Written and unwritten rules on the bicycle path
If you are new in Denmark, then your probably have been noticed that there are a lot of people travelling around by bike. Maybe you’re cycling to and from your Danish Education at CLAVIS either in Copenhagen, Roskilde or Aarhus, and if you do, it could be a good idea to read this!
Denmark is known for its bicycle and bicycle paths. Children aren’t very old before they’re getting their first bike and learns how to ride it. People in Denmark are using the bicycle both as an exercise aid but in very high extend as a vehicle to getting to work, school or other appointments. Before you’re getting on your bike and move out in the traffic, there is some rules that you have to know.
Follow the rules
Cyclists has to follow the same rules in the traffic as motorists. That means that you can’t cycle through a one-way-road, unless other is shown. You must not either cycle in a place that has a sign “no entrance” – unless other is shown. The same rules are for pedestrian streets – here it is only allowed to pull you bike, not cycle. If the police are aware of you cycle on your bike in a pedestrian street, you’ll get a fine. However, sometimes in some places it is allowed to bicycle in the mornings and evenings – but it will be shown on a sign if this is the case.
If you’re going to the left in a junction, then you’re driving straight and stop on the opposite side of the road, where you’ll wait until the traffic light is green. Does it take long time? Yes. Is it safer? Yes. Is it illegal? No.
Other than that, you have to make sure that your bicycle is illegal. An illegal bicycle has to have a bell, reflexes, lights and functional brakes on both wheels – either one foot, - and a handbrake, or two handbrakes.
Just like it’s not allowed to use your phone or be drunk when you’re driving a car, then it’s not allowed either when cycling on a bicycle. It is neither allowed to talk or send text messages while driving. Both being drunk and using the phone while you are on your bicycle, you can get a fine for.
And even if there is a lot a people cycling over the pedestrian crossing, this isn’t allowed too. Get of the bike and pull.
Also be aware that, even though cars have to held back for you when they’re turning right and you are going straight, there can be blind spots, especially at trucks, which means that they can’t see you. So even though you have the right to drive, then always pay attention if they have seen you and hold back for you.
It can end up in a terrible accident, if you’re stubbornly hold on to your right to cycle straight without having checked that the drive in the car has seen you.
It isn’t mandatory to use a helmet when you’re cycling, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a very good idea anyways. Should it end up in an accident, you can get really hurt as you as a cyclist are more exposed than the driver in the car, because there’s nothing to protect you. The helmet doesn’t have to be expensive – it is after all, better to have hat-hair than a skull fracture.
It isn’t mandatory either to have a lock on your bicycle, but none the less, it is really stupid not to lock you bike. Bicycle theft is a normal thing in Denmark, and it is just annoying to find out that your bike has been stolen, when you’re about the go home from work. If you want your bike covered by the insurance, you need to have your bike locked, and in most coincidences, it has to be with an approved lock (and yes, there is a different).
Keep to the right
As so many other places e.g. on the road, in the metro etc. it is good behaviour to keep right on the bicycle path, so other cyclists can overtake. If you want to overtake yourself, remember to look back over the shoulder, so you don’t crash into someone there is about to overtake you. The same applies even if you’re cycling with your friends. Don’t drive right next to each other – even if it’s really nice to talk while you’re cycling, then it irritates a lot of other cyclists on the bicycle path, who can’t get past you.
Denmark is known for having a lot of bicycle paths (actually we have more than 10.000 km bicycle path in Denmark), so if there is a bicycle path near you, then use it! Some bicycle paths are better than others, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have to use them. If you cycle on the road in front of the bicycle path, you not just annoying the drivers, but you’re also putting yourself in danger, because the drivers don’t count on cyclists to be on the road. Use the bicycle path!
Signals with the hand. Keep the left hand flat over your left shoulder when you need to stop, so those behind you can see that you’re about to stop, and they can either drive around or stop too. The hand is the same for cyclists, as the red light is for drivers. Besides that, you also have to put your arm straight out to the side when you are turning left/right. It is nice for both other cyclist and drivers to know which side you’re turning to. But remember to stop fully, when you’re going to the left, you can’t just cross the road and count on the drivers to stop the traffic for you. The car has in the vast majority of cases, the right of way. It is always you who have to held back if you’re going to cross the road – unless it’s a junction of course, then you have to follow the lights.
It can’t be said enough times – besides that it is illegal to cycle without lights when it is dark, it can also be really dangerous. Even if you’re cycling a place with streetlamps and you can see perfectly, then it can be really though for the drivers to see you. The same applies in rain where it doesn’t have to be dark yet, but you can still be hard to see. Remember that there is a big different between lamps for a bicycle. If it both rains and are dark, it can still be very hard for a car to see you, if you just have a tiny lamp on your bike. Therefore: by a proper lamp, that gives you a sharp and clear light.
Remember also, that if you get hit by a car, it will be worse for you physically. So always check if the light on your bicycle works, and if they don’t, pull the bike... Besides light the reflexes can also be a really good idea.
Stop over for the passengers at the bus stop
If you’re cycling a lot in bigger cities, you’ll probably also pass the bus stops. Here are two rules. If there is a sidewalk between the bicycle path and where the passengers are going out, then you have the right of way and they’ll have to stop for you. If the passengers are stepping right out on the bicycle path, then it is you on the other hand that have to stop for the passengers.