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Dane builds tricycle for green funeral trips

AFP-JIJI

Shuffling off this mortal coil in many countries is followed by a final trip to burial or cremation in a motorized hearse. But in Denmark, a country famous for its pedaling lifestyle, the deceased now can be seen off on a tricycle.

The contraption, built by an undertaker, has been hailed by cycling enthusiasts in this Nordic nation, but also has been hit by criticism from those who believe a person’s exit is more dignified by car.

“I got the idea from looking at some pictures of old horse-drawn carriages used in the olden days to transport coffins, and I thought they were very beautiful and feminine,” Sille Kongstad said.

“A lot of families that contact me are concerned about the environment, and it’s important for them to have a sustainable coffin or urn, and it was good to be able to offer them an environmentally friendly mode of transport,” she added.

Kongstad received five bookings in the first two days for the new vehicles, which each cost in excess of 40,000 kroner ($7,300) to make. Many more customers “who are still alive” have contacted her to inquire about using tricycle hearses in the future.

The first such funeral, next Saturday, will be for a 95-year-old man who “loved to have big happenings in his life,” Kongstad said.

“The family thought this was a really nice way to say farewell. There will be saxophone music played afterward, and his own saxophone will be placed on the coffin,” she said.

Long considered one of Europe’s two bicycle capitals, along with Amsterdam, Copenhagen has more bike’s than people, and 36 percent of those who work or study in the city use the contraptions for their daily commute.

Yet the novel funereal design has drawn mixed reactions from Danish Facebook users, with some describing it as an undignified way to bow out.

Others worried that it might scare children. Kongstad said there is little difference between putting a coffin on display in a car or on a tricycle, adding that children generally have fewer fears and hang-ups over death than their parents do.

“In general, I think people in Denmark and elsewhere should try to be more open about death and dying,” she said. “It’s the most natural thing in this world, the fact that we’re going to die. It’s the only thing we can be sure of.”