Stockholm is the new Amsterdam

In the latest science fiction novel by Arthur D. Little (The Future of Urban Mobility 2.0, Imperatives to shape extended mobility ecosystems of tomorrow1), Stockholm stands out for having one of the best-developed networks of cycle paths. Stockholm ranks second out of 84 worldwide, first out of 19 in Western Europe and beats Copenhagen & Amsterdam. No more, no less.

Stockholm: 57.4 points, 2 out of 84 worldwide, 1 out of 19 in Western Europe. The Swedish capital stands out for having one of the best- developed networks of cycle paths: its bike lane network is the third most dense in the world, with 4,041km of lanes per 1,000 sq km. It has a high rate of public sector initiatives, and its multi-modal SL-Access smart card has a penetration of 0.64 cards per capita. As a result of this forward-thinking approach, it ranks above average for transport-related emissions, with one of the lowest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulates (NO2 and PM10) in the air in the world. What’s more, its traffic-related death rate is amongst the lowest in the survey.

The novel is a great read for anyone who likes fantasy fiction and Arthur D. Little is definitively a brilliant writer. One could almost believe the City of Stockholm made it to the first place just because it has the highest cycle path network density but I’m sure there is more to it and I can’t wait for the sequel The Future of Urban Mobility 3.0! Until then I can only speculate on other possible reasons The Capital of Scandinavia rules (almost) the world.

To outperform the competition Stockholm must have a secret weapon that others don’t. And I believe it to be the “felanmälan” (fault report). Simple as that: a powerful tool that solves all problems effortlessly. Imagine that.

Ice? Write a felanmälan and it's gone.

You’re riding (or trying to keep both wheels on the ground) and notice there’s way too much ice on the cycle path. You take a picture and send it to the City of Stockholm. Answer: “if you aren’t satisfied with the situation, please report this to us”. You do so using the extensive fault report system and problem solved: you said there was ice!

Bus on the cycle path? Write a felanmälan and it's gone.

Now let’s say you’re riding (or trying to stay alive on a narrow cycle path next to speeding motorists) and you notice a bus parked on what is supposed to be your safety zone. You take a picture and send it to the City of Stockholm. Answer: “if you aren’t satisfied with the situation, please report this to us”. You do so using the extensive fault report system and problem solved: this bus is gone and replaced by another one.

Stockholm might have the highest cycle path network density but it’s not enough to make the city rank first in Western Europe. I’m sure Arthur D. Little must have some nice surprises waiting for us in the next chapter: could the “felanmälan” be one? What do you think? Have you got your own theory?

On a different note, a month ago I ordered a Stockholm City Bikes access card (the one that is supposed to be delivered within 3 days according to the computer screen) and I still haven’t received it. I know the bicycle sharing system only runs from April to October (did Arthur D. Little know that?) so I guess the card has still plenty of time to reach the mailbox. Otherwise, “if I’m not satisfied with the situation…”. I know, I know.


  1. http://www.uitp.org/sites/default/files/members/140124%20Arthur%20D.%20Little%20%26%20UITP_Future%20of%20Urban%20Mobility%202%200_Full%20study.pdf 

Kona Dr Dew continued

I’ve had this bike (check the Kona Dew Deluxe also) for a while now and had more time to use it. It’s still not my main use bike as I use my racer for the daily commute but it is what I use for cycling with my son or my dog and for quick runs to the shops. So, what do I think?

Well, in short, I love it. it’s comfortable to ride, stops really well (I just love the brakes) and it looks good too.

Kona Dr. Dew 2013

I’m no expert but the one thing that has bothered me slightly is the mid-range gearing. I don’t know exactly which gear it is but there is one step somewhere around 14th or 15th that is too big. It goes from being too hard to pedal to far too easy. However, the reason I have not bothered to find out exactly where the issue occurs is that it’s only really noticeable if I’ve already cycled a long way and have tired legs or am going uphill. In either case I just back off a little and the problem is solved.

Before I bought this bike I had not heard of Kona. Now that I’ve had it my only regret is that I didn’t have a bigger budget when I bought my racer. Then I could have bought one of their racers as well!

Kona Dr Dew 2013

As you may have read, the tail-end of 2013 brought a lot of bike misery to me. I had my long serving and much abused mountain bike stolen, I replaced it with a hybrid and, after just 11 days, that was stolen too. Luckily a friend of a friend (who runs a bike shop) took sympathy on me and offered to sell me a good bike at a great price. While researching for the first hybrid I’d looked at the Dr Dew but I have a real problem with Cyklotkeket since their staff pretty much ignored me when I wanted to buy my racer and then when I asked for help told me they didn’t have time because the shop would shut in 15 minutes. Now I had a second chance to get the same bike at a better price and from a nicer place.

