Around 5000 kids in Copenhagen have tested and approved the Danish Cyclists’ Federation’s bicycle playground. Now it is going out to play in the rest of the country.
By Nicolaj Willemoes, Danish Cyclists’ Federation
When Danish children learn to cycle, mom or dad is usually walking behind them steadying the wobbling bike with a broomstick attached to the rack. And although they have chosen a quiet street for the trip, it almost always ends with the child having a couple of scrapes – and becoming that much wiser – and that’s the way it should be.
The kids were all smiles during the opening of the bicycle playground in Copenhagen, September 2011.
Novice at full speed
But becoming a secure cyclist takes practice. So, in cooperation with the Nordea-foundation and architects Sigurd Elling and Petter Brandberg from the company WoodCouture, the Danish Cyclists’ Federation has developed the first mobile bicycle playground. Here, the more and less experienced bike kids can play themselves into secure cyclists.
The bicycle playground was opened during the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen in September 2011. “We had a boy, Valdemar, who came by on the first day and was very insecure about everything and had to summon up his courage. But after a while he was wheeling around the playground and taking the challenges at full speed. I think he came down here every day,” says Mai-Britt Kristensen, Project Manager at the Danish Cyclists’ Federation.
Safety comes all by itself
The challenges have been designed specifically for small cyclists and vary in level of difficulty. The children have an opportunity to practice coordination, timing, and balance – and speed, usually when the parents are not looking.
According to Trine Juncher Jørgensen, Head of Projects and Customer Relations at the Danish Cyclists’ Federation, the many bumps, seesaws, and mounds provide a safe arena for the children to learn the basics of cycling. “The children get a sense of freedom on the bicycle that they don’t get to experience many other places. And they think it is so much fun! The less we adults are there to interfere, the more they play, and the more they develop their games in completely unexpected directions.”
Bicycle culture kids’ style
Having recovered from the heavy bicycle play experiences during the UCI Road World Championships, the bicycle playground moved on to Østre Gasværk Theatre where the theatre version of “Cykelmyggen Egon” (The Bicycle Mosquito Egon) attracted full houses and full bicycle playgrounds. Here, the bicycle playground left clear marks – in the grass and with children and adults. According to Theatre Manager, Pia Jette Hansen, the bicycle playground activated thousands of kids during its two-month stay at the theatre. “Cycling, health, nature interpretation, and theatre cycled hand in hand in a fun, new way – to the benefit of all. It was a bit of a dream that was realized,” she says.
The bicycle playground is mobile and can be rented by municipalities and organizations all over Denmark. At present, the bicycle playground is hibernating in a 20-foot container, awaiting the next round of bicycle games.
The bicycle playground left clear marks at Østre Gasværk Theatre – especially in the grass.