The New Station Wagon

How Copenhagen Families Embrace Life by Bike

In Copenhagen bikes are not just for spandex-clad athletes doing 30mph downhill sprints or 22-year-old hipsters flaunting their fixies at the brewery.

In the Danish capital over 50 percent of the city’s population commutes by bike. Bikes are more than recreation; they are the predominant means of mobility for everyone. Including families. Most middle class families don’t even own a car. Instead they use the city’s bike infrastructure to go to work, school, the market and yes, football practice (or soccer if you’re from the US). A typical commute can include several stops, including local schools, børnhaves (Danish daycare), workplaces and markets.

There are over 400 kilometers of protected bike lanes in Copenhagen. This means that a family can practically criss-cross the entire city without leaving the bike lane. Since cyclists rarely interact with motorists, they feel safe to ride with small children in tow. Most children start riding around three years of age, and are usually competent riders by the time they start grade school. Even the famously wet and windy weather doesn’t stop families from bike commuting. Parents just stuff little kids into padded snowsuits and hit the road.

In other places, becoming a parent might mean trading the bike for a station wagon. But for Danes it just means getting a different type of bike. The first option is to add a car seat to your existing bike. Just like a compact car, it’s a lightweight, low-maintenance, easy to park option, and it’s ready to carry little Lucas or Emma.

For families that need more carrying capacity there’s the family cargo bike. In Copenhagen 25 percent of families with two kids have a ladcykel, or cargo bike. Cargo bikes are not unique to Denmark. In the United States cargo bikes are two-wheeled contraptions with extra long-tails and platforms for kids sit on and some storage at the back of bike.

But in Copenhagen it’s all about the front loaders. Danish families often use bikes like Urban Arrow’s Family bike. This bike boasts 2-wheels, a large front bucket with optional rain cover and electric assist pedaling. The Danish Christiania Bike has three wheels, one in the back and two in the front on either side of a large cargo bucket. When looking for the perfect commercial cargo bike, Larry vs Harry have made super efficient bikes for delivery services around Europe.

With an entire city designed around cycling, it’s no wonder that Danish families are living a bike-based lifestyle.