Are Bikes the Secret to Danish Bliss?

Seeking an answer to the question "Why are Danes happier than everyone else?," ABC News speculates that trust and bicycles make all the difference:

In Denmark, you can see trust in action all around you. Vegetable stands run on the honor system, mothers leave babies unattended in strollers outside cafés, and most bicycles are left unlocked. And perhaps the bicycle is the best symbol of Danish happiness. Danes can all afford cars, but they choose bikes —  simple, economical, nonpolluting machines that show no status and help keep people fit.

Since they give bikes their due, ABC gets a pass for neglecting the congestion pricing theory of happiness.

Photo: bananaterror/Flickr

  • Mitch

    Bike transportation probably adds to the general level of trust in a society; it allows you to interact with other people on the street, instead of impersonal glass and steel capsules.

    But you need a certain level of trust to start biking in the first place. When I ride my bike on the street, I’m sometimes very aware that I’m putting my life in the hands of every motorist that passes by. Usually this is not a problem (and I’m generally a fairly trusting person), but sometimes I wonder…

    I would guess that there was a high level of trust in the Copenhagen atmosphere even before bike transport became universal.

  • “simple, economical, nonpolluting machines that show no status and help keep people fit.”

    This is great, but isn’t that code for “boring, non-fun machines that get you no attention, are un-American, and force you to exercise… yuck.” Being happy with such things is a pretty foreign concept. I think we need to find ways to make bike riding seem cool, getting you status, and keep your bod hot for the ladies/gentleman!

    American environmentalism needs to have and American flavor.

  • Mitch

    This is great, but isn’t that code for “boring, non-fun machines that get you no attention, are un-American, and force you to exercise… yuck.”

    Actually, getting exercise is very American. But Americans tend to drive a few miles to the health club to run on a treadmill. Or, perhaps, they put on running clothes and go jogging in the park. Exercise is much esteemed, but it doesn’t occur to most Americans that they could get exercise on the way to work.

    Also… if you want to show your status and your coolness while riding a bike, there are ways to do that, by the way you dress or the kind of bike you ride? I suspect that most guys who ride fixed-gear bikes with no brakes are hoping their choice of wheels will improve their chances of getting laid.

    I think it’s a good sign that some people use a fixie, instead of an Escalade, to show how hot they are. We just need to make that attitude more common.

  • Charlie D.

    I always try to bike in regular clothes, business casual when commuting, and casual clothes on the weekends. I think I look pretty darn cool. I want to send the message “I’m just a regular working guy that just happens to ride a bike”. As comfortable as bicycling gear is to wear, I think it often isolates bicyclists as being some kind of elite spandex-club, even though I know that’s not true. When you show people photos of people bicycling in Denmark, their response is often, “Hey that guy’s wearing a suit!”. Makes them realize that bicycling really is for “regular” people.

  • Elaina

    “Danes can all afford cars, but they choose bikes”

    You fail to mention the 300% sales tax on any vehicle with a combustible engine.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

How to Plan Good Cities for Bicycling

|
Editor’s note: This is the final installment in our series this week featuring Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts are from his book, “Cities for People,” published by Island Press. Donate to Streetsblog and Streetfilms and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the book, courtesy of Island Press. […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Bike Registration Laws: A License to Profile?

|
Bike licensing and mandatory registration — can we just go ahead and file these under bad ideas? Putting up barriers to healthy choices like biking makes no sense from a policy perspective — especially since many people cycling are children or very low-income, for whom the registration and licensing process may be especially difficult, offputting, […]

Copenhagen Cycle Ambassador Says Bikes Are Hot

|
If you’ve been following bicycle blogs for any amount of time at all, you’ve probably stumbled upon Mikael Colville-Andersen, who runs the blogs Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic. (We often feature his posts on the Streetsblog Network.) On Tuesday afternoon, he brought his inimitable style of bike advocacy (pretty spiffy, though low-key) to Columbia University. […]

Notes on Bicycling in Copenhagen

|
Copenhagen, Denmark is not a natural bicycling city. In the early 1960’s it was very much of a car town. In 1962 the city created its first pedestrian street, the Stroget, and every year since then Copenhagen has allocated more and more of its public space to bicycles, pedestrians and people who just want to sit […]