the Obama effect

I would be very much surprised if Barack Obama and Fredrik Reinfeldt discussed liveable cities, bicycle commuting and the absolute absurdness of tiny narrow sidewalks in city centres but I’m pretty sure they did not bring these subjects up over diner.

The Obama Effect

And that is very unfortunate considering what Stockholmers and newspapers keep talking about since the City of Stockholm returned to its former self: The Obama Effect1.

The Obama Effect (also known as Circus Obama) is a paradoxical reaction observed in Stockholm for the first time in September 2013. Motorised traffic was limited and roads in the city centre were blocked to make room for Barack Obama’s bulletproof vehicle and better ensure his safety (???). Thanks to the King of the United Kingdoms of Carmerica Stockholmers had the chance to enjoy, for a short while, a city where public spaces were for people and not for cars; a city where it was, for a change, possible to breath clean air.

Unfortunately good things don’t last forever and there ain’t no such thing as car-free days2 in Stockholm even though 70% of the population (who reads Dagens Nyheter online) would like to see that happen. 70%. Seventy percent. Four of the seven political parties in Sweden are also in favour of one yearly car-free day and that number will probably increase as the next general election (in 2014) gets closer.

Car free day in Stockholm?
Should Stockholm be car-free once a year? 70% says YES

And yet the City of Stockholm doesn’t seem to be concerned by the opinion of its citizens and while other cities around the world will celebrate the now traditional car-free day, there is nothing planned for September 22 in a city which was awarded the first European Green Capital title in 2010.

But things could change and will hopefully change before 101% of the population and 8 of the 7 political parties can’t take it anymore. Otherwise I’ve already recorded a distress call: “Help us, Barack Obama. You’re our only hope.”

Note. When the post was published almost 10,000 people had answered the poll and the result is still the same, 70% says YES to a car-free day.


  1. http://www.dn.se/sthlm/fyra-av-sju-partier-vill-infora-bilfri-dag-i-stan/ 

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car-Free_Days 

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Laurent Pignon

Born in 1980 in France. Got lost in Finland in 2002. Living in Sweden since 2005. Daily, year-round, rain snow or shine bicycle commuter since 2012. And yes, that’s lots of dates.

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