The story of a Copenhagen icon

A bit of history from the Scandinavian Airlines magazine:

Few things are as synonymous with Copenhagen as The Christiania Bike. An indispensable means of transport for rich and poor alike, which every day conveys thousands of families, party supplies, and van-loads of furniture around the Danish capital. As an alternative to the car, it has helped to create the cycling culture that is ingrained in the city today, and has provided the inspiration for the many different cargo bikes you see all over Denmark.

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Photo: Thomas Rovsing

It all started more than 30 years ago when Christiania’s blacksmith, Lars Engstrøm, secretly made a cargo bike as a birthday present for his girlfriend Annie. It had only been intended – and built – as a practical aid for her, but Annie had hardly unwrapped her gift before the first Christiania neighbor had ordered one too. And so the production of the Christiania bike began.

The practical cargo bike also drew the attention of those outside Freetown and increasing demand prompted the relocation of production to larger premises on Bornholm in 1990. Since then the bike has become popular all over and is currently exported to more than 20 countries. And it’s still Lars and Annie behind it all.

The design has been improved and more models have been added to the range since Annie’s bike first saw the light of day in 1984, but the basic design remains largely unchanged. The bikes are still handmade and incredibly durable, and many of the bikes that rolled out of the smithy in 1984 are still going to this day.

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Photo: Ty Stange

 

The reason is that the Christiania bicycle is not just made from any old materials. The box is made from 9mm plywood, impregnated with water-resistant varnish of the kind used on boats, so it can withstand the Danish weather. The steel used for the frame is stronger than stainless steel and the bike can handle a 100kg load plus rider. The wheels have reinforced aluminum rims and reinforced bearings, as well as puncture-resistant Kevlar tires made from the same material used to make bulletproof vests.

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Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen

There are Christiania bicycles for transporting wheelchair users, bike taxis, event bikes, bicycles for tradespeople and post bikes, and its robust design, fantastic concept, and contribution to green and innovative transport has earned Christiania Bikes the Danish Design Award’s Classic Prize.

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