The Happiest People in the World

Copenhagen is often cited as among the most livable cities in the world.  One unique aspect of the place is its sustained commitment to bicycling as a principal mode of transportation.  In this city of 650,000 (and totaling 1.7 million in the metro region) about 36% of its citizens commute by bicycle, pedaling about one million kilometers each day.  The city’s goal is that bicycling will comprise at least 50% of commute activity by 2015.  Compared to other urban areas that have risen in prosperity it is unusual that a city would be successful in de-emphasizing the car and increasing human-powered transport.  Not surprising that this is one of the least overweight populations in the world.  It gets better.  A recent study by social psychologists at the University of Leicester in England found Denmark to be home to the world’s happiest people.

From Metropolis Mag 

“Copenhagen is one of the world’s great pedestrian cities. Although it’s blessed with certain inherited characteristics — such as a narrow medieval street grid — the city has worked steadily to improve the quality of its street life. In the 40 years since Copenhagen’s main street was turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare, city planners have taken numerous small steps to transform the city from a car-oriented place to a people-friendly one. “In Copenhagen, we have pioneered a method of systematically studying and recording people in the city,” says Jan Gehl, a Danish architect and coauthor of Public Spaces–Public Life, a study on what makes the city’s urban spaces work. “After twenty years of research, we’ve been able to prove that these steps have created four times more public life.””
Rush Hour. (but are they really happy?)

The bicycle is a year round transport option in Copenhagen, as the winter here is somewhat moderate for Scandinavia, although there can be bitter cold periods. The relationship of Danish peoples with the bicycle began many years ago and a culture has developed and matured over the last few decades to become something entirely different from the American view toward cycling.
This Youtube vid gives a sense of the magnitude of bicycle traffic during rush hour in Copenhagen.

The bike is not viewed as a toy, a sport, or recreation. Nor do people who ride necessarily define themselves as cyclists. It is just simply something you do to go from one point to another. Consequently bicycles are largely of the practical variety, equipped with baskets and racks, and many are manufactured within the region. Cargo bikes and other pedaling configurations are often employed for shopping, errands, and hauling around young kids.
'Long John' cargo bike.

All of this is going on in a cosmopolitan city. Copenhageners have somewhat of a reputation for “cycle chic” in that the activity of bicycle commuting does not require a foregoing of urban style and fashions. Lycra “sport” clothing is not seen as being necessary or practical for this lifestyle. It’s not unusual to see people in long overcoats and dress coats, women in fur hats or high heels, or a man in a suit, on their way to and from work, and bicycle-commuting workers and students in general are not dressed much differently than any other city-goers. I’m good with cycle chic. Whatever turns your pedals.
Nice looking one-handed turn.

This works because it was massaged into the culture in ways that developed a full range of benefits in the fabric of urban life and is accepted now as “normal”. The 1970s oil shock inspired Denmark to develop a more energy efficient way of life and to be less car dependant. Is it sustainable? I would say for a while yes, ultimately no. Denmark has been a leader in renewable energy technology and energy conservation. But they have been a net exporter of North Sea oil for years, and are still fossil fuel and car dependant.  However, considering they’ve done considerably more than other European countries, and way more than the U.S., I give them an “A” for effort goddammit. Good for them I say. Cycle chic.



U.S. Depression Era Bicycle Promotion

Those of you who know my standard deal know that I believe the bicycle will return as a key part of our transportation scheme in the U.S., as new energy and economic realities will impose profound changes and require radical measures for adaptation. This does not mean that I think we can duplicate something like Copenhagen. Where Copenhagen’s scheme evolved over generations (cultivating the awareness, knowledge, expectations, values) and more toward idyllic benefits, we will not get that luxury, nor do we deserve it. Our conversion will happen in the context of a raw and bitter disengagement from the lifestyle of a different world. Presently in the American fat people world, it might be the guy who lost his drivers license with a DUI conviction that rides his bike to work, maybe. Or the Mexican laborer. Or the bicycle geek. American students largely do not use bikes now. Bicycle commuting here is seen as dangerous, too difficult, and it makes the butt hurt. Going somewhere other than in a car is hot, sweaty, dirty, cold, wet, slow, weird and ridiculous. Bikes are for poor people and/or are the toys of children. As Orlov would point out, we have so very far to fall in our downward adjustment to more humble modes of living. I can just hear the bitching and moaning. Ride you monkeys ride. Cycle chic.

