. If you have ever been here you will surely know what I mean. Much of the Danish population bike: from top leaders to Nobel Prize winners; even the Danish crown prince does. Neither snow nor rain nor wind will stop a real Dane from biking.

When and elegant old lady once easily over-rid me up the hill, as if it was the easiest thing in the world, I realized that biking is a lot deeper in the Danish blood than you can assume from the first sight.

Denmark’s population today is around 5.2 million. Have you ever thought how many bikes do Danes own? Latest official data published in Denmark.dk shows that Danes own about 4.5 million bikes, while there are 353 cars per 1000 people. Only in Copenhagen more people commute by bicycle than in the entire United States. In fact, Danes like to say that every family has a bike. And even if it is not being used they keep them at the back of their garages.

Some might say that Danes use bikes because the cars are insanely pricy with a famous 180 per cent tax. But people in Denmark are more than capable of buying a car, as the wages are high and the country is wealthy. The fact is that they actually buy a car as well as a bike.

Some might think that they bike mainly for health reasons. Studies have shown a decrease in mortality of 30 per cent among adults who commute by bicycle daily. But besides the fact that biking makes them healthier, they also manage to increase their economy while doing it. Copenhagen has estimated that every kilometre cycled brings a net gain for society of 1.22 DKK, compared to a net loss of 0.69 DKK for every kilometre driven in a car. It seems that Danes do know how to count!

Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense have recently been named as some of the healthiest cities in the world. They can also call themselves global biking capitals.

Health, wealth, happiness and much more is hidden under one word in Denmark: bike. As Lithuania, my country, is named one of the most negative countries and a global suicide capital. Hm.. I think I will get a few bikes back home!


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