rain, wind, rain, rain, wind, rain, wind, wind and… rain

The correct number of bikes to own is 4

There was a time when I thought n+1 was the right number of bicycles I had to own. But as I grew older and got other things and people to spend time with and take care of, more equipment did not mean more time in the saddle.

Quite the opposite actually and I sure never really needed these two Centurion Le Mans mixte bicycles I’ve had for almost 6 years and barely used. I wanted them gone before winter and put an ad on Blocket (Sweden’s Craigslist) in October last year. I quickly realized I’d better be selling skis at that time of year though.

Centurion Le Mans Mixte, Blocket

That horse was in pretty good condition and I had just replaced both tires with brand new Schwalbe but a guy actually offered me less than half the price I was asking for to, and I quote, “help me get rid off it”. I removed the ad instead and put it back online last week: the horse was sold less than a hour later. Blocket in a nutshell.

I’ve now got 4 bikes -a commuter to display the Brooks saddle I got when I turned old, a full suspension mountain bike to jump on & off curbs in the neighborhood, a cyclocross to ride on roads and a hard-tail mountain bike to carry my kid around- and it’s about the right number.

Stockholm hasn’t had such a rainy month at this time of year for more than two centuries

Sweden hasn’t experienced such a wet May since 1962, according to meteorologists, with double the average rainfall for this time of year across much of the Nordic nation.
The capital bore the brunt of the recent downpours. In fact, Stockholm hasn’t had such a rainy month at this time of year for more than two centuries and the recent soggy weather has dampened a number of major events in the city including the annual marathon.1

According to meteorologists it’s been raining quite a lot in May. It didn’t take me complex mathematical models and insanely expensive hardware to figure that out but I guess that sort of lines are for people who never go out so keep up the good work, you’re on the right track! Now if you want cheap and accurate weather data you could also ask any daily bicycle commuter in the streets and she could tell you that. She probably wouldn’t know about two centuries ago but even if she said so you couldn’t prove otherwise.

If there’s one thing cyclists don’t like and don’t forget though, it’s wind. She could also tell you it’s been windier (last year was also windy) than all those years (at least two centuries) she’s spent in the saddle around Stockholm. So back to work weather boys, you’ve got a cyclist to catch and question!

  1. http://www.thelocal.se/20150601/may-weather-in-sweden-was-worst-since-1962 

as if you needed one more good reason to ride a bicycle to work…

… SL (Storstockholms Lokaltrafik AB, the organisation running all of the land based public transport systems in Stockholm County) is giving you plenty during the upcoming weeks (months even).

From the 2nd of April at 04:00 to the 6th of April at 09:00 commuter trains will be cancelled in both directions between Stockholm C and Älvsjö. But that’s only the first reason.

Train commuters living south of Stockholm (Årsta) will be hit even harder next and should consider bicycle commuting to work rather soon: commuter trains will not be stopping at Årstaberg from the 6th of April (week 15) to the 2nd of August (week 31). That’s 17 weeks. SEVENTEEN weeks.

And last but not least, if one thought she would do just fine and travel by tram to Liljeholmen or Gullmarsplan to catch the red or green subway lines, one was wrong. Trams between Alvik and Sickla udde won’t run at all in July. Summer holidays I believe. Like last year.

As if you needed one more good reason to ride a bicycle to work, SL just delivered. Once again. Do you really want to fork 790 SEK out each month (or 300 SEK each week) for all the troubles? I sure don’t.

Don’t bother with longer and chaotic journeys with them. Get a bike already. For your own sake.

the times they are a-changin

Stockholm will probably not become a much less car-centric city overnight but talks and decisions begin to point in that direction and keep hope alive.

During summer 2012 Stockholm’s first indoor bicycle parking facility (capacity of 350 parking spaces) opened next to the train station in Älvsjö. Another one (capacity of 200 parking spaces) should be ready when the Odenplan station (along the Stockholm City Line1) opens in 2017 and now a third garage (capacity of 700 parking spaces) is planned next to Södra station (Stockholm South)2.

That’s good news for a lot of commuters and I just find it unfortunate that Dagens Nyheter chose to fuel the bikes versus cars debate and focus, right in the title, on the fact that the facility will not be opened for cars. Should a garage always be built with room for cars? No. How many cars can you park instead of 700 bicycles anyway? Not many. So why write such a thing?

