Esplanade closure begins February 1st

People on Bikes: Copenhagen

Posted by on May 28th, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Welcome to special edition of People on Bikes from Copenhagen. Please join me in thanking Pro Photo Supply for their support of BikePortland. They’re a great local business and I would be a mess without their help.

As you can imagine, in a city where 36% of the trips are made by bicycle, it wasn’t hard for me to find a good spot to photograph people on bikes. In fact, I went right to one of the places with the highest amount of bike traffic in all of Europe: Queen Louises Bridge. The bridge connects the Nørrebro district with the city center and during the evening rush hour, there are massive platoons of people riding bicycles form in both directions.

Being here in Copenhagen is such a treat. For years I’ve heard about these mythical Danes and their bicycling prowess. A major part of my education so far has been to realize that it’s all not that big of a deal. They’re just regular folks doing the same thing you and I do: Riding their bikes. In other words, there’s a lot to be said for demystifying this whole Copenhagen thing. And a large part of that is getting to know the people.

I hope the images below help you get to know Copenhageners just a little bit more. What do you think? How do they compare to the typical cross-section of Portlanders? Or of New Yorkers?

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If you like People on Bikes, check out past editions here.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • kittens May 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    dont they know that riding a bike is dangerous? get a helmet, fools!

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    • BURR May 28, 2013 at 6:06 pm


      Seven or 8 adults with helments and only one stupid day-glo outfit. I’d call that progress.


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      • Randall S. May 29, 2013 at 7:53 am

        Heh, I was going to point out that this isn’t at all representative of Kopenhagen. I saw maybe a 7-8 people total wearing helmets when I was there, and most of the children don’t wear helmets either.

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    • Craig May 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Don’t you know that riding a giant cat without a helmet is über dangerous?

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  • Barbara May 28, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Definitely more fashion forward, less spandex, hi viz and helmets! And more upright sitting. They all ride bikes made for transportation not for sports.

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    • Dan May 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Made for transportation on flat ground, not up over the zoo.

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      • Chris Shaffer May 29, 2013 at 7:03 am

        I’ve ridden my Electra Townie over Washington Hill and up to Marquam Hill. It’s not bad. I’m slow, sure, but hey, I’m always slow. It’s not like an upright bike doesn’t have gears, after all.

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    • spare_wheel May 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      They all ride bikes made for transportation but designed in the victorian era.

      *fixed it for you*

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  • Josh G May 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    #22: + for Keen sandals (probably not Mikael Colville-Andersen Chic approved, but $ coming back to PDX),
    + for Reel Lights.
    He’s not the only 1 carrying kids on a bike slowed only by a coaster brake. Those metal stirrup kid holders look so medical, but I guess they work.

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  • mikeybikey May 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Sweet! And so many bicycles with chain guards or chain cases. Too few bikes sold here in the states come equipped with them IMO. Great set of photos.

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  • Yuri Nashun May 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Jonathan do you have any idea what the typical bike commute is there? My guess is those folks don’t ride as far as we do??? I can’t see bagging on spandex…it’s practical for me. My commute is 15 miles each way.

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    • spare_wheel May 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      I believe the average bike trip in CPH is a touch over a mile (~2 km).

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    • John Pelletier May 28, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      There are some long distance folks in the Netherlands, but usually if it is a long distance it is bike-train and not all bike. Anyway I have a 10mi commuter morning and evening and I do it in everyday clothes on an upright (not bolt) Breezer Uptown. Actually dress pants are really nice to wear as they are lighter! I would say you could do it with no problem but then again we all need to do what we can and most folks are not going that far!

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    • Joseph E May 28, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      I ride 15 miles one-way on my Batavus, some days. Other days it’s only 11 miles one-way. I used to ride a Breezer Uptown, like in my profile photos. There is a Batavus above (#20) but mine looks more like bike #5.

      But I do agree that for most people, an 10 to 15 mile one-way trip should be bike / transit. That’s what I do, sort of: train in the AM, ride back in the PM. I also have a road bike, but it only saves me 10 minutes out of a 55 minute commute (on the slower bike), and then I have to change into padded shorts and put on gloves to be comfortable, so overall I save only 5 minutes. The train saves 20 minutes.

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  • Jim Lee May 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    And not a bleeping derailleur in sight!

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    • Erik May 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      I spotted just one, in the background of #13. I need to reconsider an IGH.

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      • was carless May 29, 2013 at 12:04 am

        Careful, they can leak oil. But well worth it if you store it in a garage or something – maintenance is virtually nil!

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        • Andreas Hammershøj May 29, 2013 at 12:42 am

          I’ ve lived in Denmark and Copenhagen my entire life and known a lot of IGH’s and single speed hubs with coaster breaks. I currently have 8 in the bike-cellar, and I have never had an oil leak. That goes even for very old and worn hubs. Oldest one I have is probably from ’81.

