Returning to Copenhagen after some years away is always a pleasant shock. Few cities in the world feel as properly scaled as this lovely old Danish capital. My mother was born and raised here, so I've been visiting off and on over the years. No doubt my own visions of what San Francisco could be, in terms of a bicycling city, have always been shaped by my experiences here in Copenhagen.
The city is not a sprawling urban environment of single-family homes.
Most buildings are five stories and the vast majority of the city's
residents live in apartments. The density feels cozy rather than
crowded, though. The streets are full of pedestrians, and after several
decades of building a citywide system of dedicated side paths (few
streets don't feature a pedestrian sidewalk, a curb down to a wide bike
path able to handle two and three abreast, then another curb down to
the street) Copenhageners are famous for being big bicyclists (20-40%
of daily trips in the city are on bike, whether one is 8 or 88 years
old!). At every intersection bicycles pile up in their lane awaiting
their own phase of the signals, and often enjoy well-marked blue
pavement as they cross the street. As a recently arrived guest, it
takes a bit of adjustment to realize that you cannot blithely step off
the sidewalk because there are usually bicycles approaching at a