Where bikes are king | What Copenhagen can teach the world about two wheels and a shared economy

Copenhagen Bike Culture
More than 60% of Copenhageners commute daily by bike

This month Danish firm, Dong Energy, announced plans to build the world’s largest wind farm located off Yorkshire’s North Sea coast—creating a massive boost to the renewable energy industry and the one million homes that will receive its power.

Many on UK soil might ask why a Danish firm rather than a British one is spearheading such ground-breaking innovative technology, powering more homes than any other single offshore wind farm—with 2,000 new jobs also being created during the site’s construction.

An argument for another day perhaps, but the scale of this green energy-coated question reveals as much about the Danes as it does about the Brits.

Denmark is a role model for the green economy, and it’s not just the UK that’s found itself playing catching up. The smallest Nordic nation is also a leading powerhouse in its shared economy policy. A city of civic innovation, intuitive human-centric urban planning and the desire to show itself to the world, it’s fair to see where it all went right for Denmark’s burgeoning capital Copenhagen.

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Superkilen urban park was designed with an intense public participation process involving the surrounding community. Image | Visit Copenhagen

The rejection of the car as king in its 1960s urban planning blueprint and the renaissance of cycling during the energy crises of the 1970s created the backbone of Denmark’s current 40% renewable energy figures and the example set by 63% of Danish parliament staff who commute by bike. Only 40% of Danes own a car—in the USA, the figure reaches over 80%.

One company with an ethos that represents the epitome of Copenhagen’s views on the quality of life and civic-engagement is bike sharing start up, Donkey Republic. Self-tagged as “Uber for bicycles…disrupting urban transport,” there is a whiff of the commercial mixed with shared economy innovation.

With much talk flying around linked to collaborative and shared consumption in any Uber-associated conversation, Donkey Republic has nailed its values to the mast in being movement leaders, shifters of social dynamics and above all carers for cyclists who connect with their model. Co-founder and director, Erdem Ovacik, says, “I think we are more into getting bikes to become a mainstream tool for urban transport rather than collaborative consumption. There is an open question about rental bikes being part of the public space. Some cities are more stringent on issuing licences to people to be able to place bikes out.”

Donkey Republic Image
Donkey Republic has 15 bike sharing stations across Copenhagen. Image | Donkey Republic

While Uber has had its licence troubles to seek, this is not the case for Copenhageners when it come to cycling, as urban planning and infrastructure has been designed with the cycling citizen and outdoor life in mind, even in winter months. Donkey Republic’s user-centric model fits perfect to the city’s infrastructure in terms of rider safety being the most vital asset in convincing them to take to two wheels. Erdem adds, “Many of the bike share schemes that cities build at stations are really not convenient. So we are creating a convenient, better alternative for people who want to use a bike on the go.”

Mikael Pass, Festival Director of Frost, a blend of unique concerts and events in the city during the month of February, says, “In the past ten years Copenhageners have become more proud of their city. They want to use the city, they want to showcase it more. Before, we travelled to get cultural input but now people actually travel to Copenhagen to get a taste of what is happening.”

Copenhagen Urban Design | Bike Lanes
The priority of cycling as a main transport mode is intrinsic to the design of Copenhagen’s urban landscape 

 Copenhageners have gained a reputation for supporting new innovations in the community and making it work. The case for democratic design stands firm where things are made to be used and used again by everyone. The city’s Director of Planning and Development, Anne Skovbro says, “We tend to focus on the urban space to ensure that they are ‘human’ areas. We would like to ensure that all kinds of citizens can live in Copenhagen—if you are young and a student, if you are a family or if you are elderly.”

As Donkey Republic expands as a growing concern ambitious to spread its model to other cities in 2016, Erdem gives us a final insight to why Copenhagen’s shared economy model works across the community. He says, “The reason we do this bottom up and not in collaboration with politicians or the city is because we want to empower the people to do it, giving them the tools to ask for more and not to have to compromise.”

Sources & Credits | Monocle Magazine | Donkey Republic | Visit Copenhagen

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