see you in 2078

While 36% of Copenhagen commute by bike to and from work daily, only 8% of the first (2010) European Green Capital do so. One (drinking coffee and eating cinnamon rolls at council meetings) could discuss the enormous difference in the cities cycling modal shares for hours, years even, but according to a majority of Stockholm inhabitants it all boils down to three simple reasons: too few bicycle lanes, insufficient safety and the inability to take bikes on public transport.

We have fallen behind when it comes to modern urban construction. – Lars Stromgren, Ramboll

Cycling in Copenhagen
Cycling in Copenhagen

Nothing new under the snow if you ask me or any random cyclist but as Lars Stromgren, from the firm behind the survey, puts it “We have fallen behind when it comes to modern urban construction.” In other words, one cannot keep on saying “one billion Swedish kronor ($150,000,000) will be spent on cycling infrastructure over the next 5 years” and expect the figure to go from 8 to 50%. Politicians must take concrete initiatives, right now, and not only announce schemes that merely act as bandages. And if Stockholm fails to do so, we’ll reach Copenhagen’s cycling levels in 2078. Two thousand seventy eight.1

Meanwhile, a couple of Dagens Nyheter journalists packed a laser speed gun and took a short walk to Västerbron.2 Out of 130 vehicles checked with the speed meter only 10 of them respected the 50 kph speed limit (5 cars, 4 buses and 1 tractor). The fastest speed recorded that time was 113 kph. But the traffic administration already has a radical solution to the speeding problem: “Our proposal is that the limit is raised from the current 50 kph to 60 kph”.

Nature being what it is there was already a good chance I wouldn’t be around in 2078 to enjoy a bicycle friendly Stockholm. The odds just got worse.



summer, cycling boom & initiatives

Summer 2013 has been the best summer I’ve ever had in Stockholm since I moved up here in 2005 and it could partly explain why cycling is booming again, why bike paths have never been so overcrowded and why the City of Stockholm was too busy getting a nice tan to focus on improving the infrastructure or work, for instance, on the 14,000 additional bicycle parking spaces1 needed to accommodate today’s bicycle travel. At a rate of 500 new additions each year (that’s the plan), it will take 28 years to solve the current lack of parking spaces. That’s right. Twenty eight years.

Fortunately all talk and little action does not stop people from getting on bicycles and you know society’s mindset is changing and things are moving forward anyway when even companies begin to promote cycling, both as a sport and as a mean of transportation, to their employees.

Twice in less than a week bicycling related information were posted on my employer intranet among regular business material: 1. the company owns two bikes that anyone can borrow to run errands, 2. a cycling club is being formed following the growing interest in the activity.

Company bicycles

Did you know we have two awesome bikes that anyone can borrow? Everyone who is at the Stockholm office who wants to borrow a bike may freely use them. // To borrow a bike please contact reception desk, they also have the keys. However, if you would need to borrow the bike on a certain day please send an email to our Office Coordinators.

Company cycling club

To follow the success of our recent events such as Bellman Stafetten and Stockholm World Triathlon the Wellness group has decided to form a Cycling club. We are a lot of cyclist and to form a club gives everyone interested an opportunity to join planned training sessions and social events together. Suggested is to keep the club running all year around, winter biking can actually be a lot of fun! // Please respond via mail with Cyclist in the subject if you would like to join, MTB or Road doesn’t matter. // Welcome to join!

In these two cases there was an interest and an offer followed rather quickly after. That’s how things should be done in a fast-moving world and that’s how things are usually done in adaptive environments. If you have example of initiatives you or your company is taking to promote cycling I’d love to hear them; it helps me forget public authorities are not delivering. Do it yourself and enjoy the ride.


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.



yes we can

In case you hadn’t heard the President of the United States of America of Planet Earth (Barack Obama I think his name is) was in town for a couple of hours! Mr. Obama and a couple of hundred friends with sunglasses met with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and probably attended some other important matters but that’s what politicians do and I quite frankly don’t care.

On the other hand I was very much looking forward to seeing Stockholm City Centre in a new light with limited motorised traffic and complete parts of the city turned into cyclists and pedestrians only zones. The City of Stockholm does not seem to take many actions to accommodate the ever growing number of people who commute by bike each and every day (remember the one hundred metre white line on Götgatsbackan? Well my little girl has yet to work on it!) but when Circus Obama comes to town it’s a whole different story.

