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Copenhagen Will Loan Bicycles Free to Visitors

May 19, 1991|LUCY IZON

Budget vacationers will discover that bicycles not only are convenient in getting around Copenhagen, they're free. About 5,000 bicycles, courtesy of the city of Copenhagen, are available for use by residents and visitors. City officials hope increased bicycle use will reduce traffic and pollution.

Bikes are parked at 700 machines, similar to airport luggage-cart racks, in various locations throughout the city. Travelers release a bike by inserting a 20-kroner coin (about $3.50) into a bike rack. The coin is refunded when the bicycle is returned.

Copenhagen is ideal for cyclists because it has numerous bicycle paths and flat terrain. Only 12 miles from Sweden, it is known for its picturesque canals and moats, and for its statue of Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Mermaid," which watches over its waterfront.

For more information, contact Denmark at the Scandinavian Tourist Board, 655 3rd Ave., 18th Floor, New York 10017, (212) 949-2333.

Denmark also offers travelers under 26 years of age free accommodations for a two-week period beginning June 23 and ending July 7 at 50 locations throughout the country. Information for the program, called "Young 91," which is under the direction of the Denmark Tourist Board, can be found at major railway stations and tourist offices.

The tourist office in Copenhagen is at 22 A Hans Christian Andersen Blvd., opposite City Hall and next to Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen also has a youth information center called "Use It" at Radhusstraede 13. Open daily throughout the year, it can provide suggestions for accommodations.

In addition, the Danish State Railways provides a "Take the Train--Rent a Bike" folder, available at all stations. Rental rates are about $7 per day. Help for bicycle route planning is available from a map, "Cycling Holiday," published by the Danish Cyclist Federation.

The map contains information on bicycle paths, road signs, camping sites, youth and family hostels, ferry services and trains. Selling for about $7, the map is offered by the Dansk Cyklist Forbund, Kjeld Langes Gade 14, DK-1367, Copenhagen K.

The Netherlands offers biking facilities so extensive, it has earned a reputation as the most "cyclist-friendly" country in the world. About 6,200 miles of clearly marked lanes and paths blanket the country, linking cities, canals and colorful tulip fields.

After arriving in Amsterdam, if you're interested in a tour, go to the Amstel rail station (a five-minute rail ride from the central station), where Ena's (guided) Tours depart daily until mid-autumn.

Groups leave from the basement bike depot at 10 a.m. for a 7 1/2-hour tour of the countryside, visiting a working windmill, cheese farm and a lake where pedalers can swim. A $21 fee includes the bike. More information is available by calling Ena's at (015) 143797.

Youths who don't want to ride long distances on bikes can travel by train and then rent bikes at many of the rail stations throughout the country.

Travelers with rail tickets are eligible for special rates, about $2.80 per day. When renting, be prepared to produce identification and pay a deposit.

In addition, young visitors are eligible for rail discounts. Those under 26 years can buy Benelux Junior Tourrail tickets, valid for five days of unlimited rail travel within a 17-day period throughout the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and for bus lines in Luxembourg. Price is $91.50 first-class, $62 second-class.

For budget accommodations, consider the 44 youth hostels, independent hostels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds (some have simple cabins for rent, called trekkershuts ) .

Information on these facilities, plus maps, a list of events and tips on how to transport bikes by train and plane, road rules and route suggestions are covered in a publication called "Cycling in Holland." Free copies are available from the Netherlands Board of Tourism, 90 New Montgomery St. Suite 305 San Francisco 94105, (415) 543-6772.

Another bicycling group is Cycletours, which has converted several riverboats into floating hotels, with two- , three- and four-berth cabins that can accommodate about 25 passengers.

Seven-day tours include meals and bike accommodations. Daily route information is provided, enabling riders to stick together or go off individually. A staff member, who understands and speaks English, follows the pack with emergency repair tools. The boat meets the cyclists each evening at a specified destination.

Different tours are offered, starting on Saturdays, throughout the summer. Two depart and return to Amsterdam. Another, the Friesland Route, departs from Leeuwarden, the capital of the Netherlands' most northern province.

For all tours, price per person is $475 in a two-berth cabin, $446 in a three-berth cabin and $418 in a four-berth cabin (often shared by individuals who sign up solo).

For details, contact Cycletours, Keizersgracht 181, the Netherlands NL, 1016 DR Amsterdam, telephone 31-206-274098.

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