9 Things You Must Not Do When Cycling in Copenhagen

Photo of a person cycling in Copenhagen

Copenhagen’s cycling infrastructure is the perfect example of urban planning done well. Getting around on two wheels here is affordable, safe, and often the easiest way to explore the city or get from point A to B. 

While most people in the Danish capital are competent cyclists, you’ll also run into a fair share of idiots – both tourists and locals. 

So, what should you avoid when cycling in Copenhagen (and, by extension, the rest of Denmark)? Here’s a list of no-gos to keep in mind.

Cycle in the Middle of the Lane

In Copenhagen, you’ll notice that pretty much every bicycle lane is quite wide. But that doesn’t mean you should assume that all of the space is for you. 

Slower cyclists bike closer to the pavement, while the outer parts of the lane are for the quicker ones who tend to overtake a lot of people. 

Read More: Facts About Cycling in Copenhagen

Cycling in the middle of the lane causes annoyance for everyone. If you do this, you can expect a mouthful of unfriendly Danish words before too long. 

And that moves us on nicely to the next point…

Cycle Next to Someone Else on a Two-Bike-Wide Lane

This happens on pretty much a daily basis. If you’re in a rural part of the country with hardly any traffic, fine – go ahead. Ditto for three-bicycle-wide lanes. 

But on those in cities that only accommodate for two? Be serious. 

Cycling next to someone, and doing so slowly, is even more annoying than going in the middle of the lane alone. If you’re cycling with a friend or partner, go one in front of the other. And bike on the right-hand side. 

Forget Your Hand Signals

When cycling in Copenhagen, you must let others know what your next move is in advance. If you don’t, you put both yourself and others at risk of injury. 

If you’re turning left or right, point in the direction with the arm closest to that side. 

Arguably the most crucial signal, though, is when you’re going to stop. You’ll need to use this if: 

  • You’re getting off your bike; 
  • You’re changing direction, i.e. you’ve crossed the road to go down another junction. 

To signal that you’re about to stop, raise your left hand like you’re about to high-five someone. It’s worth noting that you don’t need to make this signal at every red light; only the scenarios listed above. 

Ignore the Traffic Lights

In Copenhagen, you’ll notice that bicycles have separate traffic lights from motor vehicles. The two don’t always show red or green simultaneously, so you need to pay attention. 

Adhering to traffic lights is particularly important when crossing busy intersections. Bicycle traffic from one direction will often get the go-ahead while cars and the like stop at these, while pedestrian lights might also show red if they cross a cycling lane.

Do not, under any circumstances, go at a red light. Doing so is both dangerous and can lead to a fine if the police catch you. 

Ride Without a Bell

As the poster boy of cycling, you’d think that everyone would have the sense to ride with a bell – right? 

Wrong. 

Though rarer than some of the other things on this list, you might occasionally bump into cyclists without a bell. You’ll notice them because they often shout to get you out of the way instead.

Riding with a bell is more courteous and will also save you a few breaths; just do it. And if you notice that a rental bike’s bell isn’t working, report the issue and use another one. 

Not Pay Attention at Bus Stops

For newcomers, this is a bit of a tricky one. 

In Copenhagen, a lot of bus stops involve passengers needing to cross over cycle lanes. When a bus stops and opens its doors, you must also stop and give way to passengers getting off. 

Once the bus’ doors close again and the lane is clear, you can continue cycling. 

Cycle on the Pavements

Believe it or not, cycling lanes were invented for a reason: to cycle on. And pedestrian walkways were designed for… walking. 

If you need to go somewhere on the other side of the road, wait until you get somewhere that allows you to cross. If you’re going against the traffic, get off your bike and walk. 

Bicycle lane maintenance is common in Copenhagen, and in some cases, you’ll need to get off your bike and walk around. Other times you’ll see signs saying that you can cycle, so keep these in mind and show consideration for others. 

Go on Your Phone

Seeing people cycle and text is one of the most infuriating things to see in Copenhagen. In fact, you could probably go as far as saying that it’s top of the list. 

Using your phone while on your bike is both illegal and dangerous. If you need to text someone, stop somewhere and do that before continuing with your journey. 

Some rental bikes give you a space to place your phone, so you can navigate – this is allowed, so go ahead. But if you don’t see one of these, 

Be Invisible

When cycling in the Danish capital, you must make sure you’re visible at all times. Never drive on the blind side of large vehicles, as this might not end so well if they don’t see you. 

Staying visible during the darker winter months is also essential. Ensure your bike has working lights and wear a reflector, especially if you’re somewhere without as many artificial street lights. 

Cycling in Copenhagen: Make Sure You Follow the Rules and Etiquette

Cycling in Copenhagen can seem intimidating at first, especially if you haven’t ridden a bike in an urban area before. But once you get used to it, doing so is fun, safe, and convenient. 

However, you need to pay attention to various rules – both written and unwritten. If you break any of the laws for cycling here, you’ll likely receive a hefty fine and could also put others in danger. 

In particular, remember your hand signals and make sure you’re visible. And please, for the love of God, do not cycle next to your friend in narrower lanes. 

Published by Danny Maiorca

Danny is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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