Now Matilda Forsärla gets equally paid as her colleagues who take the car to council sessions. Photo: private.
I suppose it isn’t very different from in most other countries, but in Sweden you often get reimbursed by your work etc if you use your car to get to meetings or assignments. In our tax declarations, commuting expenses above a certain amount are also deductible – if you go by car or public transport.
As a dedicated cyclist I must say I have sometimes wondered why pedalling your way there doesn’t count at all.
This was also the question that Matilda Forsärla, local government councillor in Tranås in the South of Sweden [map] , asked herself. But she went a step further and actually did something to change this.
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Imagine this… but four times broader. Photo: Veronicasverkstad (CC: BY, NC, SA)
Maybe it isn’t strange that the region that might get Sweden’s first “cycling highway” is in Skåne [map], one of the country’s flattest parts. Places like the student metropolis Lund is already known as something of a cyclist’s favourite. But now there are plans of linking Lund with the neighbouring city of Malmö, by a four-lane straight bike highway without intersections – and with wind protections, since a flat landscape also means a lot of wind.
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My rescue this winter: Studded tyres. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
As a child, I used to cycle to school in all kinds of weather. Going by bus or being driven there by someone’s parents only happened on rare occasions, like after heavy snowfalls when the city of Alingsås [map] hadn’t managed to clear the tracks in the morning.
Living in Gothenburg [map] was the same, cycling up and down on snowy bike lanes (anyone who has cycled through this city knows that there are very few flat sections…). I remember cycling with my shoulders stuck at my ears at times, half panicking when the streets were covered by a shiny layer of ice. But somehow I managed.
Lately, though, things have changed.
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Test driving "Spiros", which is made to work in normal city traffic. Photo: KTH.
We’re used to car races all being about being first and fastest. Today there’s a contest in Lausitz, Germany, where the goal is quite different. The main objective here is to come as far as possible on one tiny litre of petrol. The world record is 5000 kilometers and now the question is: Will someone be able to beat that?
Teams from all over the world participate, many of them made up by researchers and professors. Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology sends two teams entirely made up by students and the other day I spoke to Jonas Severin, who has built one of the vehicles, “Sleipner”, together with a group of fellow students.
Sleipner runs on petrol, but being much lighter and having a less powerful motor that turns itself off in downhill slopes where the car can roll down by itself, the energy use is very much below a “normal” car.
The speed isn’t exactly breathtaking, Jonas Severin explains, with an average around 30 km/hour. But if the aim is to get as far as possible on as little energy as possible, going there fast can’t be a high priority. Just can’t get both. And as you see on the photos, Sleipner isn’t really the kind of vehicle you imagine packing your family into.
The other Swedish car in the contest, called Spiros, is more like the cars we are used to and has to be able to work in city traffic and pass a normal vehicle test, having proper lights, working brakes etc.
But are these just fun experiments for students? Jonas Severin says that a developed form of Spiros could maybe be out on the market in 10 to 15 years, able to roll for 500 kilomtres on one litre, instead of a max around 40 kilometers/litre for today’s smartcars.
A while left, apparently. But today is the big test for the KTH teams. Will their vehicles make it in the competition?
- Obviously it isn’t easy for a team of students to beat teams of professors, but it’ll be exiting to see how Sleipner does, says Jonas Severin.
The student team behind "Sleipner" has made the vehicle themselves and are now going to a contest in Germany to test it. Jonas Severin on the right at the group picture. Photos: KTH.
The estate of Katrinetorp is one of the places that Natur- och kulturbussen points out.
As many other weather-obsessed Swedes I’m eagerly following the progress of spring. Light mornings and days of sunlight don’t only make me wake up insanely early in the morning, it also awakes my longing for making excursions. I’m longing for wild forests, peaceful canals, old parks surrounding castles, small secret cafés… well, I simply want to get out of the city.
In most places it’s perfectly possible to do this without a car, it just requires some research. Where exactly is that field filled with dancing cranes? And what bus stop would be the right one to get off at?
In the province of Skåne in the South of Sweden, there’s no need for that research. A few years ago they started a project called Natur- och kulturbussen (”the nature and culture bus”). The project’s web page (some information in English) lists interesting nature areas, places to visit and nature and/or culture related things to do, all within the reach of public transport, and with a link to the public transport planner, showing how to get there.
Dalby hage. Photo: Lotten Pålsson.
When I speak to Sofie Norrby, who is project leader for Natur- och kulturbussen, she tells me that the idea behind this project is to encourage people to get out more, and quotes various studies showing how well-being and performance increase when we spend time outside. She also tells me that the arranged activities, where people can visit a new place together with others, works as an easy way to discover places where many wouldn’t otherwise dare to go to. Having been showed once how to get there, where to find the toilets/food/best spots, its easy to come back, bring your friends and become their guide.