Christiania is an area in Copenhagen which used to host the Navy. When the military moved out, the barracks were left empty for years. In 1971 young people moved in and named the area Christiania. From the beginning, it was decided that Christiania should be a car-free area and as a result, the inhabitants had to think of other means of transportation. In 1978, Lars Engstrøm founded the blacksmith, I/S Christiania Smedie, together with his three friends, Jesper, Kjeld and René.
They began to produce stoves of old oil barrels and steel plates, which they transported from nearby junk yards by using old tricycles from the Second World War. However, a solution to transport the daily chores such as gas tanks, wood, shopping items and children was not yet thought of. To meet this demand, I/S Christiania Smedie began to also produce trailers in the blacksmith by originally using old bed frames. These trailers became a success at Christiania and were improved and sold in high numbers in Denmark.
The birthday present
As the trailers from the blacksmith became more and more popular, Lars and Jesper started focusing on new products. The iconic Pedersen Cycle had always fascinated Jesper, so he began to make his own improved version of this cycle. Meanwhile, Lars was preparing a birthday present to his girlfriend, Annie, who had always wanted a road bike. However, Lars had another cycle in his mind for that birthday.
Since children transportation by using bicycle trailers had become a common way of transportation at Christiania, Lars had an idea to improve this form of transportation. Instead of having children behind you while cycling, Lars thought of mounting the trailer in front of a three-wheeled cycle. It seemed a more cosy and safe way to have the children in front of you while driving.
The 16th of May 1984, Annie received her birthday present. She thought it was a road bike inside the big present, wrapped in gift paper and a red bow. Instead, our first cargo bike was revealed. Its ground-breaking feature was that family cycling, including children transport, was made available in a practical and safe way.
Already within hours that day, Lars received orders on making more of these three wheeled cycles. The blacksmith made and sold 50 tricycles the first year. Hereafter, the demand and the interest of Christiania Bikes slowly increased also outside of Christiania.
The move to Bornholm
In 1989, the production moved from Christiania to the island in the Baltic sea, Bornholm. The founders, Lars and Annie, had always had a good eye to Bornholm. Together with others from Christiania, Lars and Annie moved to this island. Bornholm was a cheap place to start due to low cost facilities and a good place for the founder’s three children to grow up. With help from friends, a primitive production on a small farm took shape. It was both the production facility as well as where the family lived for several years.
At that time, very few believed that cargo bikes could replace cars in Copenhagen or in other cities as well. Nevertheless, the founders believed they could overcome this way of thinking. Initially, their goal was to offer a convenient replacement to the car in Copenhagen, and eventually that this idea could become a normal means of transportation all over Denmark. During the 90ties, the company grew and cargo bikes from Christiania Bikes became an ordinary part of the streets of Copenhagen; not only by families but also for businesses as well. As the demand increased, nearby farmers began to take part in the production. They made handmade wheels, sewed hoods and other parts for the cargo bikes and trailers.
In 2001, the production moved to a larger production facility on Bornholm. In 2004, I/S Christiania Smedie was renamed Christiania Bikes Aps since the products had been marketed with the trademark Christiania Bikes® since the 90ties. At the same time, Christiania Bikes began to experience a higher demand from Europe as well as from other parts of the world.
Iconic Danish design status
Since then, Christiania Bikes has experienced an increasing growth and has also during the time developed new models; such as Model T and Model Event; but also improved existing models and their matching equipment. A milestone for the founders and the company occurred in the 2010/2011. This year Christiania Bikes received the Danish Classic Prize from Danish Design Center. This prize is only given to outstanding Danish products which have remained almost unchanged for at least 25 years. Christiania Bikes has received an iconic Danish design status and is part of a league of former prize winners such as Lego, B&O, Carlsberg and Royal Copenhagen.
Christiania Bikes and the founders’ original goal to move the idea that cargo bikes can be used as a replacement for cars in cities have become a world-wide trend. With almost 40 years in the business, Christiania Bikes has created an extensive network and is now selling its products world-wide through selected dealers and distributors.