Copenhagen: The Freedom to Bike

Straddling a three speed rental bike carried upstairs from a basement storefront on Nyhaven Street, I immediately felt like a local.  In Copenhagen everyone rides bicycles.  The Danish say first you lean to walk and then you learn to ride a bike.  Children are taught to ride bicycles from the age of three, and I was shocked to see youngsters riding along side their parents through busting city streets. I was more shocked when I was given a bike without signing a waiver or a helmet.

One of the most refreshing things about traveling in Europe is a general lack of concern over lawsuits.  People seem to accept responsibility for their own safety and with responsibility comes a sense of freedom.  This means open air riverfront cafes without massive handrails to ensure you don’t fall into the water, trampolines built into sidewalks and bike riding without helmets and waivers.   I often find myself thinking, we could never do something in the US because of the fear of liability.

Down the street from the rental facility as a series of trampolines built into the sidewalk.  My best guess is that they were in fact designed more as hammocks to relax by the waterfront, but they make awesome trampolines that are enjoyed by young and old.  I could not imagine any major American city installing trampolines in their city streets.  Every city lawyer would scream over liability.  Europeans get it right and let common sense and personal responsibility be a guidepost over litigation fear.

So if you want to feel a real sense of freedom, hop on a trampoline and ride a bike without a helmet (OK maybe you should wear a helmet, but that is because you want to, not because someone tells you that you must).  And if you really want to get crazy, ride your bike through Christiana to pusher street and the open air drug market.  On the way you will not see one billboard for a personal injury lawyer, you may also find a greater sense of freedom if only for a few miles.

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