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Terrorist bikers

Back in Copenhagen our first order of business was to secure some bikes. Everyone, it seems, rides a bike here. We wanted to fit in and, more importantly, be able to explore a wider range of the city. The problem is that to rent 4 bikes for a month in this town will set a person back over 3,000 DKK, which, with the weak U.S. dollar, translates into over $600, about how much we can buy 4 bikes for back in the states.

Ellie and her new bike rented from a suspected terrorist

A friend told us we may be able to purchase used bikes from a store they knew about and then sell them back after a month so that the net cost was less than 3,000 Danish Kroners. We went to the bike store to investigate. The owner told us that rather than sell us bikes that we sell back to him after a month he recommended we just rent used bikes from him. That way if we had any problems (flat tires, etc.) he would fix them for free. At 1,200 DKK for four bikes for a month with free repairs we took him up on his offer.

Suspected terrorist and his bike shop in Copenhagen

But the main reason I’m telling you this story isn’t about how to get rental bikes in Copenhagen. (If you are interested, though, his shop is just north-west of the Forum on Orsteds Vej.) Why I’m really relaying this is so that I can tell you the story the bike shop owner told me.

The owner is a really nice man from Iraq. He has been a Danish citizen living in Copenhagen for over 8 years running a humble bike shop.

He wanted to have a big vacation in America, visiting some relatives, so he saved up his money and purchased a plane ticket last year flying through New York with a final destination of Detroit which is near where his relatives live. He converted his savings of Danish Kroners into U.S. Dollars before leaving. Upon arrival in New York he honestly claimed at customs that he was carrying $7,000 as spending money for his vacation in the states. This was apparently too much money for someone born in Iraq to have on their possession and not be a terrorist in the “land of the free.”

Homeland Security immediately put him in handcuffs and ankle cuffs (since bike shop owners from Denmark who just walk off of airplanes after having gone through airport security are well known to have WMDs fly off of their person when not completely shackled). My bike shop owner friend was then searched and placed in a detention cell for two days. He told me he was cuffed at the wrists and ankles for more than 12 of those hours. After two days he was told that he cannot go to Detroit. They placed him on the first flight back to Copenhagen and so ended his American “vacation.”

And we sit around wondering why some of the rest of the world don’t like the good old USA?

He told me that he lived under the regime of Saddam for 30 years, and even though he didn’t like Saddam Hussein, he was never treated poorly during those 30 years by the Iraqi government. No, it took a trip to the United States of America, under the regime of George W. Bush, for all of his human rights to be taken away.

He told me he will never go across the Atlantic Ocean again and will never believe someone that tells him America is a land of freedom.

I told this story to a conservative American couple in Copenhagen a few nights back. I thought it would shock them. Instead of outrage, their response was, “At least they (the U.S. Government) are doing something.” My jaw dropped.

I felt like saying, “How would you like it if on your trip to Europe the British police had cuffed you and thrown you in jail for two days upon your arrival at Heathrow and then sent you on a plane back home?” But I bit my tongue as they changed the subject. The golden rule appears to be a one-way street for them.

11 Responses to “Terrorist bikers”

  1. 1

    I think this is a classic case of someone not telling the whole story. And, it’s quite ironic that you say “golden rule appears to be one-way street,” right after your confession of what you felt like saying to them. Of course, I get the sense that by simply questioning these storylines, you will probably peg me as a “conservative militant GW Bush regime supporter.” I’m not, but that doesn’t make for good stories, does it?

  2. 2

    I like your blog, and this is a good article. But you’ve left space for people to comment–accessible to anyone with internet connection in the world–and this guy’s story (the bike shop guy, not yours) seems incomplete to me. I am convinced that you believe what he told you, but I don’t think his story is the whole truth of what actually transpired. People who I’ve known from story-telling cultures, relish the idea of toying with American naiveté.

