Danish Language Blog

Land of Bicycles Posted by on Jul 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of the first things that struck a Mexican friend visiting me in Denmark, was the huge number of cykler (bikes, cykel in the singular, the c is pronounced like s) driving past her wherever she seemed to turn her head. Mænd (men) and kvinder (women) of all aldre (ages) were pedaling their sleek two-wheelers past street corners and junctions with an air of confident goal orientation that outshone fodgængere (pedestrians) as well as bilister (drivers of cars).

While Denmark certainly cannot match the wheeled streams flowing through Chinese cities, bikes are prominent enough for a foreigner like my friend to see it as a ”land of bicycles”. According to trafikliv.dk there are about 5 million bicycles in Denmark, or about one for every adult Dane. In comparison, there are ”just” about 2 million cars.

Denmark’s relatively flat landscape and small size make the country a biker’s paradise. A lot of people cykler (go by bike) to work or school, and some even go on cykelferie (bicycle holiday). In a country where people generally don’t have to struggle a lot to stay alive and where nature offers few obstacles, cycling can be an excellent way to get some motion (exercise).

When Danish-Faroese comedian Jacob Haugaard made headlines around the world by becoming elected member of Folketinget (the Danish parliament) in 1994, one of his fanciful campaign pledges had been Mere medvind på cykelstierne. Mere means ’more’, and medvind is a following wind of the kind that pushes you and your bike forward on the cykelstier, the many bicycle lanes that line roads all over Denmark. It is the opposite of modvind, the head wind that comes against you and threaten to toss you and your vehicle in the grøft (ditch). Haugaard’s catchphrase could be paraphrased as ”Better Wind Cooperation on the Bicycle Lanes”.

In addition to cykelstier, most Danish towns have several cykelstativer (bicycle racks), where bikes can be parked and locked outside public schools, railway stations and other frequently visited places. Major cities like Århus and Copenhagen also offer bycykler (city bikes), which can be rented for free. (You’ll need a coin to unlock them from their stands, though.)

I’ll finish with a quote from a children’s song, Cykelsangen by Poul Kjøller:

Jeg er så glad for min cykel

Jeg kommer hurtigt rundt omkring

Og det er fordi på en cykel

Så går det let som ingenting


I’m so happy about my bike

I get around quickly

And that’s because on a bike

It goes easily as nothing


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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. Peter Hodges:

    Og det er fordi på en cykel
    Så går det let som ingenting

    is challenging! The familiar “easy as anything” picks up on the easiness of ‘let’ but misses out the nothingness of ‘ingenting’. Perhaps something like

    And that’s because on a bike
    it’s as easy as doing nothing at all

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Peter Hodges Hej Peter!
      Tak! I had almost forgotten about that old post. Yours is a very good suggestion! 🙂