Dos and don’ts of biking in Copenhagen

January 19, 2023

If you want to live like a true Copenhagener, understanding the cycling culture here is unavoidable. Read our guide to the dos and don’ts of biking and get even more out of this wonderful city!

DON’T despair if you don’t know how to ride a bike

Kids in Copenhagen often learn to bike at a very young age – some can ride a bike without training wheels at the age of 2! However, if you have never learnt it, the task can seem daunting. Fear not, as there are lots of handy guides available online. The Danish Cyclists’ Federation sometimes offers classes for adults and has even made a book about it that gives you a step-by-step guide to learning how to bike as an adult. Find it here (in Danish only).

DO bike outside of rush hour to get used to the traffic

Even if you do know how to ride a bike, it can still seem a little confusing and perhaps even scary at first. It’s a good idea to take your first few bike trips outside of rush hour. In other words, avoid the period around 7-9 and 15:30-17:30 on weekdays. That way you can get used to biking in the city without being overwhelmed by cars and other bikes.

DO make use of the wonderful bike paths

Almost all streets, crossings and roundabouts in Copenhagen have bike paths – use them! If there isn’t a bike path, go on the road. Stick as far to the right as you can while still being clearly visible to cars. And always follow the direction of traffic.

DO be careful of bigger vehicles, especially trucks and buses

Drivers in Copenhagen are usually very careful around bikes. However, you still have to pay extra attention, especially when there are vehicles turning right. Cars, buses and trucks have blind angles. Always check before biking ahead of a vehicle in a crossing.

DO look out for special traffic lights and signs

In some places, there are special traffic lights just for bikes. Sometimes – but not always – they change at different times than the traffic lights for cars, so pay attention to them. Also pay attention to signs that might help you in the bike lane and along the road – for example showing you where to wait if you want to turn right.

DO go with the flow or stick to the right

Especially during rush hour, bike traffic in Copenhagen is intense. Keep up with the pace, and if you are a slow biker, stick to the right side so people can easily get past you.

DON’T just stop – check behind you and use signals

If you want to stop or turn, look behind you first to make sure there isn’t someone right behind you who might not have the time to slow down. Then signal that you are about to stop by raising your hand in the air, or signal that you are about to turn by sticking your arm out to the side you are turning.

This drawing is not a guide - but if you are used to cycling in Copenhagen, perhaps you recognise some of these situations?

DO mind the buses and the tourists!

Bike is king in Copenhagen. But bus is queen. If a bus is stopping and its doors opening out onto a bike lane, you must stop, allowing people to get out of or into the bus. A lot of Copenhageners forget this, so if you can master it, you are a superstar! Also be mindful of tourists who often end up walking in the bike lane by mistake, something a true Copenhagener like you would of course never do.

DON’T drink and ride a bike

Just like you wouldn’t drink and drive, it’s a bad idea to drink and ride a bike. A lot of accidents happen this way.

DO be extra careful when you bike on Friday and Saturday nights

Like we just said, a lot of accidents happen because people drink and ride a bike. Even if you’re not one of them, be extra careful on big party nights. You will be surrounded by drunk Danes on bikes.

DO make use of the special bike routes away from traffic (‘cykelruter’)

In Copenhagen, and all of Denmark, we have many bike routes that don’t come near car traffic at all. These are usually called ‘cykelruter’. One example here in Copenhagen (and Frederiksberg) is Den Grønne Sti, but there are lots more, and they are just lovely. The City of Copenhagen offers lots of guides to nice biking routes – you can find them here (in Danish only).

DO shine your light

Bike lights are important, especially in the dark winter months. You must have a light on front and back when it is dark. In the dark, you can be impossible to see for a car without a light. So don’t be shy – shine your light.

DON’T ride on sidewalks or against traffic

You will probably see people do this from time to time, but it’s against the law and can be dangerous – and expensive, if the police see you.

DO use the bell

In some cultures, using the bell on a bike is considered rude. Not so here. It is a perfectly acceptable way to make those ahead of you know that you’re trying to get past.

DO wear a helmet

You don’t have to by law, but it’s a good idea. Copenhagen is a very safe city for bikes, but accidents do happen.

DON’T hire a van – use your bike instead

Almost anything can be transported by bike. Pets, kids, groceries – even furniture. And if you have one of those fancy cargo bikes, you can transport even more stuff! Some Copenhageners even move from one flat to another with the sole help of a cargo bike.

DO ask if you’re not sure

There are a lot more aspects to Copenhagen cycling culture and a lot more in the traffic code than we could list here. If you’re in doubt, it’s good to ask. Visit Copenhagen has made a more detailed guide in English which you can find here.