Royal Family Broke Tradition on Bicycles and Changed the Future

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    At the turn of the 20th century, Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, found itself at the heart of a cultural shift that would weave its way through the city’s cultural and architectural identity.

    This shift didn’t come from the usual sports or entertainment celebrities but rather from Denmark’s own royal family.

    Thanks to royal backing, cycling, once a modest means of getting around, was transformed into a symbol of elegance and accessibility.

    Cycling Royal Influencers

    The Danish royals started embracing bicycles back when the world was just stepping into modern times.

    It was none other than figures like King Christian X and later Crown Prince Frederik IX who spotlighted cycling.

    Opting for bicycles over their lavish carriages and cars, they rode right alongside their people.

    This public display was unusual for the times as bicycles were generally seen as the transport of the common man.

    This surprising nod from the royals around the early 1900s turned the bicycle from a simple tool into a refined leisure activity.

    If cycling was good enough for the king, it was certainly good enough for the average citizen.

    Bicycle monarchy (or bicycling monarchy) is a British term for the more informal and modest personal styles of the royal families outside the UK. This term was influenced by royals like the late King Frederik and Queen Ingrid of Denmark, who took to their bicycles during WWII in solidarity with their subjects and as a show of defiance to the Nazi occupiers. – BBC

    The Democratization of Cycling

    The royals’ choice to ride bikes became a strong democratic symbol, showing that the pleasure of biking was universal, cutting across social classes.

    This encouraged Copenhagen’s residents to take up cycling too.

    Royal figures like Princess Thyra and Prince Knud, often seen enjoying a ride, helped cement cycling as a part of Danish life.

    Firstly, it highlighted the bicycle as an affordable and practical choice for everyone, regardless of social standing.

    Secondly, it encouraged the public to engage in a healthier, more active lifestyle, which was accessible to all.

    Cycling in Copenhagen soon became not just a way to get around but a part of the city’s cultural identity.

    A Lasting Impact

    The royal enthusiasm for cycling sparked significant changes in city planning.

    During King Christian X’s rule in the interwar period, there was a push to develop urban spaces that catered to cyclists.

    This effort only grew under Frederik IX post-war, with Copenhagen ramping up its commitment to a bike-friendly infrastructure.

    By the 1970s, with Queen Margrethe II at the helm, there was a resurgence in the city’s biking culture.

    This period saw the development of extensive bike paths and the pedestrianization of major streets like Strøget, drawing the city closer to its cycling roots and further from car traffic.

    Today, Copenhagen is often cited as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. It boasts an extensive network of bike lanes, traffic laws favoring cyclists, and widespread bicycle parking facilities.

    The city’s commitment to cycling is evident in its urban planning policies, which prioritize bicycles over cars in many areas.

    This has not only helped reduce traffic congestion and pollution but has also fostered a more community-oriented and sustainable urban environment.

    Crown Prince Frederik (IX) in front of Christiansborg Palace, 1939. Image credit: H.M. Kongens Håndbibliotek ©

    A Mix of Tradition and Forward-Thinking

    Now, Copenhagen’s identity is deeply tied to its cycling culture, a tradition that is as royal as it is progressive.

    The city streets, once trod by royal processions, now pulse with the rhythm of its vibrant biking scene.

    The royal endorsement of bicycles in the early 20th century continues to influence the city’s transport policies today.

    Copenhagen’s evolution into a cycling paradise underscores the role of the monarchy in molding its cultural and environmental landscape.

    From King Christian X to Queen Margrethe II, the royals showed that progress often comes on the back of tradition.

    This cycling legacy, fostered by the monarchs, stands as a powerful example of how a simple, sustainable activity can drive significant change.

    Cycling in Copenhagen is more than just a mode of transport; it is a cultural emblem that stands for equality, health, and environmental consciousness.

    Copenhagen’s transformation into a cycling city is a prime example of how influential figures can champion a simple, sustainable practice and effect significant cultural and environmental changes.

    The Danish royals of the early 20th century not only changed the way their subjects moved but also set a precedent for future generations, proving that sometimes, the most enduring revolutions start with a simple pedal push.

    For those interested in the detailed history of cycling in Copenhagen and its royal influence, resources like the Copenhagen City Museum or the Danish Royal Library offer extensive archives and exhibits on this transformative period in the city’s transportation history.

    ALSO READ: How the “Phantom Cyclist” Became WWI’s Most Intriguing Myth

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