Tilda Dahl giving her grandfather a ride in a box bike. Photo: Ylva Lundin.
I know everyone’s not as bicycle fanatic as I am, but who wouldn’t love a bicycle day?
In the town where I grew up, Alingsås, the local Transition Group spent last Sunday (which also happened to be Mother’s Day in Sweden) celebrating bikes in all their forms and shapes in one of Alingsås’ parks where this group also has a community garden.
People could try different kinds of bikes, like a box bike, an electric bike, a unicycle ( a bike with only one wheel) and a tandem. A bicycle repair shop was also there, doing basic bike service for free.
Do you dare to calculate the true costs of your car? Photo: Tilda Dahl.
Another fun thing was a service where people could get help to calculate the real cost of their car. Using a graphic that we have already published in Effekt, the Transition Group not only counted what people pay for petrol and parking, but also insurance, tyres, services, taxes etc. According to Ylva Lundin from the group, not everyone was as eager to listen to the answers…
The Bike and ride cycle parking in Malmö. Photo: Bike and ride.
On my way down to Berlin recently, I spent a few hours in Malmö waiting for the night train. Now Malmö isn’t only one of the cities in the Swedish forefront of urban gardening and with a bike kitchen that I envy them. Malmö is also a good place for those who commute by bicycle and train.
In the southern part of the city, just above the railway tracks of the train station Hyllie (which is also the last one on the Swedish side before the train crosses the border to Denmark), you can find Malmö’s (and maybe Sweden’s?) first “Bike and Ride”.
This is a staffed centre where people can leave their bikes in safe custody while they are at work. And there are a lot of people going this way to work every morning. According to the region of Skåne, there were about 20000 persons commuting between Copenhagen and Malmö already in 2009, and almost half of them by train.
Today I reckon they are even more.
It’s free of charge to park your bike here, and there are also a place where you can clean your bike, pump the tyres and make simpler repairing work. For those who want to switch between their cyclist personality and a slick office outfit, there are also showers and lockers for helmets and rain clothes.
Gift-time for cyclists at Slussen in central Stockholm. The text on the yellow waistcoat says "Thankyou for cycling!" Photo: Sara Jeswani.
Often when it comes to the question of how to make people act in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way, the ideas that come up are rather on the “stick” than the “carrot” side. Raise taxes on petrol, make it more expensive to emit CO2, block cars from certain areas and so on.
Gothenburg in a year or so..? Photo (cut): Erik Ekedahl /Flickr (CC: BY-NC)
Last week the local government of Gothenburg [map] pushed through a decision that people like me − who have never needed a car − appreciate a lot: Bicycle benefits for all the people working for the city.
In Sweden it’s very common for employers to offer their employees car benefits, such as free parking space or a car for both work related and private use.
But in order to make more of their employees cycle instead, the city of Gothenburg will now give their co-workers free service on their bikes, up to a value of 1500 Swedish Kronor (about 160 Euro). There will also be possibilities to lease a bike from the city or to buy a new one for a reduced price.
− These benefits make it more economically attractive to choose the bike, but it also raises the status of cycling, says Anders Roth at the Public Transport Authority of Gothenburg to the magazine Vårt Göteborg.
Great! Just waiting to see the parking lots presently occupied by company cars being filled with bikes, and maybe some sort of bike helmet holders in the workplace entrances, to avoid the hatracks from flowing over..?
Not only ordinary traffic jams, but also cycle jams are becoming a more common sight in central Stockholm. Photo: Anders Adermark (CC BY-NC-ND)
Cycles waiting to be used in Gothenburg. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
Cycling isn’t something just for students and environmentalists anymore. During the last few years cycling has grown, filled Swedish streets and become a must-have even for trendy citydwellers.
For those who haven’t got their own bike, there are city-sponsored bicycle-programs in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Lund .
In Stockholm you can use the bike for three hours, before having to return it to one of the stations. In Gothenburg you can have your bike for 30 minutes at a time. Lund’s program allows you to rent a bike up to one week.
Cycling has also gone from being “just” a leisure thing to a daily transport vehicle for many people. In Stockholm the amount of cyclists have more than doubled in 15 years and now about 50 000 cyclists use the city’s streets every day. This is great in many ways, but also leads to new dilemmas. Suddenly there isn’t room foreveryone, since roads are mainly planned for car traffic.
This has lead to new ideas. Recently local politicians suggested cyclists in Stockholm should have the right to jump the red lights in right-hand turns or cycle both ways on one-way streets, in order to make the traffic flow better. Some, like the cyclists’ organisation Cykelfrämjandet, are very positive to these ideas, while others (mainly car drivers?) mean that having the right to skip certain laws only would make cyclists even more anarchist than today…
In June, Gothenburg had its own bicycle festival for all kinds of bike enthusiasts. Watch this film from the event, with interviews in both Swedish and English:
… is one of the founders of Sweden’s first climate magazine, Effekt. Seeing the connections between society and nature results in a lot of thoughts about how we live our lives. How are Sweden and its inhabitants setting about the challenges of making our society a more sustainable one? Why is Sweden often rated as one of the world’s most sustainable countries? Do we earn that title? And what have we got left to do?