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  • Jonathan Reed May 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    …nor a single drop bar…

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    • thefuture May 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Yeah I noticed that too. Looked back to the last Portland version, tons of drop bars:

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      • Ryan May 30, 2013 at 11:20 am

        Why all the ripping on drop bars? I have drop bars on most of my bikes, including my primary commuter rig. Know why? Because they’re comfortable FOR ME, practical FOR ME, and I LIKE THEM. All of you who like flat bars, rock the flat bars; all of you who like risers, rock the risers; like the drops? Rock those. And so on. But seriously, can we stop telling everyone who’s not doing it exactly like us that they’re doing it wrong?

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        • Paul in the 'couve May 30, 2013 at 11:49 am

          Amen! I just took the riser bars off a bike I tried them on, and mustache bars off another. I do have two upright position bikes which I use for utility rides close to home – trips mostly well under 3 miles like the majority of trips in Copenhagen. Drop bars work great for me (and 2″ or so below seat level – and I’m on the older side) so WTF does anyone care what bars I prefer?

          If I’m going further than 3 or 4 miles away from home 95% of the time I’m going to be riding drop bars and going faster than 12mph.

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  • o/o May 28, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Cool pix…

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  • daisy May 28, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    The weather looks pretty identical to Portland.

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  • flowb33 May 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Many men on step-throughs. Lots of headphones. Relaxed postures. Is it flat in CPN?

    Also, to the dude throwing his “West” in #58 … put that hand back in your pocket.

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    • SilkySlim May 29, 2013 at 12:17 am

      I like the way he is reppin’ East Cope.

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    • Andreas Hammershøj May 29, 2013 at 1:38 am

      Yes, pretty flat, just like the rest of the country.

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    • Elliot May 29, 2013 at 6:03 am

      To put it into perspective, the summit of Mt. Tabor (194m) is 23m higher than the highest point in all of Denmark (174m).

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      • Barbara May 29, 2013 at 9:28 am

        Maybe. But that’s just another excuse. The do have lots of bridges to go over and as they are on the coast they have lots of wind. And it’s cold and dark half of the year.

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  • denvercx May 28, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    What, no carbon fiber race bikes? GASP!

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    • spare_wheel May 28, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      i have 3. and i ride them for transportation. GASP!

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      • A.K. May 30, 2013 at 11:16 am

        You too?? Me as well!

        Turns out it’s pretty fun to do a 15 mile ride to work in the morning, then a hard 25-35 mile ride home.

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  • anon May 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    OMG #32 — Dawn Wiener!!

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  • Anne Hawley
    Anne Hawley May 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Loving the preponderance of big upright, step-through-frame bikes and good looking street/office clothes. What a fantastic glimpse of Copenhagen. Thank you, Jonathan!

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  • Shane May 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    What is happening in #51?! Is that an intertube dreadlock wig?!
    Hope you can do a People on Bikes near a school while you’re there to catch a bunch of kids and their bike style!
    Loving the dutch coverage.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 28, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      Hey Shane and Robert,

      I was thinking the same thing but I don’t feel comfortable standing outside a school and snapping pics… if you know what I mean. That might not be appreciated… So good news is that Mikael Colville-Andersen said I could join him for school pick-up tomorrow. If that doesn’t work out, I still plan to try and capture more of the school kids somehow.

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  • Robert Ping May 28, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I second Shane’s motion for a Kids on Bikes series near a school!

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  • Paul Smith May 28, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Oh lordy, bring on the helmet/no helmet bickering! What an interesting bike in #40. Wonder if it’s a folder,and who makes it? That child seat in #33 seems next to invisible! Wonder what it is?

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  • Gracie May 28, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Love this! People were wearing real clothes and felt safe enough to not wear helmets. We should all work toward that day when 50% of the popuation areriding bikes.

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    • spare_wheel May 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      I am still trying to figure out how my non-real pearl izumi jacket kept me dry yesterday.

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  • GlowBoy May 28, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Wow, actually quite a few more helmets than I would have expected based on my visit to København 8 years ago.

    I did wear a helmet when I did some biking there (though I probably wouldn’t if I went today), and actually provoked a bystander to shout “god helm!” (“nice helmet”) at me.

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    • johntarantino1 May 29, 2013 at 2:27 am

      In the Netherlands, practically no one wears helmets, and you will get made fun of if you do…haha.

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  • was carless May 29, 2013 at 12:06 am

    No longtails either!

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  • dwainedibbly May 29, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Bowling ball! I love it! Now sure which is funnier: that, or the guy in the orange haz-mat suit.

