Cycling in Denmark is both a common and popular recreational and utilitarian activity. The bike is a Dane’s best friend, as a unique icon, the Danish cycling culture forms a collective coherence and is a unique part of shared identity. In Denmark, bicycling is one of the primary forms of transportation, people bicycle in all types of weather and at all times of day. Bicycles are used for pleasure, commuting, transport of goods, and family travel.
Denmark has a long tradition for riding the bike, and the Danish cycling culture is well known and increasingly in demand and envied in many parts of the world. Denmark have a unique cycling culture, which is more than a way of transport, the bike established the present day society. The cycling culture is an imprint of democracy, equality and solidarity, also highlight how the welfare society was made possible.
Denmark is a perfect destination for a cycle trip. The country is almost flat, and the cities are cycle-friendly, which offer an extensive network of bicycle lanes. In the bigs cities in Denmark, it is often easier to commute by bike than by car. It is quite common in Denmark to rent a cycle for riding around the countryside or the city. Most cities have a form of a bicycle sharing system, the method and pricing varies from location to location. Cycle rental shops are quite common and many different types of cycles are available.
The bicycle culture has accompanied the modernization process of Denmark, and it is also the imprint of the growth of every Dane. People have been taught to ride since childhood, and bicycles are the companions of growth. Bicycle can be seen as a democratic devise which creates equality because the bike is for everybody. Bicycles can easily reach every corner of life and are regarded as a tool to effectively connect the entire society.
The enormous positive impact cycling has on the general public health. Cycling is also more than just a sport, the use of the bicycle fulfils many functions outside the sporting sphere as a means of transport and leisure. The cycling culture helps to keeping physical healthy, also changing the attitude, mentality and behaviorism in people. Most Danes associate the bicycle with positive values such as freedom and health. Danes prefer to travel by bicycle, which promotes more interaction and communication than driving a car.
The Danish cycling culture that reaches far into the future. It carries one of the vital elements in relation to create the sustainable development that many countries. The future demands new ways of thinking, new ways of city planning, infrastructure, town centers and city life. Bicycle holds a key position in modern city planning where streets and squares are made to create quality for the inhabitants. From the perspective of comprehensive design of smart city, the focus on people, bicycle lanes and pedestrianized street, making the environment and city life a happiness factor where spaces and places become the public and mutual areas.
The bicycle has become ultramodern again, aided by societal development, successful political initiatives and conscious marketing. In Denmark, there is a desire to improve public health and combat climate change. In Copenhagen and several other cities it has led to an intensified effort to maintain and strengthen cycling culture. Large branding campaigns was carried out that put cyclists in a positive light. In Copenhagen’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, the Danes’ preference for zero-emission travel has greatly helped. The result is an increasing number of cyclists and cleaner, healthier and more lively cities.
The bicycle was invented in the latter half of the 1800s. The first bicycles were quite primitive and somewhat awkward to ride. Nonetheless they soon became the big fashion craze – especially among young men in high society. Bicycles were first used for sport and recreation, but in the late 1800s some more practical types of bicycles gradually came into the market, and the general public, who otherwise had poor access to transport, quickly adopted them.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the bicycle became a widespread symbol of equality and freedom in Denmark. In a Danish context, the bicycle has been inextricably linked with freedom ever since. The bicycle was their ticket out of the inner city’s cramped tenement houses and into the clean air of the rapidly growing suburbs. People from all social classes cycled on a large scale and several professions also adopted the bicycle. Today, cycling postmen and home helpers are still a permanent part of street life.
The bicycles’ first heyday lasted for half a century until around 1960. With the bicycle, ordinary men and women suddenly gained much more freedom of movement. Then, the increasing standard of living slowly but surely made car ownership possible for more and more families. For more than half a century, bicycles had steered their way into the core of Danish self-perception through the visual arts, poetry and music.