Kona Dr. Dew 2013

I went for a quick test ride and was convinced this would be a good bike for me. It was comfy to ride, seemed to be well-specced, didn’t have the lockable front suspension which had annoyed me a little on my Specialized hybrid and would be fitted with the lights, speedo etc that were stolen along with the last bike.

We agreed on a price and I gave the shop a few days to get it in order before going to collect it. I then cycled back across Stockholm to my work. Almost immediately I started to regret my decision. Cycling was a nightmare. I pedaled and pedaled but seemed to go nowhere. Sure, it was windy but it wasn’t that bad, was it? Oh well, too late now so I took the bike home, waited a few days for the wind to die down and tried again. Talk about a difference! It was easy to ride, I could keep up a fairly high speed without too much effort and it was not nearly as jarring as I bashed up and down kerbs compared with the Specialized and that lockable suspension.

Now came the only problem. I wanted to go out for a ride but had no time during the day and it was dark already at night. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to riding new bikes and prefer to be able to have an easy bedding in period where I only ride in nice conditions and on roads I know. Weeks went by with just short spurts when dropping off my son at day care or zooming to the shops but no long rides. Finally I got an hour to myself and went for a quick spin. My initial negativity is now totally washed away and I love it. The two main gripes I had with the Specialized Crosstail were the lockable front forks (see above) and also the fairly uncomfortable hand-grips. No such issues on the Kona. The brakes are also very good and were particularly strong in the wet which was nice.

What I have heard is that the main difference between the 2013 and 2014 models will be a downgrade of the brakes so, if you are thinking of getting one, I highly recommend you strike now. Yes, the vivid lime green colour of the 2014 model is a bit more eye-catching but I’d rather have a bike that will stop on demand than one that is a little bit prettier.

Do you ride one? Are you pleased with it? If you have anything you want to share on Kona or on the Dr Dew, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

bike basket lid

By going to a bike expo you probably couldn’t tell that the largest cycling crowd out there just wants to go from point A to point B and has no or very little interest in carbon frames, electronic shifting and power meters. Too few manufacturers try to innovate and spend time and money on designing accessories for casual riders. So when I saw the bike basketlid booth at Sweden Bike Expo and after I talked to guys for a couple of minutes I knew I had to write about their fantastic product.

The bike basketlid is the modern storage solution for active bikers and can easily be fitted on to any bicycle model. It has an easy open and close lid equipped with a lock that enables you to leave your belongings in the basket.

Bike basket lid

The bike basketlid is (surprise! surprise!) a basket with a lid that can be locked. The idea and realisation is so simple that one could wonder why bicycles (the ones with a basket) aren’t equipped with such a thing already.

And, the company behind the product being Swedish (Solna), I could not leave Sweden Bike Expo behind without mentioning this brilliant accessory. The wife already loves it and she’ll be a first adopter, for sure. For more information, feel free to visit their website or Facebook page.

some pretty out there solutions

Cycle in town

Everyone agrees that something needs to be done to make our inner cities more bike-friendly. The problem is that nobody seems to agree on exactly how that should be achieved. At the one extreme you have bikers who say we should ban all cars, at the other are the drivers who think they should be able to mow done those cockroach cyclists who flout every rule in the book at every available opportunity.

Of course the real solution is somewhere in the middle. There are only two ways major change is going to happen though. Either the politicians need to get behind a serious move for change and give it a serious budget rather than just spouting platitudes and buzzwords or there will eventually be a major spate of cyclist deaths in towns which will stun everyone into action.

While everyone dithers around and doesn’t actually do anything, why not read about some more extreme suggestions that are being floated for how to fix London.

giro d’sverige?

Giro D'Italia in Sweden?

Giro d’Italia takes place in Italy and the Tour de France takes place in France, right? Wrong! More and more they are visiting other countries including England, Northern Ireland and Denmark. And now the Giro may be coming to Sweden1. It’s not going to happen any time soon with the discussions mentioning some time after 2017 but at least it’s being discussed. It could be done in conjunction with Vätternrundan which would mean that most of the infrastructure is already in place and that us mere mortals would be able to join in and ride the same course as the professionals on the same day. Assuming I make it round my first Vätternrundan next year, this would definitely make a second more interesting for me.


