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"Bike butlers" tackle problem of Copenhagen's illegally parked bikes

Bikes moved, lubed, and tyres pumped up. Imagine that happening here? Us neither.

Cyclists in Copenhagen who park their bicycles illegally are returning to where they left them to discover that city authorities have moved them – and placed them in the nearest purpose-built bike rack, while giving the chain a bit of a lube, pumping up the tyres and leaving a polite note asking them to park in the correct place in future.

The Copenhagenize blog, citing a report from the newspaper Berlingske, says that aim of the initiative, begun in April this year and set to run through to at least January 2011, is to encourage people to use bike racks located by the city’s Metro station, rather than leaving them in places where access may be required by the emergency services.

It’s a typically bike-friendly approach from the Danes to the problem of bikes that cause an obstruction, and one that it’s hard to imagine being employed in say, London. What’s more, the initiative appears to be working – when the project began, 150 bikes a day needed to be moved, but now the number has fallen to between 30 and 50 a day.

"It's about getting people to stop parking their bicycles in areas that emergency service vehicles need to access if there is an incident at a Metro station", said Project Leader Poul Erik Kinimond, who together with a colleague visits the city’s biggest Metro stations to move bicycles around. "We're being called ‘Bicycle Butlers,’" he continued. “People really like what we do."

Kinimond concluded: "It's been a bigger success than I had expected. At the beginning I wasn't keen on rewarding people who parked illegally. The idea was to tackle the problem in a way that wouldn't make people angry because we moved their bicycles.”

His colleague, Morten Schelbech, added: “We haven't had one single person who was angry", and said he didn’t think cyclists would start parking their bikes illegally to benefit from a free oild and getting air pumped in their tyres. "We can recognize the same bicycles that are parked illegally several days in a row. They don't get oil or air," he explained.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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