    Men on step-throughs is a trend I like, given that my back & flexibility aren’t what they used to be and will eventually be less than they are now.

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    • dwainedibbly May 29, 2013 at 4:51 am

      “Now” = “Not”

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  • TOM May 29, 2013 at 7:58 am

    no road bikes ? no gloves ?
    helmets ? maybe they are going slow and there aren’t many crashes ? (I won’t even take a test ride around the block without my lid)
    was one checking her cell while riding ?

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  • Spiffy May 29, 2013 at 8:07 am

    #33, first fixie I’ve ever seen with a child seat…

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    • basketloverd May 29, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Coaster brake tab but still a rebel with no front.

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  • RJ May 29, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Most of the men are riding bikes with horizontal crossbars, and NONE of the women are. I don’t think Portland is ever going to go for that.

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    • Barbara May 29, 2013 at 9:44 am

      Why not? Most of the city bikes now come with step through frames. My Kinn bike has a lower cross bar. Makes jt easier to wear skirts and dresses while biking. Remember, biking should be an everyday activity not a sport that requires special clothing. But maybe that’s just my German bike socialization. I only know step through bikes for women (whether they are fixies or sportier bikes with lots of gears).

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      • RJ May 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

        I’m just saying that I don’t foresee a day when Portland women en masse will voluntarily restrict themselves to step-through frames. Variety is the spice of life.

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        • Barbara May 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

          Better than being involuntarily restricted to cross bars. What’s the advantage of those again?

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          • spare_wheel May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm

            weight, stiffness, and stability.

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          • RJ May 30, 2013 at 7:58 am

            I wasn’t saying one is better than the other. Jonathan asked how the cross section of CPHers appears to differ from PDXers shown in other installments of “People on Bikes.” I think it’s notable that women in Portland appear comfortable with either style, while it seems that for women in Copenhagen there might be some stigma or negative association attached to riding a “men’s” bike.

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            • Barbara May 30, 2013 at 8:12 am

              I think you interpret too much into those pictures. I’m German and grew up with step through bikes. For me it’s normal to have women-specific bikes for transportation (road and mountain bikes have crossbars in germany, too) and it was weird to not be able to find any here in Portland (it’s only slowly changing in recent years, when you find a little bit bigger market for commuter bikes). So for Portland women it might be weird to see all these step through bikes, whereas for me it’s weird to see all these women on men’s bikes in Portland (and I suspect that the frame size is made for men, too). Maybe it encourages more women to bike when they feel that there are bikes out there that fit women and their needs.

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      • ZGNW July 18, 2013 at 1:41 am

        Hi Barbara, we’d love to have you bring your German bike socialization & join us! 🙂

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  • 100th Monkey May 29, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Anyone notice that a few of the helmets looked to be Nutcase? BTW, wearing a helmet because you believe riding your bike to be dangerous is just that; a belief or self-fulfilling prophecy, not a perception.

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  • GlowBoy May 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I don’t believe biking to be any MORE dangerous than driving a car. Both carry substantial risk of injury and death, especially in America. I wouldn’t ride in a car without a seatbelt, and I wouldn’t ride a bike at above a pootling pace without a helmet.

    Anytime you’re going above a moderate running pace, it becomes far less likely that you will be able to land on your feet in the event of a mishap. If you can’t land on your feet there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to slam your head to the pavement. BTW, I just witnessed a horrific skateboard accident last month in which serious head injuries would have been prevented by a helmet. It’s not just about bikes.

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  • Lynne May 29, 2013 at 10:01 am

    fenders! racks! bells! Love it!

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  • basketloverd May 29, 2013 at 10:12 am

    1 beard, 2 facial hair, only one visible tattoo maybe two.

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  • Andy K May 29, 2013 at 10:14 am

    GREAT PICS – THANKS JONATHAN! I don’t know why the commenters feel the need to point out that no helmets mean the riders are comfortable with the surrounding road users (specifically cars). Why does it always have to be a battle? I agree with GlowBoy – I would wear my helmet even in a carless city….because sometimes I ride too fast or don’t react to the conditions fast enough.

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  • Matt May 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

    The common denominator–none of the bikers are overweight. I think that says something about biking, or maybe the photographers choice on images to post, but regardless…

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    • Barbara May 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

      It doesn’t say so much about biking but rather about a society that promotes and values active transportation and moderation. There are not a lot of obese or overweight Danes in general.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu May 29, 2013 at 11:56 am

    No panniers. Not many lights (3 only). No high-viz or reflective. Almost no helmets. No drop bars. No derailleurs. No lycra or sport-specific clothing.

