Saturday, April 09, 2011

Pastries, bicycles, and architecture

We can't leave Copenhagen without mentioning three important features -- pastries, bicycles, and architecture.

First, let's address the issue of Danish pastries, as we call them in the US. The original Danish pastry was actually made by bakers from Vienna who were in Copenhagen in the late 1800s. The Danes still call it wienerbrød.

However, it was modified from the original, so when you ask for it in Vienna by that name, they don't think it is their native pastry and so don't call it that. They call it Kopenhagen-Geback!

Now, on to biking. This is a major mode of transportation in this city. In fact, this site notes,
"According to the Technical and Environment Committee of Copenhagen, the Queen Louise Bridge - located in the the Danish capital's northern borough - holds the world record of daily passing cyclists with a staggering number of 36,000 people (!) crossing the bridge every day between 7AM and 5PM." They site further notes, "According to the Cyclist Embassy of Denmark, 36% of all Danish adults ride a bike to work."

This is made possible by a simple innovation now known worldwide as the "Copenhagen lane." This is a distinct and separate lane between the sidewalk and the street dedicated to bicycle traffic. It is physically separated by a height differential from the roadway. The bikes travel in the same direction as the adjacent auto traffic. At intersections, the lane is distinguished by blue paint, and there is often a separate traffic signal for the bikers.

I have always been told that this would be too difficult to do in Boston because it is an old city with narrow streets. Hmm, Copenhagen is older and likewise has space limitations, but they have made it work. If you don't separate the lane, you get results like the one on Commonwealth Avenue portrayed on this web site.

But, being bike friendly goes beyond that. The city's Metro service is designed to encourage multi-modal transportation. Bikes are welcome, and the train cars are designed to leave room for them and to permit easy ingress and egress. Try that on the Boston "T" and see what happens!

And, finally, architecture. The city has a spectacular mix of old and new, from this lovely bell tower with an external stairway on the Church of our Savior, Vor Frelsers Kirke, to new waterfront structures: The Royal Danish Theatre, the Opera House, and what is called the Black Diamond, a strikingly modern extension to the Royal Library. The walls are tilted in from the top, allowing it to reflect light and activity on the canal in front of it. Here is a view from our canal boat tour when the sun was behind us, as we approached and went past the building.

If you cannot see the video, click here.

You can find other views of the city on my Facebook page, here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this information with your readers. Ever since I returned from a visit to Denmark in 2006 I have been telling anyone who will listen about the architecture and bike lanes as well as the their belief in making decisions for the common good. We can learn a lot from their attidudes and practices.

RalfLippold said...

Thanks Paul for the description of Copenhagen's special points. Especially the bike riding attitude is what I appreciate a lot. It is not the streets, or layout of the city that hinders to spread biking in the work force. Rather it is mental models that value the car much more than a bike (even though a bike can cost as much as used medium class car).

Have a great time and looking forward to hearing more about the trip and the connections to Boston.