Copenhagen Bikes

During my visit to Copenhagen I tried to make use of the Copenhagen City Bike system. Although eventually successful, it turns out bicycle sharing systems without a digital component can lead to frustrations.

Where London’s Boris Bikes provide a digital readout of station occupancy in Copenhagen you need to walk around and see which (if any) station still has a bike in it. Late afternoon this turns up empty most of the time because it seems many tourists get one and then camp on their bike for the rest of the day or their stay.

As in any bicycle heavy city, spots for parking your bike are always scarce and underused bike share parking will be quickly appropriated.

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After seven or eight empty stations (which when empty are rather hard to spot too) I finally found a somewhat functioning bike to take a tour of the city with. The map affixed to the bike shows the region with bikes and where you can take them (within the lakes and Christianshavn roughly). The bike itself is rather nice and can be made to perform adequately.

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Some people also lock the bikes either short term or long term similarly to what happened to the Dutch attempt at White Bicycles for everybody to use pioneered by the Provos. Without accountability enforced by security measures it turns out any such material sharing system quickly falls prey to the tragedy of the commons. I am right now reading Bruce Schneier’s “Liars and Outliers” which treats exactly these kind of dilemma’s between individual benefit and social benefit and how to create systems which create globally optimal outcomes to support our complex societies.

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One thought on “Copenhagen Bikes”

  1. Nice to read, very recognizable just arriving back from a long weekend in Copenhagen. I also used the free bikes. I like the idea of instant availability, if you can find them.
    During the week (Wednesday through Friday) it was a lot easier than in the weekend. If you need two bikes it is even more a challenge, we walked several times with one bike looking for second one in another station.

    Besides finding free bikes it was not always easy finding the stations, especially because they disappeared on a lot of spaces where road construction. And they are often covered in other bikes as you showed in the pictures too. The instant feeling is also influenced not only by finding one station at the start, but also for returning on a different location.

    An app would be great indeed, and how hard it can put a kind of sensor in the chains.

    One side effect is that we discovered parts of the city we would not have seen without the ritual of finding a bike station.

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