In Denmark’s environmentally minded capital, the bicycle is king. A system of free rentals and dedicated lanes has more than a third of Copenhagen’s residents commuting daily on two wheels—all part of the city’s goal to reduce carbon emissions and become the world’s eco-capital by 2015. New York City’s Department of Transportation recently tapped Jan Gehl—the Danish architect who paved Copenhagen’s bike-centric way (and has advised London, Melbourne, and Dubai on how to “copenhagenize”)—to help with its own 1,800-mile master plan, set for completion in 2030. This fall, we took in the scene at Højbro Plads, a 19th-century marketplace turned cosmopolitan crossroads at the center of Strøget, which became the city’s first car-free zone in 1962. Lycra-clad, muscle-bound cyclists they are not—these are ordinary (if extraordinarily beautiful) people riding in suits, skirts, even high heels; some on trendy three-wheelers with baby pods, others steering classic upright Pedersen domestic models with polished wooden fenders and sprung-leather seats. We asked some of them to stop and tell us where they were going, what not to miss, and what it is that makes their city so appealing.
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