Circus Obama in Stockholm, Sweden

We’re anticipating a chaotic situation,” Anna Ekberg, spokeswoman at Trafik Stockholm, told The Local. “Lots of roads in the city centre will be blocked, there will be traffic jams.”
“You better not take the car, but go by bus or take the metro,” she said, adding that Stockholm’s public transportation system might get crowded as well.
The main roads between the Arlanda airport, north of the capital, and central Stockholm will be closed off as Obama’s motorcade heads in town to meet with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and other political leaders.
Areas including Nybrokajen, Hamngatan, the city centre, Gamla stan, and the area around the royal palace will be totally closed off to traffic.
Ekberg at the Transport Administration believes even commuters will feel the sting.
“If you don’t need to go to the city centre, you shouldn’t do it,” Ekberg said, adding with a laugh that those working in the city might be better to take the day off work. – Stockholm braces for Obama traffic circus

And it probably has been the best 24 hours cyclists and pedestrians have had for a very long time. Cyclists could ride on the streets, pedestrians could jaywalk as much as they wanted and, cherry on top, breath much cleaner air! Thanks to Circus Obama motorised traffic decreased by 40% for a couple of hours and, as a result, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions decreased by 30%1 on Sveavägen!

Wait. Could toxic emissions be linked to motorised traffic? Could we make Stockholm’s air cleaner just by reducing the number of cars and trucks in the streets and have people walk, ride bicycles and take public transportation instead? There was a way to verify that theory with the World Carfree Day coming up soon and so I asked the City of Stockholm.

Yes we can or… we could but regular people with regular jobs don’t get to live in a carfree city and breath clean air. I’m afraid we’d all have to work in a travelling circus for that to happen. Hope you enjoyed the show because… it’s over. Applause.


cyclists keep Swedish police busy

So there I was having a coffee this morning when my two week old daughter sent me a link (she knows the topics I’m interested in so she reads the news first and only forward some of it to me) to a news article1 in which cyclists are once again depicted as urban criminals.

Speeding rider doing 7.5 kph

They probably would have remained unnoticed and dismissed if it was for robbing jewellery stores at gun point or setting cars alight to then throw stones at firefighters but the situation on the streets with bicycling cyclists has gone crazy for real and Swedish police has to intervene on a weekly basis!

Swedish police set about clocking the speed of cyclists in central Stockholm this week, but as every single biker was over the speed limit the officers only managed to apprehend and fine 15 of them […] The street has a low speed limit of 7 kilometres an hour for bikes, but the officer said that every single cyclist whose speed they measured had been going faster than that – posing the problem of apprehending them in time before they scooted off.2

Yes, you read it right: cyclists in Stockholm ride faster than 7 kilometres an hour and that is NOT okay! Götgatsbackan might be wide enough to accommodate a bike lane and a pedestrian zone but while the City of Stockholm gathers the courage required to paint a one hundred meter white line cyclists will just have to make sure they ride slow and keep clear from fashion-shopping-café-latte-drinking pedestrians (if she was a bit older I guess my girl would already be done with the job but – at her age – she is as good at holding a brush than the city employees).

And so until the lane is drawn the only solution 2013-Stockholm can come up with is giving tickets to speeding cyclists: 7 kilometres an hour is probably as slow as you can get on a bike before you fall but it’s a speeding situation here in Stockholm. And – sadly enough – it seems to please pedestrians who fear for their life at rush hour because they can’t be bothered with looking left and right before crossing the road, too busy talking on the phone, drinking coffee or struggling with all those bags from H&M.

What people seem to forget is that cyclists riding 10 kilometres an hour are definitely causing fewer few lesser less damage to street life and pedestrians’ health than all those cars still going with studded tires (yes, studded tires in August) a hundred meters from Götgatsbackan.

Ladies and gentlemen, studded tires have be banned from Hornsgatan for several months but drivers are still charging the air you breath with particles that will give you lung cancer! Has anyone of you called the police because you’re scared of that? I’m not so sure and I haven’t read about it at least since newspapers are not helping either and have been pretty busy fuelling the street war going on between pedestrians and cyclists.

I just got to tell Swedish police, the City of Stockholm, newspapers and regular citizens who want their streets back, safe and fun: it’s time to wake up and focus on the real problems! Let the social street life be, people will learn and live together. Just get rid of the real crap already.

