Cycling in Copenhagen

Copenhagen, much like Amsterdam, prides itself on its many pedaling citizens zooming by on narrow lanes. As a Dutchie, I like cycling, so when arriving in the city for a visiting scholarship, the first question was where to procure one.

As it turns out, there is a bicycle plan especially for tourist: Bycyklen (The City Bike). Intelligent electric bikes that are available 24/7 all over the city. Each bike has a touchscreen tablet which can be used for navigation, payment, and guidance to points of interest in the capital.

Usability clearly was the main concern when designing these bikes: you create a user account–online or directly on the bike tablet–enter your credit card details, and you’re good to go. You pick up a bike at a Bycyklen station, which are spread all over town, you enter your username and password, and off you go. The bike has a touchpad with a navigation system, a database with point of interest, and it can guide you to the nearest bike stand when you’re done. It even comes with a social media app, so you can check your Twitter feed while waiting for the green light.

The most interesting part, however, might be the fact that it’s electric. The electric bike is perhaps the perfect touristic mode of transportation. It gently embeds you into the flow of Copenhagen’s traffic: like any touristic tool, it grants you certain perks but also takes away freedoms. There’s a spectrum of speed in which you’re supposed to operate. After mounting it, the bike automatically pushes you forward at about 10km/h, ready to join the relentless two-wheeling traffic of the city. It wants you to drive about 20km/h: at that speed, it requires virtually no effort on your part. After hitting 25, however, the bike stops nodding you along and starts actively weighing you down. It’s too bulky to really push into it.

This is not cycling, really; it’s being cycled.

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