  1. http://www.eurosport.se/cykel/giro-d-italia/2012/girot-i-samtal-om-mojlig-start-i-sverige-fantastiskt-erbjudande_sto4011459/story.shtml 

Electric bikes just got a lot more attractive

Let’s be clear: many people won’t agree with me but I simply don’t see a valid reason why a healthy person (and by that I mean anyone with two legs and a pumping heart) would ride an electric bicycle (or any other electric-assisted machine for that matter).

I just don’t buy made up excuses that usually come in a discussion about electric bikes and often include “sweat” or “green”. What’s the point in riding a bicycle if you are not cool with the fact that you might sweat? What’s the point in riding a bicycle because it’s green but do it with the help of a motor and a not so environment friendly battery attached to the rack? Yes. You get the point. There’s absolutely no reason you should be riding an electric bike when you could ride a regular bike. So just get a mopped already.

On the other hand some people can’t ride bicycles without assistance (for real) and they were, until now, left with pretty much only ugly solutions: take a bike, add a battery and a special hub. Done. The tank is ready to drive.

There were lots of e-bikes at Sweden Bike Expo this year and one manufacturer (Pro-Movec) really got my attention as they were the only one offering electric bicycles that actually did look great ! Here is one of their city models: Breeze.

Promovec Breeze

And that’s how you make a battery almost disappear. Simple and elegant.

Promovec Breeze

Breeze – with LED display
250W Motor with 3 year warranty
7 speed gear, Shimano Nexus
Coaster brake
LED display
5 assist levels; walk-assist up to 5 km/h
Panasonic Li-ION battery, detachable
9AH x 36V = 324 watt hours
Charge time approx. 7 hours
Weight 20 kg excl. battery
Battery weight 2 kg
Size 28″ (48 cm)
Range up to 100 km

Nice to see some effort being put into making electric bicycles look nicer. Hope next year will bring its share of innovative ideas so the electric bicycle as we know it today is history. What do you think? Does the Breeze look nice to you? Does it look better than e-bikes you’ve seen so far?

Sweden Bike Expo 2013

Over the weekend I spent a few hours at Sweden Bike Expo at Kistamässan in Stockholm. As you would expect there were big stands for the big names including Shimano, Scott, Nishiki and Cannondale, some local interest groups such as cycle clubs and political organisations who plan to improve cycling around Sweden and then the obligatory sellers of gear that you didn’t know existed or didn’t need to replace but now absolutely must have!

After a quick walk through the hall I then tried to narrow down what I actually wanted to look at. Since my bike has been stolen (again) I need a new one so had a look at a few people who had hybrids within my fairly modest budget. There was always either something I didn’t like about the bike or it was slightly too expensive. I homed in on a Nishiki but the bike was 600SEK over my budget and then I’d need to buy lights, a decent lock etc on top of that so I decided not to go for it.

For years I have been sporting a very nice pair of Specialized gloves while cycling. If I’m honest though I only had them cos I thought they looked flash. Then I started cycling more seriously and, one rainy day, forgot my gloves. Then I realised just how much use they were. They’re getting a little old (about 15 years) and, worse still, they don’t match my current gear, the horror! I had a look around and found a pair that fit nicely, felt good and were really clever. I’ve always had trouble getting my gloves off cos they’re tight and stick to my sweaty hands. These ones had little pulls between the fingers so you can just tug them off. Simple yet effective. Did I buy them? No. The bank seems to think I have to have money in my account before they allow me to spend any.

That Nishiki really was nice. And only a little over budget. Maybe just one more quick look.

The most popular thing seemed to be electric bikes. My friend was interested in getting one so we had a look at a few. While I’m sure they are all very cool in their own little ways, a large number had to be immediately removed from consideration. They were so damn ugly and I’m sorry but I’m never going to buy a bike that is just ugly. Others were fine looking bikes until you put the battery on. It seems that the battery had to be as obvious as possible so you could say, “Look at me, I have an e-bike. Look how green I am.” Others though had really clever solutions. One had a very old fashioned style leather saddle bag which gracefully concealed the battery with just a few wires giving the game away. Others had them mounted inside the frame tubes. We gave one a try and for the first three seconds of pedalling I was entirely unimpressed. It was heavy and oh so slow. Then the support motor kicked in and the bike shot off down the tiny test track. I managed to avoid the children who were trying electric scooters and handbikes (I’m sure all of them were serious customers) and hung on for a couple of laps. I have to say, I’m sold. Since I’m using cycling as a way to get more exercise and lose some waist, I’ll stick to my unassisted pedalling but if you just want an easier commute, I can highly recommend it as long as your destination is within the bike’s range!

e-bike

Oh just one more look at that Nishiki…

We looked at a bit more equipment that I absolutely needed but the bank manager was still saying no. Then I found the most fantastic helmet for my son, said, “Stuff the bank manager!” and nicked some money from our savings to buy this…

Shark helmet

Like his dad, my son is a little mental and I think he’ll love this. The only bad thing was they didn’t have them in my size.