In the 1960s, cars were threatening to displace bicycles in the main Danish cities. But the oil crisis, the environmental movement and a couple of controversial road projects reversed the trend. Cycling culture in the 1970s again began to appear in a positive light. Gradually it became clear to most people that the solution to the problems had to be city planning that gave space to cars, bicycles, pedestrians and public transport.
Out of this realisation grew the Danish model with its extended network of cycle lanes along the roads. Biking is part of the Danish DNA, the cities was design around bikes. Today, cycling is a deeply ingrained part of Danish culture. Danish children usually learn to bike before they begin school at age 6. Newcomers are encouraged to learn how to ride as soon as they arrive.
Denmark’s bicycle culture is also reflected in the adequate infrastructure. Bicycling infrastructure is a dominant feature of both city and countryside infrastructure with segregated dedicated bicycle paths and lanes in many places and the network of 11 Danish National Cycle Routes (along with many regional routes) extends more than 12,000 kilometres (7,500 mi) nationwide.
On average, each Dane cycles 1.4 kilometers (0.9 mile) a day. The Danes bike a combined total of 8 million kilometers (5 million miles) per day. Every day, the Dronning Louises Bro bridge in Copenhagen is crossed by 40,000 cyclists making it the most heavily trafficked stretch in Denmark. 25% of all trips under 5 kilometers (3 miles) are done on bike. For all trips, 16% of are done on a bike.
Cycle paths are often raised above the shoulder of the road and separated by a curb, but on older roads it is more common to have a cycle lane separated by a thick white line and sometimes the lane may be marked by coloured asphalt. Massive infrastructure investments are taking place to create more cycle ways and thus increase safety. At intersections, the continuation of the cycle way or lane is often highlighted by a broad blue band to increase its visibility and cyclists may find that they have their own set of traffic lights.
In January 2022, the Danish Ministry of Transportation announced that 2022 is “The Year of the Bike”. In the summer of 2022, Denmark was host the first three stages of this years’ Tour de France, which is a big honour. With the start of Tour de France coming to Denmark, 2022 will be a year of celebrating the Danish bicycle culture. This initiative was launched as a part of a large infrastructure plan, investing $458 million in new cycling infrastructure. The first $64 million are to be used in 2022, mostly for the establishment of new bike lanes across the country.
In order to serve the large number of cyclists, contemporary urban planners in Denmark are working to develop the physical cycling infrastructure all over the country. Wide cycle paths and cycle bridges increase safety, and ‘cycle superhighways’ are being expanded in the greater urban areas to increase access and reach. In Copenhagen a system of interconnected green cycle routes, “greenways”, is under development, with the aim of facilitating fast, safe and pleasant cycle transport across the city. The network will cover more than 100 kilometres (62 mi) and consist of 22 routes.
Copenhagen has been ranked #1 Cycling City many times, for example in the most recent version of the bi-annual Copenhagenize Index from 2019. In the past 10 years, Copenhagen has invested over $200 million in cycling infrastructure. In the budget for 2022, $10 million have been allocated for initiatives aimed at maintaining and improving the position of Copenhagen as the most bike friendly city in the world.
In June 2020, the government and a majority of the parties in the Folketing entered into an agreement on a summer package to support Danish tourism. One of the initiatives is “Better conditions for cycling tourism in Denmark”. DKK 20 million has been set aside for this purpose. DKK in 2020 for the development, pilot testing and dissemination of a new coherent bicycle hub system. The cycle junction system must create a better marking of cycle-friendly routes in Denmark and cycling experiences with better access to nature. A network of cycle-friendly stretches connected by junctions has been created, where cyclists can freely put together a route through the network that goes from junction to junction.
Although there appear to be a large number of cycle parking facilities in Denmark, there is actually a severe lack of available cycle stands. Those that do exist are often poorly positioned, particularly in the bigger cities. In 2008, with a view to remedying the situation, the Danish Cyclists Federation published a Bicycle Parking Manual with a number of guidelines. They aim to be of immediate practical use to users but also offer advice for city planners wishing to improve facilities in the future.