    If we didn’t know anything about the city, those observations would suggest light loads, daytime use or well-lit environment, safe streets and drivers and riders, moderate speeds, minimal hills, shorter distances, utility cycling rather than exercise-goal cycling. True?

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    • Spiffy May 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      most of the bikes have lights, but they’re on the far front of the fork and the far rear of the fender… the photos are cut off so that they’re not shown…

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  • John Liu
    John Liu May 29, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Oops, should be “almost no high-viz”, don’t know how I overlooked spaceman #9

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  • El Biciclero May 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Love all the flapping jackets and the total lack of hills! It’ll be sweet when Portland finally gets all its bike trips down to under 2 miles! Is #25 standing on the pedals? What’s he trying to prove?

    But seriously…lots of stuff works in Copenhagen/Amsterdam–or even for some folks in Portland–that doesn’t work for everybody. When did drop bars and derailleurs become evil?

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    • Chris I May 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Why isn’t anyone proposing that the city use fill material from the West Hills to fill in the Willamette and construct a canal system a la Copenhagen and Amsterdam? And we can build a bunch of mixed use residential/commercial on top of it. That will solve our hill problem and commuting distance problem all at once!

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    • spare_wheel May 29, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      People on drop bar derailleur bikes are intimidating and discourage people from cycling. So come on people! If you want mode share to increase you need to ditch the surly crosscheck or trek fx and buy a nice step-through velorbis or batavus.

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  • Chris May 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Oh man, too much bike porn for one day!

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  • Jim Lee May 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Derailleurs became evil when the Schwinn and Shimano families conspired to market the “Varsity” as a style statement. Their provenance is from road cycling, especially stage racing, where not only must one ascend horrid hills and descend perilous passes, but ride for hours in a peleton where many gearings are useful to maintain an efficient long-term cadence.

    A compendium of the nasties:

    Won’t work unless cleaned and maintained at least weekly–gunk on jockey rollers!

    Laterally flexible bushing-less chain flips off sprockets–free wheeling both ways when chain drops off rings!

    Dished rear wheel is marginally stable structurally–high tension on drive side and low tension on off side results in broken spokes unless wheels are expertly made!

    Fragile–susceptible to damage when knocked about!

    Cogs are so narrow that they wear quickly, which wears the chain, which wears the rings–all expensive to replace!

    Highly annoying–ticky-ticky noises!

    Basically, that combination of human animal and mechanical device which comprise–wait for it Jonathan–the CYCLIST, have a torque characteristic like unto a steam locomotive, which manifestly does not require a 27 speed chain-flipping transmission for proper motion. By the time you have cleaned your drive-train, repositioned the chain on the ring, wired up that broken rear spoke, bodged the mechanism bent by careless parking back into marginal alignment, spent hundreds of dollars replacing cluster, chain, rings–

    Your fixie friends will have been silently wheeling about town, doing business, enjoying life, patronizing brew pubs instead of bike shops.

    Yes, Frank Schwinn has much to answer for! But his personal ride was a dark green Paramount with a 3 speed Sturmey hub. Not stupid either way!

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    • El Biciclero May 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      “Your fixie friends will have been silently wheeling about town, doing business, enjoying life, patronizing brew pubs instead of bike shops.”

      And when they get as old as me, they’ll be walking (if at all) up and over the west hills rather than riding.

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  • Paul in the 'couve May 29, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I am surprised no one else has mentioned interestin #44 a front drive cargo trike with rear wheel steering. It has a name on it so google gets us the link I want one.

    Also, amazing, everyone’s bike is a perfect fit 😉

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  • Craig May 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Are Denmark and the Netherlands two different countries? Somebody help me out here I’m super confused.

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    • Kristen May 29, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Yes, they’re two different countries.
      Denmark :: Danish people
      The Netherlands :: Dutch people

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    • GlowBoy May 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Yes, they are two different countries, separated by a couple hundred miles of Germany. Amsterdam (and the Netherlands) keeps coming up because its bike situation is similar to Copenhagen’s.

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  • jim May 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    It must be refreshing to see all those riders and no Spandex. It isn’t just tacky but those that wear it have to be the fastest rider in the lane, like they are dreaming they are Lance Armstrong. It looks calmer there with people staying in the flow.

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  • Shinji May 30, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Interesting pictures, compared with “People on bikes: Portland” and following pictures of Amsterdam, the Netherlands:

    So, the less widespread bike use is, the more people wear helmets, and the more stylish bikes they ride, it seems.

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  • Joe May 30, 2013 at 9:46 am

    awesome shots, great bikes too.

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  • carole May 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Aargh! All those gorgeous bikes! I am so jealous.

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  • stephry May 30, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I wish I was Danish

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  • Scott May 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    #1 is Danish Jordan Huffnagel.

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