Has Copenhagen Found the Formula for a Safe City?

18/07/2013 14:46 BST | Updated 17/09/2013 10:12 BST
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A large clatter rang out behind me and, being in a small side street set back from any resemblance of a main road, I automatically spun round to see the commotion. I don't know what I imagined I would see, but it was certainly nothing close to what followed. A bike had fallen across the pavement, sprawling out, untethered, amongst a pile of other bikes that were not chained, locked, or attached to a solid foundation. They all lay on top of each other, inviting passersby to relieve them from the confusion and cycle off into the distance.

I think I was expecting a flurry of thieves to come scurrying over, trawling through the tangle of wheels, handlebars, and chains to find a suitable steed, shrugging and retaliating with the old "well, if they insist on not tying them up..." But no such thing happened.

Instead, a man who had just passed by me leant down when he came to the blockage, carefully extracting each bike from the next. Moments later, a younger man arrived from the other direction and he, too, began clearing up the obstruction. After all the bikes were rested against various walls and lampposts once again, the two men simply nodded at each other and carried on walking in opposite directions.

This was not the only incident of this kind during my short stay in Copenhagen, a city that is ruled by the bicycle. In fact, after this encounter, I began peering more closely at the bikes resting outside shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, diligently waiting for their owners to return. From this, I discovered that very few bikes were actually chained up in any kind of fashion. Most of them just perched against lampposts or walls, glisteningly tempting to the immorally inclined. It seems that the people of Copenhagen - well, the ones who cycle - are very trusting. Maybe it's because almost everyone owns a bike so there is no need to steal another. But there was more to it.

There was something about Denmark's capital that made me feel completely safe, almost like I was cocooned in a bubble of friendliness, sparkles, and hugs. Obviously, bad things happen as they do all over the world but, for the time I was there, I felt like nothing could harm or hurt me. It's not just the gut instinct of me, one single tourist though, because Copenhagen was named the world's second safest major city in the world in a 2010 report. In the world. That's a big accolade, but I'm not surprised. Everyone keeps themselves to themselves, inherently trusting that everyone else will do the same but, when needs be, they are more than willing to lend a helping hand, like the incident above shows.

Despite it being such a busy capital city there have been very few reports of incidents from visitors. Pick pocketing around the central station seems to be the main crime committed but, like anywhere in the world - safe or unsafe - people should always take extra precautions around major transport centres. Likewise, the Christiania neighbourhood is home to its own rules and regulations for visitors which are printed in plain sight on a billboard near the entrance. Stick to these, and you'll have no trouble with the eclectic bunch of residents. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy wandering the safe streets of Copenhagen, without feeling like you have to keep your head down and your bag pressed against you when darkness falls.

Does this mean Copenhagen has got it just right then? By working together, helping each other out, and trusting those around them, the citizens of Denmark's capital may have discovered the formula for an enviously safe city.