Cycling is integrated into both the national, the regional and the local train services in Denmark. Cycles are permitted on trains to facilitate mixed-mode commuting. This is most visible in the urban and suburban rail network of Metropolitan Copenhagen, the S-trains, where cycles can be transported in specified carriages found at the front and rear of each train. As of 2011 there is no charge for taking cycles on any S-train.
Danish National Cycle Routes
Denmark became the first country in the world to have a unified network of bicycle routes. The 11 Danish National Cycle Routes form a network of cycling routes throughout the country. They are important routes enabling bicycle tourism and showing off Denmark’s natural beauty as well as its regional towns and villages.
Denmark’s national cycle routes are a network of 11 cycle routes totaling 4,233 km coordinated by the Road Directorate. The national cycle routes, which are primarily intended for cycle tourists, are defined as routes which, in principle, run north-south or east-west through several parts of the country, and are over 200 km long. The routes should also be passable in all kinds of weather and without dead ends, loops and branches.
The numbering of the routes runs from 1 to 12, where the even numbers are west-east running routes while the odd numbers are north-south running. Routes 8, 10 and 12 differ from this system, however, as they are roundabouts. Route 11 is not in use. The cycle routes vary in surface, but all are passable by bicycle, although certain sections are paved with loose gravel. They also vary in length and cross each other in several places, so you can switch from one direction to another. However, route 10 on Bornholm is isolated.
The routes run primarily on minor roads that are sparsely traveled or on cycle paths along major roads. In addition, part of the route is on roads on which cars are not permitted to drive. These sections are a mixture of paths and disused roads, such as the southernmost part of route 1, where just behind the dykes on the west coast you drive on asphalted service roads that used to be open to cars, but are now fenced off, so that the sheep on the foreland have better access can seek shelter there.
The routes are signposted by road signs erected at all bends on the route. The signs have a blue background and white writing, marking the direction in which the route continues. Often the distance to the nearest towns and villages is also indicated. Unlike the regional routes, the number on the national routes has a red background. Around the number for all routes is always a white square. There is also a white bicycle on the signs.
The national cycle routes are also connected to a large network of regional and local cycle routes in Denmark. The national routes 1 to 10 were established in 1993 based on the idea of the Free Birds Association. In 2002, route 12 around the Limfjorden was established, and as a last resort the Østersøruten (route 8) was inaugurated in the spring of 2018, as the result of a collaboration between the Road Directorate and 17 municipalities. The latter is, however, an extension and reorganization of the former national cycle route Sydhavsruten.
The official map basis of the national Danish cycle routes is made up of so-called route relations in OpenStreetMap, where they are maintained and continuously updated based on material provided by the Road Directorate, partly by employees of the Road Directorate and partly by experienced volunteer OpenStreetMap enthusiasts. Formally speaking, municipalities must apply to the Directorate of Roads for permission to change the route of the national cycle routes as well as for the wish to create a completely new national cycle route.
Several of the routes are included in international routes and are thus part of the EuroVelo project. This concerns route 1 and the northernmost part of route 5, which is part of the North Sea Cycling Route (EuroVelo 12), route 3, which is part of the Pilgrimsruten (EuroVelo 3), route 8, which on some of the stretch is a part of the Baltic Sea Cycling Route (EuroVelo 10), as well as parts of routes 6 and 9, which are both part of the Middle Europe Route (EuroVelo 7). The cycle route between Berlin and Copenhagen (Bikeway Berlin-Copenhagen) also coincides in Denmark with part of national route 9.
Along National Route 1 (West Coast Route) and Route 9 (Helsingør-Gedser) there are also 26 panoramic routes that are loops on the two long national routes. 16 of the panoramic routes are along the West Coast route and 10 of them on the part of route 9 that is part of the Berlin-Copenhagen route. The panorama routes, which are typically between 20 and 50 km, have different themes such as Experience the forces of nature, Drama on the cliff, Vikings and the Wadden Sea and Exploring with the family.
