08 December 2011

Greenland Bicycle Culture

Greenland Bicycle Culture
A friend of ours, Theis, is in Greenland at the moment on a film shoot. He took this photo of a citizen in Nanortalik on his Christiania cargo bike. It was only a balmy -10 C at the time but getting around the town is easy peasy on human-powered wheels.

Greenland is an area we haven't covered much here on Copenhagenize. We've noticed that many Danish online bike shops are keen to point out that they send to Greenland. Being a part of the Danish Kingdom, it's no surprise that bicycles play a role in Greenland. Seeing an iconic Christiania Bike 'up there' is just extra cool.

So we were wondering here at the office. Could this be the world's most northerly cargo bike? The coordinates for Nanotalik are 60°08′31″N - 45°14′36″W. It probably isn't, as Nanotalik (meaning 'Place of the Polar Bears' in Kalaallisut) is on the southern tip of Greenland, which means cargo bikes in Uppsala, Sweden, just north of Stockholm are farther north. Not to mention other Swedish, Icelandic and Norwegian towns.

We started looking around for photos from other Greenlandic towns. We found some kids riding regular bikes in Qasigiannguit, a third of the way up the west coast of Greenland - scroll down on this website to see them.

So farther north we went. Almost as far as you can go. On medieval maps Ultima Thule was used to describe any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world". Thule became the name of a town in Northern Greenland which later became a US Air Force base in 1953. The indigenous population were relocated - without being asked if it was okay with them of course - by the Danish government acting on American wishes - because they were too close to Thule Air Base. Nevermind the fact that they were there first, long before airplanes, Ballistic Missile Early Warning Systems or (not so) secret CIA planes carrying illegally detained prisoners were invented, but hey.

The town they were forced to call home was called Thule, too, but it has since be renamed Qaanaaq. It's 107 km from the air base. The point is.... it's damn far north. A search for photos of bicycles produced this shot from the Qaanaaq tourist site:

The caption on the site, in Danish, "Boys on bikes on the beach".

And this shot from the hardware store in the town shows that bikes are on sale:

But we're still looking for the world's most northerly cargo bike. If there is one in Qaanaaq or at the air base - 76°31′52″N 068°42′11″W - then I'm sure we have a winner.