One final look at that Nishiki?

No, I must resist. Quick, get me out of here before I do something my wife will regret…

All in all I was pretty impressed with Stockholm Bike Expo. They had a lot of interesting stuff and while a lot of it was aimed at the serious cyclist, there was enough to keep a hobby cyclist interested too. If anything was missing then it was actual bike shops selling bikes. A lot of the manufacturer stands had bikes on show with prices but I was never sure which were and were not for sale there and then. Maybe your local bike shop can’t afford a stand at an expo like this (it’s not cheap) but surely the Sportsons, Cyklotekets and Cykel Citys of this pedal-powered world could? I’ll be back next year. Let’s see if any of them listen to me…

in figures, October 2013… or not

The plan was to keep track of my relationship with the commuter over a 12 month period but I’m afraid it won’t happen. I’m sure my 3 month old baby girl has something to do with it as she likes to go to the stables at night and play with the bike computer but I obviously will never be able to prove that she pressed the reset button (if you really want to know, on October 31st, the screen said 115 kilometres which is pretty much what I rode in the last 4 days of that month).

So no figures for October 2013 but a (new) picture of me riding to work instead. Beautiful autumn in Stockholm and, as you can see, snow is late this year.

Cycling on ice

But let’s change subject to what made my day miserable yesterday: I commuted by public transit. Due to circumstances beyond my control I have been commuting to Kista the last two days (which for someone living in the southern parts of Stockholm is close to the worst punishment ever) and, to make things even worse, commuter trains traffic was cancelled after a freight train derailed right before Stockholms södra yesterday morning.1

One could argue this was bad luck and – hopefully – does not happen often but it still shows how fragile Stockholm’s rail infrastructure still is in 2013: one train derails and thousands of commuters are affected. Only two tracks (one way) support all traffic at this particular location and even a minor glitch has enormous consequences. But the issue is being addressed and the Capital of Scandinavia will spend one billion Swedish kronor on the cycling infrastructure over the next two hundred years. Oh wait… Does the railway network also need maintenance and improvements now?

The rest of the journey was business as usual with a traffic stop on the subway red line, a quick switch to the green line in Slussen and a I-am-glad-I-am-in-good-shape-and-can-walk switch to the blue line at Stockholm’s central station. Kista, here I am, one hour later.

I’ll spare you the details of the never ending commute back home via the brand new tramway line because… I just want to forget about it and pretend I did not just waste another hour of my life.

Commuting by bike to Kista

Anyway, I was not going to endure the SL pain two days in a row and so, today, I rode my bicycle instead: 20 kilometers in 50 minutes (one way). Now tell me: what was I thinking yesterday when I chose public transit over the fastest means of transportation in any (relatively) big city around the world? But like October’s mileage, I guess I’ll never know.


  1. http://www.thelocal.se/20131112/rush-hour-derailment-snarls-stockholm-train-traffic 

congestion payment

More and more cities around the world are introducing congestion fees for people who drive their cars into town during peak times.

Congestion Fee Station

The idea is to discourage people from bringing their cars into unnecessarily crowded areas unless they really have to and are willing to pay for the privilege. So far it seems to be working but a lot of the money being raised isn’t used to improve the inner cities but to build more rounds outside towns.

Now Johan Ehrenberg (@JohanEhrenberg) at Dagens ETC has come up with a novel alternative. Instead of just discouraging people from driving their cars, we should actively encourage people to cycle. His idea is that everyone who cycles through a congestion station once per day will be paid 25 SEK. I don’t agree with all his ideas (wearing a hi-vis jacket with a registration number on it and that all people who cycle fast are idiots for example) but I think it’s a great idea. If I knew that I would actually earn money by cycling (as well as the savings I’d make on train tickets), I’d be much more likely to cycle as often as I could.

I don’t know if it’ll ever happen and it’ll certainly need some more thought but it’s pure genius. Read his full article (in Swedish) here.