Danish national cycle route 1, known as the Vestkystruten (West Coast Route), is the first of the 11 Danish National Cycle Routes. It runs from the Danish-German border at Rudbøl in Southern Jutland to Skagen, at the northernmost tip of Vendsyssel island. It follows the west coast of Jutland and is 560 km (350 mi) long, with 70% of this distance being along paved roads. The route starts at Rudbøl, a small village on the Danish-German border which is also the starting-point of Danish National Cycle Route 8 (the South Sea Route). From here it runs north through Skærbæk, Esbjerg, Hvide Sande, and Thyborøn where there is a ferry-crossing to the island of Vendsyssel. Beyond the ferry-crossing the route continues northward through Hanstholm and Hirtshals before ending in Skagen.
N2 Hanstholm – København
Danish national cycle route 2, known as the Hanstholm – København, 385 km cycle route that stretches from the fishing harbor in Hanstholm on the North Sea to Copenhagen’s Town Hall Square. The route is connected by three ferry connections: Århus-Sjællands Odde, Rørvig-Hundested and Sølager-Kulhuse. Note that the route has a new route in summer 2020. On a trip east along the N2, the cyclist gets the opportunity to experience a wide selection of Denmark’s different landscape types and cultural and historical attractions. Across Jutland, it includes, for example, the open moors in Thy National Park, old manors around Viborg, Læsten Bakker and the Gudenå river near Randers, before reaching the ferry landing in Århus. After the route’s longest ferry ride, the great views from Sjællands Ode and Denmark’s oldest tree, Kongeegen, await in the Nordskoven at Jægerspris, just after you have driven briefly on the border to the National Park Kongernes Nordsjælland. The route ends in the heart of Copenhagen.
Danish national cycle route 3, known as the Hærvejsruten, consists of a cycle route and a walking route. The Hærvejsruten route stretches from Frederikshavn over Aalborg and Viborg to the Danish-German border at Padborg. On the section from Viborg to the border, there are many sections where the cycling and walking routes coincide. The Hærvejs route, like the other national cycle routes, is laid out so that the route mainly follows smaller roads. This is mostly about asphalted roads, but the Hærvejsruten is one of the 11 national cycle routes with the most stretches along smaller forest and field roads with gravel surfaces, which can often be of a rather rough nature. In its full length, it is thus not a route for bicycles with very narrow tyres.
The Hærvejsruten was Denmark’s first official national cycle route. In addition to numerous cultural sights, the Hærvejsruten also passes some of the country’s most beautiful natural areas. In the south, for example, you can experience landscapes around the Kongeåen and Jels lakes, in Central Jutland you can take a short detour to the sources of Gudenåen and Skjernåen, and in Dollerup Bakker not only await some of the route’s steepest climbs, but also a magnificent view of Hald Sø. Further north, the route goes through Rold Forest close past Store Økssø and Rebild Bakker. Just after you have crossed over the Limfjord Bridge to Nørresundby, you can make your way past Lindholm Høje, Denmark’s largest ancient cemetery.
N4 Søndervig – København
Danish national cycle route 4, known as the Søndervig – København, runs from Søndervig in West Jutland to Copenhagen on the island Zealand. The route is 310 km (190 mi) long, with 90% of this distance being along paved roads and one trip on a ferry between Aarhus and Odden.
After the start in Søndervig on the west coast of Jutland, you pass Ringkøbing and Skjern before heading straight east. The first part of the trip across the Jutland peninsula is without many altitude meters, but after the Jutland ridge the terrain changes character. In addition to Skjern Å, plantation and heath areas, route 4 in Jutland also passes close by, among other things, Søby Brunkulslejer, Hampen Sø, the second highest lake in Jutland and also one of Denmark’s cleanest, and Velling Skov. In Svejstrup a little east of Ry, the newly constructed part of the N4 route takes a south-easterly direction towards Hou and the ferry to Samsø. In Zealand, the route runs from the ferry berth in Kalundborg via the Viking towns of Lejre and Roskilde to Hundige, where you hit Køge Bay and via Valby ends at the Town Hall Square in Copenhagen.
