Christiania Bikes have become a Danish icon and the most trusted cargo trike in the world. They take their name from the free state of Christiania where they were first built.
Christiania is within the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. It was initially set up by squatters and neighbours in the early 70’s who took over unused naval barracks during a housing shortage. The idea was to create a self sustaining community within an otherwise urban environment. Jacob Ludvigsen, one of the founders, made the following proclamation when he and others claimed possession of the area:
Christiania is the land of the settlers. It is the so far biggest opportunity to build up a society from scratch - while nevertheless still incorporating the remaining constructions. Own electricity plant, a bath-house, a giant athletics building, where all the seekers of peace could have their grand meditation - and yoga center. Halls where theater groups can feel at home. Buildings for the stoners who are too paranoid and weak to participate in the race...Yes for those who feel the beating of the pioneer heart there can be no doubt as to the purpose of Christiania. It is the part of the city which has been kept secret to us - but no more.
In Christiania there have never been cars allowed, the grass grows long and the paths are made of dirt. It is a colourful, ad hoc and free living neighbourhood with whimsical dwellings and bicycles galore. When you walk through the gates to Christiania you can feel that the need to rush is over, things immediately feel calmer and simpler.
Though there were no cars allowed, there was still a need to transport people and goods from one end of the community to the other. This demand was initially filled by the old ‘long-john’ style grocers bicycle common in Denmark through the earlier part of the century. Many of these made their way through restoration at Christiania's own blacksmith or “the forge of Christiania”. Eventually supplies of these bikes dwindled. In 1984, Lars Engstrom, one of the blacksmiths at the forge designed and built a transport trike for his wife Annie.
Annie wasn’t immediately thrilled with the gift as she had requested a ten-speed (like we all wanted in 1984) but after loading the kids in and taking it for a spin around the block the grin on her kids' faces said it all.. The bike was a hit....
Over the next few years, the forge began to manufacture these trikes and the designs were improved with each generation of gained experience. Initially the bikes were sold just to “Christianites” but soon demand grew in the rest of Copenhagen and by the mid 1990s the factory in Christiania could no longer keep up with production.
Lars and Annie moved production to the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. The bikes are still made here and Lars is still in charge of production and Annie still takes all the calls and emails. The bikes, though similar in appearance to the original, have decades of expertise and experience put into them but still cling to simple principles of quality and sustainability.
In 2010, Christiania Bikes won the coveted "Classic Designs Award" from the esteemed Danish Design Center. A testament to the many years of development of the Christiania Bike.
The bikes still have a strong presence in the free state of Christiania and the forge still exists - though they no longer build the bikes there, they assemble them for distribution in Copenhagen. 40 years on both the bikes and the sustainable community of Christiania have proven to be an oracle for things to come, as well as shown how life can be lived happily within the limits of sustainability.