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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Phikamphon is a man who loves cycling and who lives, works and travels by bicycle in Copenhagen

Phikamphon is a man who loves cycling and who lives, works and travels by bicycle in Copenhagen
By:  Michael Lander

Like so many who live in Copenhagen, Phikamphon loves cycling
and he has been riding as far back as he can remember.  He
especially loves spending time with his wife, Angkhana, and
their two daughters and riding together as a family.

Mads Phikamphon is one of five people behind
Icebike.org and he is from Denmark’s capital city of Copenhagen. 

The city in which he has spent his entire life is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world where bicycles are said to outnumber those who live there and where at least
40 percent of the population commutes on a bicycle.

“Copenhagen is the ultimate bicycle-friendly city and almost everybody cycles here and a bike is often the easiest and fastest way to get around.  Commuting by bike is seen as a natural thing to do here.  It’s only if you live far outside the city that it might make sense to take a car, but even then there are still quite a few people who will bike 30 to 40 km or more,” Phikamphon said.

And a person’s age doesn’t matter all that much for those who chose to ride, according to Phikamphon.

“It’s not only young people who ride or commute by bike.  Everybody does it and it doesn’t seem to matter if someone is 20, 40, 60 or more years-old.  I have seen many people who continue biking even though they are 70 to 80 years-old,” Phikamphon said.

Copenhagen is a city that is renowned for its cycling and, for Phikamphon, that is because people of all ages embrace it, they see the value and the benefits of it, and they elect those who fully support and endorse it.

“It’s very important that there is political support for bikes and biking.  Most politicians here support bikes and 63 percent of the members of the parliament actually bike to work, themselves,” Phikamphon said.

Phikamphon's wife, Angkhana, and their two daughters are
in a Christiania bike that he painted for fun with teeth so
that it would resemble a shark.

Unlike many cities that abandoned the role that bicycles could play as a means of transportation,
Copenhagen, historically, continued to support and encourage cycling and the bike culture flourished, but there was a time when Phikamphon saw a possibility that everything could have unraveled and he believes that some of it still could.

“Things were about to go wrong in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, but the oil crisis luckily made sure that biking came back strong here in Denmark.  But, we still have problems and right now there is a big discussion going on about whether we should build a big car tunnel into and around Copenhagen, a car tunnel that will cost at least ten times as much as all the
super bike lanes that are planned here in the future,” Phikamphon said.

It is for this reason that Phikamphon supports any ongoing efforts to get people out of their cars and on bikes for what is known, in Copenhagen, as “Copenhagenisation.”

As much as bicycling currently dominates the cultural landscape of Copenhagen, Phikamphon is less certain of other cities, like those in the U.S., of quickly and fully adopting the same mindset that is as conducive to cycling as can be found in Copenhagen.

“I think the U.S. has two problems in relation to cycling.  First of all, cycling is seen as somewhat strange and dangerous and, secondly, there isn’t a lot of political support for cycling, but that doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless.  Portland, Oregon has shown that changes can be made and that people will start cycling if the infrastructure is there for them,” Phikamphon said.

“The big question is whether people in the U.S. will actually elect the right politicians and thereby get political support for cycling.  It might happen at one point, but I think it will take many, many years before the U.S. becomes more like Denmark,” he said.

Until recently, Phikamphon's daughters often traveled
in the Christiania bike with a matching cargo carrier.

For Phikamphon and his fellow Copenhageners, automobiles take a definitive backseat to the bicycle.

“For most people, it’s not necessary to have a car even though some people have one without really needing it.  It has never crossed my mind to buy a car and I haven’t even got a driver’s license,” Phikamphon said.

There are many in Copenhagen like Phikamphon.  With a strong cycling infrastructure that includes over 400 km of dedicated bike lanes and traffic signal systems that are set up exclusively for cyclists, it is little wonder that people find cycling a reasonable and appealing option to get around.

“I love cycling because it is fun to ride a bike.  It’s not fun to commute by car and it’s also not that exciting to sit in a train or a bus either,” Phikamphon said.

Phikamphon’s involvement with the Icebike.org website was a natural progression for a man whose life has revolved around the bicycle.

“I ran a popular Danish cycling site (
cykelvalg.dk) that started to get attention from people outside of Denmark so I started looking into a good way to start an international cycling site.  I got in touch with John Andersen, who ran Icebike.org and he allowed me to restructure and continue the site,” Phikamphon said.

“Originally, Icebike.org focused only on biking on ice and snow, but I plan to cover all kinds of cycling on the site.  My mission, after all, is to promote all kinds of cycling and make more people stop driving and let go of their cars,” he added.

Currently, Phikamphon says that the site is mostly a blog, but that he and the rest of the staff are planning to add a lot more for people in the next month or so.

“I expect Icebike.org to grow like my Danish site did and become a useful resource for all kinds of cyclists because of both the blog and the things we are developing,” Phikamphon said.

Like any proud parents, the Phikamphons were elated as
each of their daughters was able to ride a bicycle without
support (training) wheels.

Phikamphon doesn’t just talk about cycling, and help manage a bicycling website, but he practices what he preaches.

“I bike almost every day.  I’m an IT consultant and many days I work from home, but when I go to my clients, I almost always bike,” Phikamphon said.

Phikamphon also enjoys every opportunity that he can find to ride with his family.

“When my wife, Angkhana, and I had children, we started out by transporting them on the back of our bikes.  Later, we brought a cargo bike and now they mostly bike on their own.  Last week, we went camping and I’m proud that our six and nine year-old daughters woke up and biked the 12 km home on their own bikes,” Phikamphon said.

As much as he loves a bicycle, Phikamphon is very open and receptive to various technological incarnations and modifications to the traditional bicycle.

“I have thought about buying an
electric bike for biking to my clients that are far away, but so far I have taken the train or a bus, when necessary, which I rarely do.  I have also tried a velomobile.  It’s a fantastic kind of bike for biking outside the cities, but it is a bit too big for getting around in inner Copenhagen where we live,” Phikamphon said.

Phikamphon has had a lifetime experience and love of cycling and he is not unlike most who live, work and travel in a city that is rightfully known as the capital of cycling in the world.

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