Image via Copenhagenize.

Copenhagen, Denmark—with its miles and miles of dedicated infrastructure and staggering 37 percent of commutes done by bike—is an obvious source of inspiration for cycling advocates in places like Seattle.

But what many of those advocates might not know is that the city's incredible cycling infrastructure wasn't the product of  Euro-hippie anti-car consensus. In fact, it was as hard-fought as any bike-infrastructure victory in Seattle, complete with die-hard car advocates, business owners who said eliminating space for cars would put them out of business, and naysayers who claimed building grade-separated infrastructure for bikes would cost too much and take away too much space from cars.

In other words: A lot like Seattle today.

I'm getting all this information from Jeff Mapes' 2009 look at the modern bike advocacy movement, Pedaling Revolution (my life is mono-thematic sometimes, I know).

Chalk it up to my American ignorance, but whenever I heard about Danish or Dutch cycling wonder cities, I just figured that people were likely to accept cycling as transportation in Europe. I knew that the growth of cycling was intentional and the result of heavy planning, but I'd assumed citizens mostly just went along with the program.

Not so. According to the book, when Copenhagen began scaling back on space for cars in the 1960s and 70s, citizens and business owners threw a fit. Mapes quotes Danish urban planner Jan Gehl, who said, "There was a furious public debate. People said it would never work in Denmark. 'We are Danes, we are not Italians, we will not come out, we will not walk. We have no tradition for urban life ... and all the businesses will go broke.'"

I realize Copenhagen and Seattle have their differences. But there are enough similarities—particularly between Copenhagen's early political push for more and better bicycling and walking and Mayor Mike McGinn's Walk Bike Ride campaign—that Seattle's situation feels more like a bump in the road than a significant road block. If the Danes can go from widespread pro-car sentiment to riding 1.1 million kilometers a day, progress in Seattle feels that much more likely.