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Getting to Copenhagen

Is Denmark the world's perfect country? I spent a week there in March so I'm clearly an expert on the place. And the answer, increasingly, is yes. I mean, check this out: They are building bicycle superhighways -- wide, smoothly paved bikepaths to serve as commuter arteries for cyclists coming into Copenhagen from up to 14 miles outside the city. The first opened in April, with another 26 planned. 

Why are Danes such keen cyclists? One observer says it's purely about the convenience:

In Denmark, thanks to measures like the superhighway, commuters choose bicycles because they are the fastest and most convenient transportation option. “It’s not because the Danes are more environmentally friendly,” said Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities, a Canadian organization that works to make cities healthier. “It’s not because they eat something different at breakfast.”

But there has to be more to it than this. There is something in the water in a place like Copenhagen -- a combination of high levels of social trust, powerful network effects, and smart planning. But something like this can't be reduced to cost-benefit analysis:

Superhighway users can also look forward to some variation on the “karma campaign,” now under way in Copenhagen, in which city employees take to the streets with boxes of chocolate to reward cyclists who adhere to the five rules of cycling: be nice, signal, stay to the right, overtake carefully and, rather than let bicycle bells irritate you, do your best to appreciate them.