  3. 3
    gael koob:

    I live next to the US and this kind of overreacting along with a basic lack of understanding of other cultures makes America a bit too dumb to manage “intelligence.” Up the education system and make geography an important part of the system. How the heck is America going to rise up out of it’s ashes of greed in the America created recession if they piss of travellers. Right now they can take any person’s laptop without explanation if they suspect anything. I stay away from this “dumb as a stump” nation until they learn to play with others.

  4. 4

    I stumbled across this blog looking for used bikes in Copenhagen (where I live). For others with the same mission, the actual address of the shop above is H.C. Ørstedsvej 59, 2000 Frederiksberg. Phone no. 35 36 47 66.

    Regarding the unfortunate detention during a trip to the US, I think this falls under the ‘what were you thinking?’ category. Showing up with $7k in your pocket will arouse suspicion, even worse if you are from a country with which the US Military has an ongoing war.

    Most people in the US know that passport control agents are jerks, even to US Citizens. What many foreign people can’t seem to understand is that not all Americans work in passport control. In the same way they can’t understand that not all of the US is like Las Vegas or Orlando, which is probably the only places they’ve ever been.

  5. 5

    The same happened to a Swiss Professor who went to the US for giving some lectures. He forgot to get the right working visa and was put in jail. Only after massive intervetion of Harvard, they put him in on a flight back to Europe after one week of jail. He was 70 years old then. He still gets glassy eyes when he speaks about this incident and he never went back to the US since then.

    But then again who cares: You have enough tourists anyway over there (;

    I will visit your bikeshop this afternoon. Looking forward to it.

  6. 6

    I must say the comments above don’t shock me at all. Even supposedly intelligent US citizens seem to drink their governments cool aid. May be one of the people that think the story of the bike salesman from Iraq/Copenhagen is incomplete can explain what the story of Udo Jürgen, the Austrian singer has been? He is quite a celebrity in german speaking countries and had to experience the same kind of hospitality at the US immigration. He was cuffed and put into a an overfilled jail cell where he could not even sit down. Reason being that he had an expired US visa in his passport. But Austria belongs to the countries that do not need a visa upfront under the so called visa waiver program. Should we assume that Udo Jürgens is a Terrorist? Certainly not. But we should not think this about someone just because he is from a country that has been imposed a war on by the US either. That is pure racism, fundamentalism and hate mongering.
    Now, the US government does not do these things because they are stupid, nor because the immigration officers are jerks. They do it because this is a method of instilling fear in people and showing power. Fear in their own people and foreigners alike. Becasue people that are afraid can be controlled and will comply with any kind of authoritarianism. Sorry, the US is less free than Iraq or any place in the world for that matter. I have lived there many years working in high corporate positions and I will certainly never go back again. Just hope that the rest of the world will not be assimilated into the new world order as its architects from the US are trying to establish.
    Think about these open minded. And believe me, I don’t hate your way of life, I just disapprove of it and hope that you don’t force me one day to live like that in a totally fascist system.

  7. 7

    I was actually just looking for the used bicycle info, thanks.

  8. 8

    2011 update: I was just back in Copenhagen and this bike shop is still renting used bikes at prices much lower than everywhere else. Most places are in the 50-100 DKK per day range. A friend got his here for 150 DKK total for 6 days.

  9. 9

    Does this shop only rent the used bikes or you can also buy them? I’m gonna stay 6 months here, so it’s not a good idea to rent a bike…

  10. 10

    You can buy bikes here also. After six months, I bet he will buy the bike back from you too.

  11. 11

    Just looking for the bike info… and have also seen similar situations in US airports. Was a Professor (American, by the way) traveling to US with 22 students, some from the Middle East, when 4 young Syrian girls suddenly disappeared from our group in the Atlanta airport. I was not allowed to even ask where they were. They were detained and interrogated for some time. Americans need to wake up — this stuff is happening all the time. We should be ashamed of ourselves and all working to change it. Even the way I am treated re-entering my own country has prompted me to find police in airports and ask where I can file official complaints. I was told by police in JFK that no one has any recourse against TSA, not even the police. Thanks for the bike info.