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.
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?
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
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.
Yesterday copenhagenize.com 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 – copenhagenize.com
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.
I found that picture in the newspaper last Friday but unfortunately could not find the online version on DN.se.
Tommy Åberg was riding his bike on Blekingegatan (south of Stockholm) when he came to a police car parked on the bike lane. He thought something wrong was going on (like a robbery) at first and decided to have a quick look around. But the emergency seems to have been of a completely different nature: the law enforcers needed a little sugar kick and were just buying some candies.