I’ll leave you to that because I need to feed the girl so she gets stronger quickly and can start working on that bicycle path. I’m pretty sure a similar story will hit the news soon but until I’m back just remember: ride slow and try not to hit a pedestrian in your fall.



steal me!

More than 1,700 bicycle thefts1 were reported in June (that’s a 31% increase compare to the same month last year) and if you were expecting the local police to start chasing the assholes behind that you’d better buy a stronger lock already: “Unfortunately bicycle thefts is not something we prioritise” which can be translated to “we’re too busy street-racing2 in our powerful-paid-with-tax-money-cars and don’t have much time for real police work”.

Police involved in street racing
“bicycle thefts is not something we prioritise”

Instead the City of Stockholm is adding 15,000 bicycle racks3 to the 10,000 already existing to provide cyclists with more spots to securely park their bikes and hope it’ll solve the problem. 25,000 racks, that’s what cyclists will have to share by 2018. That’s 3 racks for 100 Stockholmers or 3 racks for 10 bikes (if only bike commuters used the racks). I guess I will just have to keep on locking the bike to street lights and the likes for the next century or so.

Not all stolen bikes are reported to the police though and two in particular never will. Thanks to Pappas the police won’t have to pretend to work on two black and yellow free to use bicycles which Pappas left in the streets of Stockholm to advertise his mobile bicycle service business (also on Facebook).

For 250 SEK (+ 350 SEK for the drive) Pappas comes to you and fixes a flat tire, does adjust gears for 200 SEK and changes a tire for 300 SEK but if you don’t have your own bike and are going to ride one of Pappas’, no need to call him, just follow the rules.

Steal Me!
Never lock this bike, it is a public free bicycle
Always leave it in public so it can be stolen again
Ride it with care, the next person needs it as much as you do
Share the bike, it will help you find new friends
This bicycle is made for people in Stockholm to get from point A to B in a faster and more enjoyable way

Two free to use bicycles are good but I believe Pappas should ask the State for some tax money and extend the fleet. I’d personally rather know my income tax goes into public bicycles than into servicing police cars used in street races. Meanwhile, it’s racing and press releasing as usual and if your bike disappears, well, suck it up.




are we going to have it better than the Danes?

Yesterday published the second episode of a series about what design elements make Copenhagen a bicycle-friendly city. This time the episode is about the green wave, a series of traffic lights coordinated to allow continuous bicycle traffic flow over several intersections in one main direction.

The Green Wave is coordinated traffic lights for cyclists. Ride 20 km/h and you won’t put a foot down on your journey into the city centre in the morning and home again in the afternoon –

The Green Wave, Copenhagen

If Copenhagen (with roughly the same population as Stockholm) can build such a beautiful infrastructure for cyclists, there should be no reason why Stockholm could not do the same. And why not do it even better? Sweden is superior to Denmark on so many things already 😉 So I asked the City of Stockholm through their Twitter account and actually got an answer.

Stockholm excels in many fields and can prove it with the Best cities ranking and report special document from the Economist Intelligence Unit! Impressive, isn’t it? Well, in the end, it’s just yet another report compiled by a guy using Google Earth and the likes (“I used Google Earth satellite imagery and the information available on Open Street Map to evaluate the public green spaces available in the city”, if that’s not expertise I don’t know what else is). One of those hundreds of reports published by so called experts. One of those hundred of reports that tells you what you want to hear as long as you pick the right one.

I’m still trying to figure out what that link had to do with the question though since the report does not back the following statement (“Several efforts aim to improve biking”) and, as a matter of fact, does not even contain the word “bicycle”.

So what are those efforts? What is the answer to my question? Are cyclists in Stockholm going to ever get a green wave? One better than the Danish? Come on Stockholm, please tell me you can do it, because I’m starting to lose faith.

it’s time to celebrate! isn’t it?

It made it to the news and I suppose I should be celebrating with my fellow bike commuters: in May, almost a million cyclists rode by the 6 counting stations located in central Stockholm1.

But I’m not going to. The City of Stockholm seems to be content with the 3% increase compared to May last year but is the cycling modal share really up? It’s not good enough to just look at one figure and get all excited. A truly serious study would look at other parameters such as weather conditions which, at this latitude, have a huge impact on bicycle usage.

