I recently spent four fabulous days in Copenhagen – sans enfant. Needless to say, it was BLISS! (but more on that in another post)
Despite having a much-needed break from the whole mummy thing, I couldn’t help but make several kid-related observations. Four days in the nation’s capital clearly don’t make me an expert in all things Danish, but here’s what stood out to me in the (mostly) ingenious way Copenhageners transport their offspring:
Rear-facing Car Seats
I already knew about these contraptions because I spent a lot of time and money tracking one down for Lilly. There is a lot of research to suggest that it is up to 5 times safer for children to be in rear-facing car seats until they are 4-5 years old. The fact that rear-facing seats are safer is still relatively little-known in the UK, whereas in Scandinavia most children continue traveling ‘backwards’ once they’ve outgrown their infant carriers.
One of the supposed reasons for the lack of popularity of these seats here is that they take up more space in your car than the forward facing alternative. I witnessed this first-hand when I was told that my chosen seat would not fit into my reasonable-sized car (it did when properly installed!), however, to my amazement Danes seemed to squeeze two or more of these seats into the back of compact cars without effort.
Not unlike Amsterdam, bikes in Copenhagen are EVERYWHERE! Unlike Amsterdam, where I went mostly on business trips and was therefore taking my life into my own hands, my trusted friend Rachael spent the first 24 hours or so pulling me out of the way of unsuspecting two-wheelers. After that, the fact that when you step off the pavement, you are likely to step onto a bicycle lane slowly began to sink in.
I have a keen interest in transporting Lilly on a bicycle. I am, however, not in the least keen on having her on my bike in a proper kiddie seat. Too much pressure to keep my balance while keeping up with London traffic. Earlier this year, I went to great length to plot taking my friend’s tried and trusted bicycle trailer back home on a plane from Frankfurt. After carefully calculating dimensions, packaging and getting it back on Lilly’s luggage allowance, however, I had to admit defeat in the face of its undeniable bulk. I have been planning a replacement ever since, only temporarily delayed by Rob’s insistence that we wait until spring before adding a new acquisition to our already space-challenged flat.
But forget all that, because I have now discovered the true answer to transporting toddlers:
The Christiana Bike!
Basically a cargo three-wheeler, with the kiddie-trailer not only built in, but in the front! Much more appealing not only for keeping an eye on your little one and being able to engage in conversation, but most importantly for adding a four-legged friend to the mix!
Of course this trike stands no chance of ever fitting into our tiny back yard, but that, to quote the aspiring little drummer boy from the movie Love Actually, is ‘a tiny, insignificant detail’.
Whilst rear-facing car seats and cargo bikes rank highly on my list of kid-friendly discoveries, I have to admit I did not at all get the Danish obsession with big prams.
And I mean BIG. Not a slim-line travel system in sight. Compared to what you see pushed around London, it was a case of David and Goliath, Mini vs. 4×4. We are talking big, bulky, and fitted with enormous wheels. We didn’t take any buses, but these Chelsea tractors apparently posed no problem on Metro or trains. I did notice that most stations seemed to have lifts from street level down to the platform. They better, ‘cause there’s NO chance of asking an unsuspecting stranger to help you down the stairs with one of these hulks!
Clearly Bugaboo and iCandy have no market share on Copenhagen’s streets.
And seemingly these plus-sized prams aren’t just for babes. No, even toddlers were happily pushed around, sitting up against a little backrest. No wonder they are so large then, considering the requirement for extra legroom. How they fit into the back of the average Copenhagen compact car though remains a mystery, especially with all that space already taken up by the car seats.
I definitely can’t see this trend catching on with the image-conscious London mummies.
Those bikes on the other hand – they have real potential!
A comment spotted about the Danish love affair with bicycles went as far as to suggest that there are
…girls who consciously match their outfit to the style and colour of their bike. When buying a pair of shoes they’ll briefly pop out of the store to check if they complement the look of the bike.
I can see that happening in Primrose Hill.
But never mind the shoes, I’m gonna check what it will take to enlarge the width of my back gate…
Images: www.carseat.se/swedish-car-seats, the-mom-blog.com danishlife.wordpress.com, realcycling.blogspot.com