Monday, November 5, 2012

Spinning into the Future

For some reason, I have always wanted to live in Denmark. Even before I discovered Green Kitchen Stories, I was semi-obsessed with Scandinavian countries and considered applying for exchange to either Denmark or Sweden during my undergraduate degree. It turns out that unless I magic some credit points out of somewhere, my degree doesn’t really lend itself to exchange. When I first realised this I was disappointed but, as a result, I’m even more excited than ever for when the opportunity for travel presents itself.

I think one of the things that attracted me to Denmark in particular was not the Lego (for 5 years all I wanted for Christmases and birthdays was the newest Harry Potter Lego set) but the quaintness of riding bikes everywhere. However, by no means am I a cyclist… I have a theory that I am genetically predisposed to be slow and awkward on a bike, a theory which I began to develop at the age of 10 when I went on my first training-wheel-free ride and promptly crashed into a car that was parked 2m from the entrance of our driveway. Nearly a year before this, I had attended a road safety information session at a bike place of sorts as part of a school excursion. Of the 90 grade 4s, I was one of two who still had training wheels. I think it was this outing that inspired me to ask my parents for a bike and request lessons from Dad. They bought me a metallic purple Malvern star and a dorky red and black helmet, both of which I still use to this day; I love the bike but really wouldn’t mind a new helmet.

Whenever I hop on my bike to do a bit of shopping or to visit my grandma who lives a couple of kilometres down the road, I can’t help but think “WHY”. Each turn of the pedals hurts my legs and I still hobble for a good 5 minutes after getting off, no matter how short the ride. So why on Earth do I like the idea of riding bikes everywhere as they do in Copenhagen, Denmark? I have absolutely no idea! :-D

Social class, weather, dress code and destination are irrelevant for Copenhageners – apparently 50% of them commute on two-wheelers every day. There are even more bikes in the city than residents. Australian cyclists would surely turn green if they heard that. In the capital city alone, there are 400km of bike lanes with assigned traffic lights, including the world’s busiest which hosts up to 40k cyclists a day. This is all part of the city’s goals of becoming the first carbon neutral capital city in the world by 2025.

Some useless trivia about Copenhageners and their bikes:

  • 63 % of all members of the Danish parliament commute daily by bike
  • 50 % of all Copenhageners commute to work or study by bike.
  • 35 % of all who work in Copenhagen, including people who live in the suburbs and neighbouring towns but work in Copenhagen, commute to work by bike.
  • 25 % of all families with two children in Copenhagen have a cargo bike they use to transport young children to kindergarten, for grocery shopping, etc
  • In total Copenhageners bike 1.2 million kilometres a year, i.e. two trips to the moon and back (this is in contrast to the 660,000km travelled by Copenhageners by Metro)
  • The busiest biking lane in the world is Dronning Louises Bro in Copenhagen
  • Copenhagen was elected Bike City 2008 – 2011 by ICU.

Before I read the article from which I obtained these figures, I don’t think I had heard of a cargo bike before. You might even accuse me of living under a rock, for it seems as though they are becoming quite a big deal internationally.  I can’t say I’ve seen any being ridden around my neighbourhood but maybe that will change in the future. They certainly look like a lot of fun, not to mention convenient!

Without beating around the bush, let me just come out and say that I’m terrified. Terrified of the future and what the world is going to be like in 10 years time. I have been terrified since I was 10 years old, when I started to research the topic ‘weather’ for a school science project. Probably, only three or four years ago, I became 100% convinced that I need to find some land somewhere and bunker down before climate change seriously impacts the world we currently live in. The Mayans may have been wrong about the end of the world coming in 2012, but I’m sure they’re not far off it; I’m sure they are more accurate than the episodes of Doctor Who depicting the human race in the year one hundred trillion AD. It may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things but I really believe that the Danes and their goal for carbon neutrality through bicycle transport is a step in the right direction. The future is full of unexpected things. Maybe the survival of the human race will be one of those?

- Matilda


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