I’m on the saddle pretty much every day all year round and I am pretty sure May 2013 was dryer, warmer & sunnier than May 2012. Can’t that alone explain part if not all of the increase? I’m sure it can and if I were a politician I’d say – just by throwing the weather parameter in the equation – we’re actually seeing a decreasing growth.

But that’s not what annoys me the most in the article. What does annoy me the most is the repetition of the amount of money that is being put into the cycling infrastructure: on billion Swedish Kronor. It does seem like a lot and it is actually a lot of money but once again a number means anything and nothing at the same time if it’s out of context.

The one billion Swedish Kronor is the budget for improving and developing the cycling infrastructure over 7 years and that means roughly 150 million a year (I’m generously adding 8 million a year here to prove I’m not just bitching around). Let’s say – to the cycling community disadvantage – May 2013 was an anomaly and the average number of cyclists is closer to 500,000 a month over a year. That’s 6 million cyclists and a budget of 25 Swedish Kronor per cyclist and per year ($3.75).

At the same time we are shamelessly upgrading, for 16 billion Swedish Kronor, a 5 kilometre long portion of a motorway to solve traffic problems in the region and to gain a better environment in the inner city2. Yes we do things differently up here: more and bigger roads solve traffic problems (unlike everywhere else Sweden is immune to the induced demand phenomenon3) AND we do build roads that make the environment better. 16 billion Swedish Kronor. That’s the budget for one single road project and if every single Swede (babies included) owned a car it would represent 1,685 Swedish Kronor per human being ($252). For 5 kilometre of asphalt (and a box around it, a concrete coffin if you will).

Put like that one million cyclists in the city in May and one billion Swedish Kronor don’t look that impressive anymore and that’s what I’d like to read in the newspaper more often. I’d like journalists to do their homework, try out basic mathematical operations (multiplication and division are a good starting point) instead of just throwing figures at readers along with a picture like if they could only post embellished PR from politicians.

Now I have an idea and I’ll give it for free to the City of Stockholm. You know what bike commuters would really appreciate in the next thank you for cycling bag?

Cyclists love lube

It’s within budget and it’ll help them accepting they’re being treated like second-class commuters. Just make sure you buy the natural kind because you know it’ll help gain a better environment. I am so definitely not celebrating.




the real threat to Stockholmers

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the first episode of a series of controls targeting cyclists who ride through red light. The controls are still going on around Stockholm and it’s for the best: cyclists are a real threat to pedestrians and car drivers and must be treated like the criminals they all are!

cyclists should be put in jail
Handcuffs look good on casually dressed bike commuters.

Of course there are a few sloppy motorists too but the situation on the roads is not as critical as the anarchy it’s on the bike paths. A police check in the city once in a while should be enough to remind drivers of the rules and make sure they stay safe in their rolling coffins. An operation like the one carried out in the evening of Thursday, April 26th and which definitely proves cyclists are the real threat… oh wait…

Between 23:00 and 06:00, Stockholm Police carried out an operation on “The Central Bridge” (Centralbron) & in “South Way Tunnel” (Söderledstunneln). Around 90 cars were stopped. Fines amounted to 50,000 SEK.

  • highest speed was 125 kph (instead of 50 kph)
  • 12 driving licenses were confiscated as a result of speeding and drink-driving
  • 15 drivers were caught driving without a license, 6 showed fakes
  • 1 driver commited environmental crime with “illegal waste transport” (whatever that means)
  • 2 people were taken to the police station on suspicion of drug-impaired driving
  • 1 person was arrested for illegal weapon possession and drink-driving
  • 2 people were reported for breaching knife law
  • 1 person was taken into custody for being in Sweden illegally

This is the result of just one single police check carried out on a regular weekday. I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned I have a pretty good idea who the real threat to Stockholmers is.

The report is available (in Swedish) here –…/Flera-fast-for-rattfylleri-fortkorning-och-olovlig-korning/

Brompton Swedish Championship 2013

Brompton National Championships will be taking place in twelve countries this year; the fastest male and female participants will win flights to the UK and entry to the Brompton World Championship 2013. –

The Brompton Swedish Championship 2013 was run on Sunday in Stockholm and I was there to cheer my friends up. I’m not much of a storyteller so here are some pictures of this fun event instead.

Brompton Swedish Championship 2013

Brompton Swedish Championship 2013, speaker

Brompton Swedish Championship 2013, women

Brompton Swedish Championship 2013, men

More pictures in this photo album on Facebook.