Danish national cycle route 5, known as the Østkystruten, runs between Sønderborg and Hulsig just south of Skagen. The 650 km long cycle route was for many years the longest of Denmark’s 11 national cycle routes. But in 2018 route 8 (formerly known as the Sydhavsruten) changed its name to the Baltic Sea route and was extended so that it is now 820 km long. This is a route that extends along the east coast, so it is winding. The East Coast Route is considerably more hilly in certain sections. In and out along Vejle Fjord, the route offers, for example, some of Denmark’s steepest hills, where the bike’s lowest gear must be used to get up.
Before the challenge, you need to consider that the actual length is longer than the straight line distance on the map. As the Eastern Coast Route follows several of the East Jutland fjords – often almost at the water’s edge – all the way to the old market towns at the bottom and out again, just as the route goes around the coast of Djursland. If you want to go all the way to Skagen, you can continue along route 1 (West coast route) the last part from Hulsig. Likewise, in the south you can continue along route 8 (the Eastern Sea Route) all the way down to the border at Kruså. The northern part of the East Coast Route, which from Grenå coincides with EuroVelo 12 (North Sea Route), is connected by ferry crossings over Randers Fjord (Udbyhøj North – South) and the Limfjord (Hals – Egense).
Danish national cycle route 6, known as the Esbjerg-København, is one of Denmark’s national cycle routes. The 330 km long route is unofficially called the England route, although the England boat has not sailed from Esbjerg since 2014.Cycle route 6 can also be used as a connection between other national cycle routes. On the way to the capital, the N6 thus crosses, among other things, the Hærvejsruten, the East coast route and the Østersøruten.
At the same time, the N6 on Funen can be combined with the newly established Østersørute (N8) if you want to make a round trip. Similarly, in 2017 the municipality of Esbjerg received funds from the Cykelpuljen to improve the signage of the N6 in the municipality. If you follow National cycle route 6 all the way across Denmark from the port of Esbjerg to the town hall square in Copenhagen, you pass Koldinghus, the old Lillebæltsbro, H.C. Andersen’s Odense, Trelleborg by Slagelse and the cathedral in Roskilde. To cross the Great Belt you have to take the train between Nyborg and Korsør.
N7 jællands Odde-Rødbyhavn
Danish national cycle route 7, known jællands Odde-Rødbyhavn, is one of Denmark’s 11 national cycle routes. The 240 km cycle route stretches between two ferry berths on Sjællands Odde and in Rødbyhavn on Lolland respectively.hed in connection with the Fehmarn Belt connection. All the way down through Odsherred and Northwest Zealand, the route bypasses major cities, but instead goes through a varied landscape with both views of Sejrø Bay, the flat Lammefjord, forests and large lakes. It is only after you have passed Kongskilde Friluftsgård at Tystrup Sø south of Sorø, where the N7 crosses the N6 (Esbjerg – Copenhagen), that you enter through Næstved.
Before leaving Zealand via Storstrømsbroen, the route also goes through the western part of Vordingborg. After that, national cycle route 7 leads relatively directly down towards Rødbyhavn via Nordfalster, Guldborgsundbroen, Sakskøbing and Maribo. The Molslinjen sails to Sjællands Odde from Aarhus and Ebeltoft (spring – autumn). From Rødbyhavn there is a ferry connection to Puttgarden in Germany.
Danish national cycle route 8, known as the Østersøruten, is an 820 km long cycle route that forms a round trip in the form of a figure 8 with a crossing in Svendborg. The Østersøruten (N8) is an extension and rearrangement of an already existing national cycle route, the Sydhavsruten, which stretched from Rudbøl to Møn. Linked by five ferry connections and eight bridges, the Baltic Sea route is coastal and passes old market towns and past national and local attractions. The route runs from the Danish-German border at Padborg, across Als and Ærø, through the South Funen Archipelago, across Lolland, Falster, Møn, South Zealand, over Funen, further towards the Little Belt, until the route is taken back through the eastern part of South and South Jutland to Padborg.