The Bicycle Snake, Copenhagen
The Bicycle Snake, Copenhagen

Like it or not growing cities around the world can’t and won’t develop with private cars as the inevitable mode of transport in mind.

Stockholm, more than ever, has to concentrate on walking and cycling infrastructure and build a better mass transit system even if that means taking public space back from off-street and on-street parking facilities. There are around 36,000 on-street parking spots in central Stockholm (28,000 twenty years ago) and 1,500 are soon going to disappear to make room for the first of four planned dedicated bus lanes3. There’s no reason one should be stuck in traffic when using public transportation. Is there?

These two measures were in the news yesterday. They are likely to be followed by others. They’re going to piss off a few people and be labeled as green propaganda among other things. But hey. The times they are a-changin. Always.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_City_Line 

  2. http://www.dn.se/sthlm/garage-mitt-i-stockholm-forbjuder-bilar/ 

  3. http://www.mitti.se/bussfilerna-kan-sluka-1-500-p-platser/ 

this is a ‘gender equal’ post title

Winter prioritized bike-lane maintenance is in full swing and shows great results. Feedback from winter bicycle commuters have never been better* but there is always space for improvement -no matter how good the maintenance- and the magicians at the City of Stockholm have come with yet another trick to reach world-class status: ‘gender equal’ snow ploughing.

* warning, may contain sarcasm.

In 2012, the modal share for the Municipality of Stockholm was as follow: 23% chose to get around in giant steel boxes while 77% of us chose to either walk, take public transportation or ride a bicycle. But instead of concentrating their efforts on a clear majority politicians were, already in 2013, trying to make things more complex than they actually were: ‘gender equal’ snow plough was born.

Stockholm is as a modern city and needs a modern way of ploughing […] I’m sure it will spread further. Stockholm as a big city can show the rest of the world how to do this, and lead by example. – Stockholm’s shadow city commissioner Daniel Helldén of the Green Party, 20131

The Green Party did not think it was modern and fancy enough to have ploughing to accommodate active commuters (77%) but would rather target footpaths, and cycle paths, which are more often used by women, instead of roads, mostly frequented by men. Right.

So what’s the difference? Drum roll. RRRLLLRRRLLL. Another drum roll. RRRLLLRRRLLL. None. Ingen. Aucune. 아무도 … 않다

Unfortunately, nothing really changed since that announcement and those who have had the chance to meet a service vehicle on a cycle path during winter could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. Clearly Stockholm has not been leading by example since 2013 but this is about to change and deputy mayor and head of Stockholm’s traffic division just spoke out.

Statistics show that more pedestrians and bikers get hurt than motorists. Therefore it’s important to try to prevent these groups from tripping and injuring themselves. That is why we will prioritize the clearing and treatment of walkways and bike lanes in the future. – Daniel Helldén, deputy mayor and head of Stockholm’s traffic division, 20152

Obviously this revolutionary idea will require intense thinking and thorough planning before it is implemented. We’ll have to wait until November 2015 and then… we’ll be BACK TO SQUARE ONE.

  1. http://www.thelocal.se/20131211/snow-plowing-should-be-gender-equal-greens 

  2. http://www.thelocal.se/20150116/stockholm-to-get-gender-equal-snow-ploughs 

this is not a bicycle lane

Remember the 50 million Swedish kronor art pieces motorists will soon be able to enjoy while stuck in traffic on Norra länken? Well it looks like cyclists have not been forgotten and bicycle lanes are getting their share of fine arts too. Or is it art?

Stockholm’s population is among the fastest growing among European cities1 and the city is undergoing a major facelift to accommodate the crowd (or some of it at least): apartment buildings are popping up all over, roads are widen and resurfaced, … You would think the best way to transport those people with no or little change to the infrastructure would be to get them on bicycles as often and safely as possible but you would be wrong.

This is not a bicycle lane
This is not a bicycle lane

Bicycle lanes have been used for lots of things lately – as temporary (we’re talking months here) bus stops, as parking space for trucks or just as some place to put signs up – and cycling through Stockholm has become quite painful and dangerous. Maybe I’m just narrow-minded and a safe and easy ride to and from work is too much to ask. Maybe I’m just not ready for all this art thing. What about you? Cycling in Stockholm? Enjoying the exhibition?

