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.


what a week

It’s Saturday morning, I’m sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee, sore legs and mixed feelings after the last couple of days: it has been quite a commuting experience to say the least.

It all started with freezing cold weather (between -10°C and -15°C) on Monday and Tuesday but roads were clean and apart from the extra time it took to dress up accordingly the daily rides were business as usual and quite enjoyable.

But on Wednesday the weather Gods – for some obscure reason – decided to punish us all and poured thousands of cubic meters of fresh snow all over Stockholm.

“Crews at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport were forced to remove 200,000 cubic metres of snow in the wake of the storm, nearly as much as the 250,000 cubic metres removed for the entire 2011-2012 winter season.” –

And chaos it was. Complete chaos. The city buses were pulled out of service, commuter trains and subways faced severe delays when not cancelled and people had to find a way to get home: a colleague even walked 16 kilometers not even trying to hail a nowhere to be found available cab.

Snow, snow & snow
Snow chaos,

I half walked, half rode the bike in deep fresh snow between the office and home and made it back in an hour or so (compared to the usual 25 minutes). It felt like the worst ride ever at the time but having the bike with me in those conditions was probably the best choice in retrospect.

Thursday morning’s ride was still a bit rough with not all of the bike lanes cleared and ridable but everything was back in order on Thursday evening.

I can understand how frustrated Stockholmers have felt during the storm – let down by the public transport system having to find an alternative to get home – but let’s face it: which city in the world would have done better? Everything was up and running in less than 24 hours after the first flake came down and I must admin that I am quite impressed by how the situation was handle and the amazing work done by the snow plow crews who have been working 24/7 since then.

same sh*t, different city

When I saw the drawing this afternoon I was pretty sure it was depicting the every day situation on Skeppsbron where cyclists have to ride between the road, tourists buses, tourists wandering and standing in the middle of the bike lane for a better view at the Royal castle, taxi drivers dropping customers wherever they feel like it’s OK, … (the list could go on for pages)

But no. Bekka Wright (the bike commuter & artist behind BikeyFace) lives and bikes in Boston, MA, United States. Looks like the life of bike commuters is pretty much the same on the other side of the Atlantic.

Middle of the road