Monday, December 28, 2009

Reflections on Copenhagen

A giant mural and two beautiful cargo bikes

A week ago I returned to Spearfish after spending eight hectic days in Copenhagen, Denmark. I was there for the UN's COP15 climate conference due to the grant we received to start up the bike co-op. I was in Denmark with three others from Focus the Nation. The whole week was so busy, with hundreds of events going on all the time, that it felt like I didn't get a chance to do all that I wanted to during my time there. In retrospect, more than the official events of the conference, I feel like most of my time in Copenhagen was spent around the city, soaking up the bike culture and community events tied to climate change awareness. It was such an international and eclectic mix of people and ideas that I am definitely still digesting the whole experience.
The most important thing for me to do right now though is share some ideas that I think can be applied in Spearfish, both immediately this winter as well as long term goals.
First, I saw all kinds of bikes during my time overseas. A similarity between them all was that they were all utility bikes, for carrying big loads, traveling with children or just getting around town. Hardly any recreation bikes like here in the states. Everyone in Copenhagen bikes, because it is the most practical way to get around town. There are bike racks everywhere, in front of grocery stores, subway stations, just along the street - everywhere. All ages are on bikes, as soon as a kid can be strapped to a seat, s/he is on a bike. Mail/coffee/art - everything- is delivered by bike. I think that this is possible here in Spearfish too, almost all trips could be taken by bike if we just have the motivation to start doing so. This winter, as soon as the welder is up and running we will start trying to make our own versions of some of the Danish cargo bikes, but until then check out the Copenhagenize link for great inspiration to be more bikecentric. Come in with your own ideas for baskets and trailers, build your own cargo bike - be ready in time for spring.
Second, the infrastructure is set up such that bikes flow seamlessly with car traffic. Bikes know where they are supposed to be and cars likewise, this keeps all parties safer and avoids unpleasant interactions. Some of the bike infrastructure is better suited for large communities but much of it can be applied here in Spearfish, for example bike lanes and more bike racks. A few of us at the co-op are working with the city to try and address some of these issues, again if you have any ideas or input let us know, especially with the new renovations coming to downtown.
Lastly, and maybe due to the previous two observations, Copenhagen has a fantastic sense of community, everywhere people can be seen stopped and talking, bicyclists wave in passing at friends and neighbors and everything seems to exist on a smaller more local scale than is expected from a city of more than a million residents. Spearfish is expanding, development occurring further and further from the center of town and with it the sense of community stretching further apart. Transforming into a more bike friendly city may help counter this and keep Spearfish the very livable place it is.
These are some of the ideas and inspirations that I feel my time in Copenhagen has imparted and I think it matches nicely with what the co-op is trying to do and reinforces it. Once again if you have any ideas or concerns about the future of biking in Spearfish come by the shop and check it out. The more people we have involved the stronger the space is and the more good we can do for the community.


  1. Greetings -- may I post pictures of these cargo bikes (and any other good ones you might suggest) on my blog?

    Naturally I will attribute and link and so forth...

    Thanks in advance!!