The southern part of the Baltic Sea Route (N8) coincides with the 7,980 km long EuroVelo 10 cycle route, which is also called the Baltic Sea Cycle Route. The route has been created in collaboration between Danish Coastal and Nature Tourism, VisitDenmark, Cycle Tourism, the Directorate of Roads, Destination Fyn, Destination Lillebælt, Business Lolland-Falster, Visit Vestsjælland, VisitSydsjælland-Møn and Destination Sønderjylland. Together with the Road Directorate, the 17 southern Danish municipalities involved have implemented uniform route signage. The signage is financed by funds from the Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing’s bicycle pools.
Danish national cycle route 9, known as the Helsingør-Gedser, is one of Denmark’s national cycle routes. The 290 km long cycle route from Copenhagen down to Gedser coincides most of the way with the Danish part of the Bikeway Berlin-Copenhagen cycle route. If you want to follow this, you can take the ferry from Gedser to Rostock and from there continue south towards the German capital. National cycle route 9 runs most of the way within a few kilometers of the coast and often very close to the water.
From Helsingør, the N9 follows Zealand’s east coast and passes, among other things, Stevns Klint at Højerup and the Cold War Museum Stevnsfort, before reaching the small town of Kalvehave at Stege Bugt. Then you cross over the Queen Alexandrine’s Bridge to Møn. If you also don’t want to miss one of Denmark’s greatest natural attractions, Møns Klint, you can possibly make an extra loop on the N9 by following the Østersøruten out there. However, the N9 officially continues to Bogø. From here you have to take the small ferry to Stubbekøbing. At Falster, the route first feels the east coast close through forests, after which it crosses over the island to Nykøbing Falster. On the way out of town, you drive again just a stone’s throw from the sea, and the route becomes the last part down towards Gedser on the west side of the headland.
N10 Bornholm Rundt
Danish national cycle route 10, known as the Bornholm Rundt, which encircles the entire rocky island. The route has an official length of 105 km, which makes it the shortest of Denmark’s national cycle routes. Bornholm Rundt is thus also the only national cycle route that consists of a circuit within the same municipality. Cycling around Bornholm The cycling route clockwise, starting in Rønne, first passes Hasle, Allinge and Sandvig. Just before the latter is reached, you can possibly take a detour to Hammershus Slotsruin – Northern Europe’s largest castle ruin. The stretch contains some of Bornholm’s steepest climbs.
There are also some cool climbs on the next part of the cycle route along Bornholm’s northeastern coast. Some of the island’s biggest attractions such as the Holy Rocks and right here Bornholm’s Art Museum. About halfway down the coast, for example, the cycle route also goes through Gudhjem, which the local tourist organization calls “Denmark’s only mountain town”. After Svaneke, cycle route 10 continues south towards Nexø and then Dueodde, Bornholm’s most famous beach. The last stretch back towards Rønne along the island’s southern coast, the route runs through almost completely flat farmland past Bornholm Airport.
Danish national cycle route 12, known as the Limfjordsruten, is a 610 km circuit around the Limfjord, Denmark’s largest fjord area. The cycle route, which stretches through the hill and fjord landscapes from Hals in the east to Thyborøn in the west, was inaugurated in the spring of 2002, the route was formed by linking several existing regional cycle routes such as the Ertebølle route (regional route 36) and along the way has contact with the themed routes Schnapps route and Gourmet route. The majority of the Limfjord route goes along cycle paths, dirt roads and less traveled but paved roads. Two ferry crossings connect the route: Thyborøn-Agger in the west and Hals-Egense in the east. If you want to shorten the trip around the Limfjord, there is also the option of taking shortcuts at several places along the way via bridges or ferries.