42 Replies to “The Happiest People in the World”

  1. I believe you. Yeah I forgot about the last time, at the same second. What are the odds.

    I held back from posting the REAL pics. I’m saving those for when UR comes in from the rain.

    I have to go look at this GBU thing.

  2. I’m absorbed in the Gaza thing, I just don’t know what to say, so I’m not saying anything. You don’t need help you know what to do. remember your training. haven’ gone over to CFN yet it sounds bad.


  3. The pirates forgot their training. They got too excited and they made mistakes. Instead of paying attention to the seas they were probably looking up, for a GBU.

  4. smart looking Euro chicks on bikes

    couldn’t bring myself to read a word of whatever words were posted on

    the pictures were too mesmerizing

  5. Hey, that’s Mikael from copenhagencyclechic that posted here. A fantastic blog, great photos, and musings on Copenhagen bicycle culture.

  6. one of my daughters is amazing to me. she takes like scrap bikes, slaps on a fixed rear, and sells them for like $600 – 800 to asshole hipsters in boston, daddy’s little girl.

  7. i gave her a ’80’s nishiki that i bought at goodwill for $5. her asshole boyfriend gave a fixed rear wheel. she turned it around for $600. them is life skills, daddy’s little girl.

  8. the first time i saw a guy building one, i was like: what are you, fucking stupid? no brakes? you got to pedal all the time? that’s fucked.

  9. i’ve cut down on my bikes a lot over the last couple of years. right now i got a mtb and a fugi touring bike. i think that mtb’s are the best all around bikes.

  10. After twenty years of research, we’ve been able to prove that these steps have created four times more public life.””

    took him 20 years to figure out that people looking at each and talking is more fun than people blowing thier horns and giving fingers to and taking pot shots at each other, fucking genius i’d say.

  11. maybe i should start posting the local weather conditions in Honolulu. then you’ll be moron willing to spend some of those dollars on travel to Hawaii. you know, come out to kick Doom’s ass for posting the local weather conditions in Honolulu!

    Today’s Weather, Wed. 14 Jan:
    High 82 F
    Low 74 F
    Mostly Sunny, scattered clouds and some showers

    Surf’s Up: 30-35 feet on North Shore, Oahu. Bring your boards, or use mine.

  12. Really, why dis the fixie? That’s so funny your daughter is making and selling them. Good idea. Fixed gears are hot stuff with cool urban kids, but its not cool to have a shiny new one. Same thing as people paying extra for blue jeans that are pre-worn and have holes in them. Obviously she understands all this.

  13. I think the fixed (single gear) bikes are a reaction to the index shifters(click-click-click thru the gears) all the new bikes use. My trusty ‘Dave Scott Iron-man Centurion’ has Shimano 600 friction gear levers. Index shifters are like driving an automatic Porsche. Sure, it works fine, and traction control prevents spin-outs, but where is the skill?
    Fixed gears are for cyclodromes, not hilly streets,

  14. “took him 20 years to figure out that people looking at each and talking is more fun than people blowing thier horns and giving fingers to and taking pot shots at each other, fucking genius i’d say.”

    True. Sarcasm deserved and noted. Its startling to me that in this day and age someone has to study whether or not reducing automobile insanity might make people feel better.

    What he is saying already seems intuitive to you because you are a silverback caveman and you understand shit. However, most people (in our country especially) normally blot these concerns from their minds and redirect their misery toward other outlets. If pressed, they would probably define ‘reducing auto insanity’ as additional roads and lanes, convenient parking, 0% financing, cheaper gas, and a handgun in the glove box.

  15. single gear are for people afraid of a little speed
    Though that would be perfict for my wife

    Univega 470 oh and its green. The other is my vintage beach cruser from the college days.

  16. “Shimano 600 friction gear levers”. That’s what I use too. They are sweet. But lots of moving parts there and in the drive train that goes with it, plus they are expensive, and although the automatic Porsche gearing is very smooth and nice, the vast majority of people don’t need it, can’t fix it, and could get by with something simpler and cheaper.

    AU. True, fixies are limited flat streets, but thats what a lot of cities are, hence they are mostly popular in urban areas. Bare bones simple, but requires some technique, skill and confidence. Not for the meek.

