How to Tell if You’re Suffering from Copenhagen Withdrawal-itis

Copenhagen is rightly renowned the world over for its people-centred streets, parks, and plazas. That’s why we took a group of 15 city leaders from San Jose, CA on a four-day immersive study group to Copenhagen funded by Knight Foundation. We met with the very best and brightest minds the city has to offer from various disciplines and backgrounds, all with the goal of exploring the commitment, policies and implementation practices needed to build a city that puts the needs of people first.

This was my third time in Copenhagen with 8 80 Cities and my fourth time overall. Since I returned home 36 hours ago, I’ve been feeling blue. I’m grouchy (more than usual), stressed and uncertain when moving around my city, and this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. As soon as I get home, I’m hit full in the face with a host of withdrawal symptoms. I’m jones-ing for more Copenhagen. I’m trying to re-adapt to a city that doesn’t treat me, as someone who takes transit, walks and rides a bike, with the same level of care and dignity as does Copenhagen.

At this point, you might be wondering ‘Have I been suffering from Copenhagen Withdrawl-itis too? How can I tell if I am?!’ If this is you, rest easy. I’ve thought long and hard about what my symptoms are as I try to cope with Copenhagen withdrawl:

1. I find myself wondering why there is so much noise on the street. What happened to the occasional bike bell ringing? What’s with all the cars honking and the fumes? Oh, right. I’m no longer in a city where under 25% of people commute to work by car.

2. I look for mid block crossings and pedestrian island instinctively before remembering those vision zero interventions aren’t nearly as common at home as they are in Copenhagen.

3. I’m much more scared of aggressive drivers making dangerous right turns on red lights. A week in Copenhagen and I quickly forgot the fear of doing something as simple as crossing the road.

4. Man do I miss feeling dignified when riding my bike. I don’t mean the infrastructure, which is wonderful and safe in Copenhagen. I’m talking about missing being respected by drivers, of being treated as an equal that has just as much a right to be on the road as they do.

5. The infrastructure is dignifying as well. Bicycle oriented traffic lights, street lamps, garbage cans even! It’s so good to feel like the street has been made with everyone in mind, not just for those travelling at 50 kilometres per hour.

6. I stumble from block to block wondering ‘where’s the fun?’ Copenhagen is a city that has built fun and play for people of all ages into every nook and cranny.

Trampolines, adult sized slides, and harbour baths encourage people to rediscover their inner child. I miss the fun.

There are many more I’m sure I’ll notice over the coming weeks, but this seems like a pretty good place to start diagnosing. So, if you ever return home from a trip to a fantastic city and find yourself feeling like a fish out of water in your hometown, just remember it might not be you. It could be you got used to a more human-centred city.

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