Here’s a short selection of bike lane art. Enjoy. The walking cyclist, Cycling around the North Pole , The wall ride, Bike the bikes & The cycling bus stop.

  1. http://www.thelocal.se/20130423/47494 

throwing money out the (car) window

Not even a month into the new routine and I’m already behind schedule. I did spend Monday morning cycling around Stockholm though – looking for a front rack to my Kona Paddy Wagon – but, considering the fine weather, I could not ride back home to lock myself in and write another piece of crap. I had lunch on hipstermalm, decided the blog could just wait and enjoyed some sun instead.

There are a couple of places where that star don’t shine unfortunately. Road tunnels are a good example and Swedish taxpayers would be pleased – as I was when I first read about it obviously – to know that 50 million Swedish kronor (that’s 5.5 million euros or 7 million US dollars) has been spent to light up the underground part of Norra Länken. 50 million Swedish kronor spent on five kilometers (you do the maths for a cost per kilometer), 50 million Swedish kronor spent on 6 art pieces inside a bloody road tunnel.1

I won’t argue on how tax money is being used (I might have done just that already) but I have to question, however, the thinking behind that sort of installation. A driver’s attention is a limited, critical resource that is already compromised by lots of distractions: space shuttle like dashboard with touch screen and switches all over, kids having a blast (or not) in the back, texting, emailing, instagraming, facebooking, you name it. Should we really distract drivers even more with art along the road? Aren’t you suppose to stay focused and keep your mind on the road when behind the wheel. I naively thought so.

I’m having a hard time understanding how these 50 million Swedish kronor pieces of art fit in the Vision Zero road traffic safety project started in Sweden in 1997 but, at the same time, I’m also having a hard time understanding how building more roads help reducing traffic jam. It seems that the guys at the Swedish Transport Administration just know better (about 50 seconds in the video).

Norra Länken will open to traffic on November 30 and while art lovers should not really have time to appreciate the exhibition (remember, no more traffic jam) I’ll probably be cruising around Stockholm on a far from perfect bike paths network. Too bad there’s not much money and intention to fix that.

  1. http://www.svt.se/nyheter/regionalt/abc/infor-oppning-av-norra-lanken 

it is non-polluting and quiet

Bicycles do have negative environmental impacts, particularly those associated with their production and disposal. They are not quiet either and one can even buy compressed air horns blasting no less than 120 decibels if being louder than loud is the logic behind bike commuting. But I do believe a bicycle still qualifies better than a car to that trendy-greeny tagline – “it is non-polluting and quiet”. Whatever the car.

I’m sure bike commuters who were struggling to keep rolling in wind and rain this morning in Stockholm would be pleased to know that while bicycle infrastructure and the whole cycling as an alternative mode of transportation idea need massive improvements and support the so called “environmental campaigners” were busy helping the car – non-polluting and quiet – industry breaking Guinness World Records on the Öresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark yesterday.

We need to get people to pay attention to the electric car because it is non-polluting and quiet. Before summer there were just 400 registered electric cars […] That is way too few. – Jakob Hougaard, deputy chairman of the City of Copenhagen’s technical and environment committee.

Since when did the electric car become a non-polluting vehicle? Don’t you need to manufacture it anymore? Build and replace the batteries every now and then? Charge it? Does the electric engine make the sound of rolling (studded or not) tires disappear all of a sudden?

Sorry, we're fucked

Although they are still awaiting an official count for their effort to create the world’s longest electric car parade, the event organisers say that they easily secured the Guinness World Record for the ‘most electric cars on a roof top parking lot’, the ‘largest spiral made with electric cars’ and the ‘most electric cars on a bridge between two countries’.

Guinness World Record for the ‘most electric cars on a roof top parking lot’, the ‘largest spiral made with electric cars’ and the ‘most electric cars on a bridge between two countries’? ‘F’ word me, that was definitely worth campaigning for! I’ll try to think about that next time I’m riding – non-polluting and quiet – on a tiny bicycle path squeezed between two lanes of speeding motorized traffic. It will definitely cheer me up.

Updated. Meanwhile in Norway: Booming Electric Car Sales Have Become A Problem. No comment.

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 

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 

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.