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Velo-city Global 2010 Bike ParadeThe band played from bike rickshaws! One band member said it was tricky to keep time with the group so spread out, but they succeeded. The beat was infectious, and the reception, ecstatic.
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Velo-city Global 2010 Line of People in Bike ParadeThe procession wound through a greenway created when Copenhagen was able to buy an abandoned single-track rail line. I was told the entire track runs 15 km.
By Dianna Waggoner
Photos by Michael Alexander
Well, it's not every night that you get a chance to ride through the streets of Copenhagen - with 1,500 of your newest friends accompanied by a 12-piece brass band pulled along in rickshaws. For 90 minutes last Thursday evening Velo-city Global 2010 let the locals know that we were in town. In fact, the locals were alongside us - the city's head of transportation, three bike clubs in their colorful jerseys and Joachim Parbo, the Danish national cyclo cross champion. A Middle Eastern singer in a swirling blue skirt and a sax player brought up the rear. In between were a trio of small girls on unicycles, a three-wheeled ladybug sculpture with her own sound system, a fleet of sleek enclosed recumbents and most of the conference parataicipants.
A clever young woman made good business from her rolling ice cream truck. Copenhagen's latest phenomena, the cargo bike, was well represented and came in handy when the only accident of the day occurred. The damaged bike was loaded into one cargo bike and its rider rode further up the line in another.
Most of the time I followed either the snare drummer who kept a steady rhythm despite the occasional cobblestone street and the fact that his fellow musicians were half a block away, and an eleven-year-old girl in full-on Lycra riding a road bike with skill that most professionals would envy. The tinkle of our bells echoed in the narrow streets.
Who could resist smiling? Not the occasional car driver who sat patiently - a few drivers even climbed out to clap along with the band. Commuting cyclists happily, if somewhat befuddled, folded themselves into our freeform mass, and pedestrians cheered. "It's all good," I heard one comment as we rolled past. Entire families leaned out windows to applaud and wave Danish flags. It only added to the hysteria that Denmark played Japan in the World Cup soccer games that night, too.
I chatted with a woman from England who's spent the last four years documenting the number of people who ride in London's center, and admired a shaven headed young man from Copenhagen who loves to dance on his bike, his feet lightly balanced on the pedals. Another local entertained me with stories of his three Serota road bikes, one commuter bike and one cargo bike. Like most of us, he's pressed for space and stores his favorite road bike in the bedroom.
I discovered that a sharply inflected "hey!" is an effective universal warning for "I'm here! Don't ride over me."
We made our way very slowly through the business district, past small shops, restaurants and banks, and then one by one the rickshaws squeezed through the small stone arch into a totally green, cool park. There was a moment of drama when the tuba player's driver scraped the side of an entrance.
The instant we began to ride along a gravel path between two rows of guardian poplar trees everyone fell silent. All the chatting stopped and our bells were quiet, only the sound of the birds and shuuuush of our wheels. We passed a small cemetery, a network of paths edged with flowering bushes, a cluster of moms with strollers and late afternoon picnickers. On the other side the band picked up again, the Middle Eastern singer began to dance and we plinked our bells in time to the music. Over bridges, alongside a canal, past brick warehouses, the Tivoli Gardens, the train station and finally back to the plaza in front of the conference center where sausages and beer, and yet another band waited for us.
As I climbed off my bike I heard a rider say, "I'm getting spoiled." Aren't we all?