To see the future of America’s new green-energy
economy, all one has to do is catch a flight to Denmark
As we begin construction of a new green- to join the masses of bicycle commuters.
energy economy, it’s easy to look back with You don’t even need to bring your own
regret at America’s first energy crisis in the bike. Outside most subway stations are
1970s. What would life be like today had racks of basic single-speed bikes available
we not chosen to mortgage our future in for nothing more than a 20-kroner deposit
exchange for cheap gas and easy credit? (about $4). Pop a coin into the slot on the
What if Ronald Reagan hadn’t torn the solar handlebar to release your bike, pedal off
panels off the White House roof? What if, to see the sights, and return the bike to
instead of digging and drilling for every last any rack in the city to reclaim your deposit.
scrap of fossil fuel, the nation had instead Dedicated bike lanes throughout the city
invested earnestly in energy independence provide such an enticing ride that about
and sustainable living? And what if, in place 36 percent of Copenhagen’s residents
of McMansions and SUVs, our cities had commute by bicycle, and a state-of-the-art
been outfitted with hyperefficient district subway and commuter-rail system awaits
heating plants and carefully tended bike everyone else. Spend a week here and you’ll
lanes and pedestrian-only streets? Where never once need to see the inside of a motor
would such thinking have led? vehicle, and by the end of your stay, you’ll
The answers to these questions can be wonder why every city doesn’t do this.
found by visiting the capital of Denmark. I find my two-wheeler outside the Central
Recently named the world’s most livable Station and follow a wide bike lane painted
city by Europe’s ultrahip journal Monocle, on the nearest thoroughfare. It is a smooth
Copenhagen didn’t have bottomless fossil- ride, and Copenhagen is flat enough that
fuel reserves to rely on as the first energy I don’t miss the absence of gears. Before I
crisis wound down. Instead, Copenhagen know it, I’ve crossed right through the
became the model for the “reconquest” of heart of the broad square in front of the city
the urban landscape by taking the city back
from the automobile and the unsustainable
SOLE POWER The Strøget, Europe’s longest
social order it birthed.
pedestrian zone, has been car free since 1962.
Here you’ll find hypermodern design
shops such as Hay and Normann tucked
in along old cobblestone streets, while the
sleek, black, cantilevered roof of Henning
Larsen’s space-age Opera House gestures
like an outsized arm across one of the city’s
many canals. Across the water, you’ll find
the timeless pastel-colored facades of a
row of harbor-front warehouses, which
themselves house stylish cafés. And all
of it is laced together by the world’s most
extensive pedestrian-only street network, a
multipronged promenade that teems with
vibrant urban life at all hours of the day.
An extensive network of canals encircles
downtown Copenhagen, and locals and
tourists alike crowd onto sightseeing boats
to survey the city’s architectural wonders.
One of the best ways to experience the
city’s pioneering urban design, though, is