09 May 2018

Studying In Copenhagen

When I was an undergraduate, "studying abroad" usually involved foreign-language majors spending a year in the "home" or "mother" country of a language.  So French majors went to France, Spanish majors to Spain and, well, you get the idea.

Occasionally, students in other majors sojourned in other lands.  For example, art and architecture students might go to Italy or France, aspiring Shakespeare scholars trekked to England and some who were training in technical or scientific fields might spend time in Germany.  

In those days, nobody went to another country to study cycling, especially transportation or utility cycling.  Most American urban planning was auto-centric, and even though we'd lived through the '70's Bike Boom, forsaking two pedals and two wheels for one pedal and four wheels was seen as a milestone of maturity for a young person.

Well, it seems that things are changing, if little by little.  Three days from now,  seven Landscape Architecture and four Kinesiology students from Penn State University are going to Copenhagen to learn more about the Danish capital's cycling culture.

Specifically, those students will spend two weeks in a faculty-led program in which they will, according to the university, "observe bicycle infrastructure and multi-modal transportation solutions, learn from programs and policies that support biking, and learn about the role of biking in sustainable, livable communities."

Upon the completion of online course work, the students will earn three credits in their respective disciplines.  We can hope that the experience will help them to make or inform better decisions than most of the ones that have been made by planners who have made most of the policies and infrastructure we have here in New York and other American cities.


  1. Credits for a holiday? Where do I sign up?

  2. Last month I met three women from Montana State University who had taken students to Amsterdam and Copenhagen to study transportation. They came back with ideas for incorporating cycling infrastructure on the MSU campus and Bozeman. One big takeaway for me: I had assumed that those European cities were historically friendly to cyclists and pedestrians. But they showed slides from the 70s when smoke-belching cars choked those narrow streets. That all changed starting in the 80s and 90s when planners began prioritizing cycling and pedestrian travel. Hmmm. Those Europeans just might be on to something.

    1. MT--In the 60s and 70s, it seemed that a number of European planners were looking at America and copying our mistakes. Although Paris, London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, when I first visited them, were more cycling-friendly than almost any American municipality, they were still nowhere near as good for riding as they are now. In fact, when I first visited those cities, people told me I should take a train and ride outside the cities.

  3. christania’s “Copenhagen Rent Bike” bikes are rolling across the city. The system, less than a year old, is funded by christania’s municipal government. It is currently only in one of christania’s 22 administrative districts. Although a 2nd generation system, there are 12 “Houses” in this district, each with around 40 bikes. The yearly subscription cost is the equivalent of $2 US, and allows the use of a bike for up to four hours at a time. In less than a year, there have been 6,000 subscriptions sold. There are larger 3rd generation systems in the world, which do not have a subscription to bike ratio as big as that.

  4. CBR--It sounds like a great system. It's almost reason enough for me to take a trip there!