No Smog, No Road Rage: In This City, Rush Hour Is a Dream

A time-lapse video reveals how biking has made getting to and from work and school a snap in Copenhagen.
(Image: Courtesy Vimeo)
Oct 30, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Smartphone apps, secret side-street shortcuts, and shifting a work schedule earlier or later—those are just some of the strategies people around the world use to avoid sitting in soul-sucking, smog-creating rush hour traffic. But as the time-lapse video below of a crowded intersection in Copenhagen, Denmark, reveals, an easier commute is possible—if more folks switch to two-wheeled transportation.

There are only a few cars, buses, and other vehicles visible in the clip. But what’s sure to ignite the envy of folks living in other traffic-clogged cities is the near-constant stream of bicycles moving through the intersection with ease.

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Less stressful? No doubt. But the shift toward cycling that’s taken place in Copenhagen is paying off in the air quality too. Copenhagen has the second-cleanest air out of 23 major cities in smog-choked Europe, according to Soot-Free Cities. (Zurich takes the top spot.)

The video “shows cyclists on their morning commute from the residential area of Nørrebro into the city center and is certainly one of the busiest intersections in Copenhagen, but this exodus is mirrored in other areas of the city,” Jim Slade, who captured the footage, told Fast Company. He made the video for Larry vs. Harry, a Danish company that manufactures cargo bikes, and filmed it from their shop windows.

Slade moved from the U.K. to Copenhagen in 2011, in part because of the city’s cycling culture. In June of this year, Copenhagen booted Amsterdam from the No. 1 spot in the annual Copenhagenize Index, which rates cities according to how bike-friendly they are. Copenhagen’s dedicated bicycle lanes and bridges enable 41 percent of residents to cycle during rush hour. Another 55 percent of residents ride their bicycles every day.

“You don’t have ‘cyclists,’ just people riding bikes because it’s the quickest, most effective method of transport,” Slade said.

If you don’t live in Copenhagen, don’t give up hope—a similarly chilled-out commute could be in your future. As vehicle-free events such as Ciclavia in Los Angeles and Paris’ recent Day Without Cars show, the tide toward ditching emissions-creating vehicles seems to be picking up plenty of steam.