The Copenhagen Syndrome.

You have probably heard of the Stockholm Syndrome. The Copenhagen Syndrome is only different in that it is for people to learn to love bicycles–instead of the people keeping them captive. The Copenhagen Syndrome is prevalent in Toronto these days because nobody seems to understand the difference in climate and topography between the two cities.

Toronto is a winter city. I will never forget the winter of 1944 when we got more than a metre of snow in one dump and it took us two months to clear all our streets. You certainly could not have gone far with a bicycle back then. Yet, people insist that Torontonians should ride bicycles just like those in the Danish capital.

Copenhagen is a fun city. If you have never been there, I can assure you Copenhagen is beautiful city with a climate tempered by being by the straits connecting the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. It has a very busy year-round harbour. Many people ride bicycles around the city of over half a million because it is a mainly flat island with few hills to challenge the cyclists.

Yes, Copenhagen gets some snow each winter but nothing that stays very long. There is nowhere near as much snow and ice as Toronto. Rainfall is another matter but Danes seem very stoic about getting wet. I always enjoyed my visits to the city, yet never had time to ride a bicycle while there.

But Toronto has more obstacles to pleasant biking than just rotten weather. From the level of Lake Ontario to the highest point of land in Toronto is the equivalent of trying to ride a bicycle to the top of a 40-storey building. No matter how many ramps you used, that is a tough trip. (By the way, the highest point in the city is at York University on Keele Street. It is all downhill from there.)

But in a city four times the size of Copenhagen, with all Toronto’s hills and valleys, it is mainly children who ride bicycles on their neighbourhood streets. We never did develop a culture of bicycles, cars and trucks sharing the main roads.

And Torontonians are not doing well at it today. If you want to protect cyclists from getting ‘doored’ or run over, you need to get them off the busy downtown streets. We get all types of lost tourists driving in that area and they have no understanding why cyclists have any rights to the roads.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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