4 March 2008
I've made the acquaintence of many like-minded individuals through this blog and now I'm met one close to home. I was contacted by Marie, a fellow Copenhagener, and we met to discuss our passion for Copenhagen bike culture.
She wrote her thesis from the University of Copenhagen last year called "The Modest Democracy of Daily Life - An analysis of the bicycle as a symbol of Danishness".
For those who understand Danish, there is an interview with her on Danish Broadcasting's website. Click on the name Marie Kåstrup to hear it.
The thesis makes for fascinating reading. The short of the long is that we are now collaborating on a book about Danish bike culture and it's all very exciting. Not to mention odd that it hasn't been done before. Working title: 'Cykelkultur' - I don't need to translate that, do I? :-)
But despite the lack of books on the subject, she confirmed what I had long suspected: that Denmark has more songs, literature and poems dedicated to the bicycle than any other country. Not even our happy, singing, poetic Dutch friends to the south can compete.
And indeed, the concept of "cykelpigen" - or "the cycling girl" was well established from early on and it remains an iconic symbol of Danishness even today [this blog, for example]. "A unique front figure for the democratic bike culture", as Marie writes in her thesis. "She is, all at once, a modest, charming and everyday representation of Danishness."
Poets and writers and songwriters have sung the praises of the Copenhagen cycling and cyclists for over 120 years.
In his famous documentary from 1935 simply called 'Danmark', Poul Henningsen filmed cycles in the city, including these 'young cycle ladies' and wrote the final song in the film - "Cykelsang" wherein he mentions 'Sweet shoes on pedals [...] Cycle girls... lovely girls!'. Here's a still from the film of a cyclist in a summer dress pedalling through the landscape:
And here is a hastily made Short visual history of Danish cycling:
More to follow, along with the usual content... don't worry.