The average high in December in Toronto is two degrees. Burr.
The average high in December in Copenhagen is four degrees. Burr!
Both cities' climates warrant wearing fur and fleece. Somehow, however, Copenhagen is considered the world's cycling Mecca. Toronto is not. Thirty per cent of Danes commute by bike to work every day.
I've cycled through CPH in the summer, where temps hover at around 20 degrees and the sky is one low hung grey cloud, but I've never biked there in the winter.
Curious about whether Danes keep up with their biking while fighting off the cold, I talked to my friend Mette Borst Nissen. She's a Danish 21-year-old who lives in Nørrebro, the artsy, ethnic, student-filled district of CPH.
"Life in Denmark is pretty cold with rain and snow, and yes I bike a lot (we even do it all winter as well, which is fucking crazy, 'cause it is freezing cold!)"
Though Denmark is touted as the quintessential cycling spot, even die-hard Danes find biking in cold Scandinavian winters painful. They may have the chic biking aesthetic down, it's even immortalized in a calendar, they can't however, shield themselves from the cold.
Though CPH gets more precipitation than Toronto, the temperature on average is a tad warmer, so the wet streets are less likely to freeze into black ice. So Toronto bikers need not feel guilty for giving into the TTC on days when it's just too cold, or icy, to bike in our city.
Nissen, who has been biking around her city since her childhood says, "Well, I don't have cold weather tips really, expect dress warm and remember your ipod! And be very careful, because the streets/bike lanes can be so slippery."
What everyone loves about cycling in CPH are the separate bike lanes (some as wide as car lanes) that are complete with their own traffic lights. Also, Denmark's high taxes means fewer people can afford cars, so young people especially take to getting around on bies. A used one can cost around $60 CND. Check out Mette's cruiser.
Mette finds that alchol keeps her warm as well.
"Well there are always all the drunk bike stories, where you fall or you walk around for hours after a night out, because you simply can't remember where you put it," she laughs.
"Or when you bike the wrong way, so you end up almost close to the airport, which is just so far away from the city centre. Drinking and biking, a great idea! And no one will get arrested for it."
Though I have to question whether it's a "great" idea, transit in Scandinavian counties is expensive (about $4.50 CAD for one trip), so biking home after a night of partying is the best option, albeit a quick and dirty one.
Meanwhile, Denmark, and the Netherlands have some of the best cycle safety records, probably because of safety in numbers and because drivers are used to sharing the road with bikes.
So, if the Danes can pedal through the winter, Torontonians can do it too, at least on milder days to avoid black ice. Just spare your bike on the days when you'd get around faster by snowshoe.