  17. Dave, I just got back from the wednesday ritual after riding my bike to work. In the 6 mos. of less lite (we get fat) we ride the jcc trails with lights. In the longer days we do it at Oak Mountain. I only crashed twice (75 dollar bike with no suspension). I do not get out much but I try to do it on a bicycle.
    I also have a daughter or two and I am proud of them, too. They are not as smart as yours (she was obviously raised well). One is here (Bama) and one in Massachusetts (University Amherst). A Yankee and a rebel.
    I am an old rodie. A retro grouch. I teethed before the days of Bmx. A bastard son of a bmx bike is what I call single speed. And fixies? Purley fashion. No velodromes here.

    @ Mr Rico: Yesterday I rode my bicycle with the niece of Barbers motor sport.

    I am thinking of building my first fire of the year tomorrow. I do not heat my house often. Sure is nice… living in the Mouron Cresent (the Dixie part). Do you think I should give JHK an honorarium? We are to stupid (smart) but to follow Israel… Yeshua Drenched an all.

    The bike snob NYC says: “the people responsible for the fixed-gear fad generally don’t ride their bikes at all; instead, they customize them and pose with them for photographs”. He also thanked them for the extra room at stops.

    Thank you Saint Bif for letting me know there is a Heaven.

  18. Roach, sorry if you already know this, but you can’t free-wheel a fixie. They are fixed, as in the pedals and wheel are always engaged. No coasting. You can pedal forwards or backwards. There are no brakes. (though some people cheat and put at least one brake caliper on the bike) You slow or stop the bike by putting resistance to the pedals and applying a little body english. Stripped of a lot of the usual hardware these bikes are typically light and responsive. It sounds insane and dangerous but once a rider develops the feel and some confidence, he/she becomes one with bike so to speak. Not my cup of tea but there are certain merits. No guts no glory.

  19. My bike has the Shimano 515 index shifter. Never a problem in the 10 years I have had it.

    I will look at the 600 though when the time comes to replace. I have been web searching it and it apears from the reviews it is better then mine, at the same time mine gets great reviews too but not as good as the 600.

  20. Thanks Saint Bif I was going to look into them more now that my 600 search is over. Interesting stuff but really can not see me using one. I will stick with my old ways.

    I am looking into a new or used bike for my wife. She will be in easy and safe biking distance from her new job. The less she needs to shift the better. Light and responsive is exactly what she needs.

    My sons TaeKwanDo classes are in the basement of the largest indy chain bike store in town. When they put their spring/summer hours back in place I will check these puppies out.

    He is yellow belt. I am readying him to kick Daves butt for me.

  21. Arggh, I just noticed AU said he uses friction levers, I thought he was talking about his using indexed (STI). Disregard my confused response AU. And I agree with what you said about friction levers vs STI.

    Your 515 is mountain bike stuff, and 600 (i.e. 6600 or Ultegra) is road bike specific. If you intend to upgrade from 515 you would look at Deore XT components. But unless you are having problems shifting I wouldn’t be in a hurry. The stuff is expensive.

  22. Clearly since buying my last bike 10 years ago my knowlage has slipped a lot!

    I blame the kids and my long commute that requires freeway driving. To ride my bkie to work would take way to long and seriously dangerous. Takes me 15 min to drive and would be well over 2 hours to ride. With lots of hills. Fun for sure but impactical.


    sheldon brown knows, or at least used to know a lot of shit. he’s dead now.

    anyhoo, my fugi came with drops and brifters. i don’t like either. so changed out to some moustash(don’t know exactly what they are, but i liked them) kinda bars and bar end shifters. there’s an idexing option on the ones i got, but i left them in friction mode, just because i’m old and stupid, i guess.

  24. the problem with most training, the way i see it anyway, is that you’re gonna do what you’re trained to do. now that may sound like a good thing, but if you’re trained to square off and fight, that’s what you’re gonna do. shit just don’t happen like that.

    clouso had the right idea with kato, or something like that.

  25. So right Dave

    Most TKD places are crap and more crap. This one is more like a polished turd. One of my sons best freinds goes which is how he was hooked and most of the dads and some of the moms join in the fun too.

    We are the only non rw hard core zelot Christians there too. But its 2 to 3 hours for one night a week and a part of my soul to be used as a sacrafice to the devil for really cheap fee.

    Really good deal actually.

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