This week, Danish kindergarten kids return from holiday, and many arrive on a two-wheeler. The reason for the advanced cycling skills of Danish children is that from as early as two years old, they are instructed in mastering balance and pedalling on tricycles and ‘running bikes’.
At 3 years old, most children begin the difficult transition to a real bicycle having to control balance, pedals and steering all at the same time. Statistics from the Danish Cyclists’ Federation show, that if the parents use a bicycle in their daily lives, the children learn faster, and are more motivated to get on their bikes. Herein lies the key to the continuous development a strong bicycling culture. Bicycling habits from childhood tend to stick although adulthood.
Children are usually taught bicycling technique at home using methods inherited through generations. Using a broomstick to support the bike from behind or running next to the child ready to catch in case of a crash are the most popular strategies. And the moment when the bicycle is finally under control, most children remember as one of their first great victories.
Due to heavy traffic in bigger cities, parents often choose to transport their children in specially designed cargo bicycles carrying several children at a time, without the use of fossil fuel. Healthy family oriented transport is a status symbol and even Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark is known to grab the cargo bike when he picks up his children from day care.
When Danes go abroad they export their cycling habits to their new surroundings. In Beijing, Environment and Energy Counsellor at the Danish Embassy, Henrik Martens, often takes his children with him on his cargo bike. He is happy to keep up the healthy lifestyle and loves experiencing Beijing through his children’s eyes.
“It’s so great moving at a calm pace and being able to see what my children see. They notice all kinds of things, and I love sharing their spontaneous excitement. It’s very refreshing and I get to spend quality them with them while travelling from A to B,” says Mr. Martens.
At the Danish Pavilion at EXPO 2010 as well as at the Danish City Pavilion of HC Andersen’s hometown Odense the visitors have a chance to experience Danish bicycling culture and ride bikes with the Danes.