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.


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.


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.



cycling Sälen style

Sälen is best known as a skiing area but a few years ago they realised that they need something to keep the region going once the snow disappears. They’ve spent a not so small fortune on making the area attractive to cyclists during the summer months. There are downhill runs and mile after mile of mapped road routes for those of us on skinny wheels. There are also information signs with maps, descriptions of the various types of runs, safety information and links to more info on the web…

Sälen, cycle

Now this has all been done in just a couple of years so how come Stockholm thinks it is going to take so long to do anything? OK, it’s a big town but the people here seem to think it’s comparable to London and New York. It’s just not. Stop making excuses and start actually doing something. If you don’t know how, go and ask them in Sälen.

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.


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.

the bike snob abroad

Eben Weiss is the blogger behind, a massively popular cycling blog, so if you are a two-wheeled commuter (without an engine obviously) and haven’t heard about him yet you probably should pay a visit to his blog right now, read some and come back here when you’re done. You have 5 to 10 minutes (you don’t have to read back to 2007). I’ll wait for you here.

The Bike Snob Trilogy

Now that you’ve formed your own opinion I can say I don’t really enjoy the blog myself. I actually don’t read it anymore as I find the posts too cluttered to even be readable. But Eben Weiss is not only a blogger but also a book writer and his books are just brilliant.

I read his first two books a couple of months ago and really enjoyed them despite the fact they picture life as a bike commuter in New York City (and in the U.S. in general) which sometimes (but not always) is pretty far from my local experience. And then comes the third book. The Bike Snob is going abroad and is visiting Sweden! Alright Eben Weiss did not actually spend time in Stockholm and went to Gothenburg instead but it still counts for something doesn’t it?

Long story short (I don’t want to spoil anyone) it was just very pleasant to read his experience as a father on parental leave who takes his young kid for rides. Since I plan to do exactly the same (take time off when I get a kid and take him or her for bike rides) Eben Weiss could not better describe the things I am very much looking forward to. His experiences in Gothenburg, London and Amsterdam are entertaining too and pretty close to mine.

Bike Snob Abroad: Strange Customs, Incredible Fiets, and the Quest for Cycling Paradise (see the cycling bicycle books page) is “a fierce and entertaining critic” (as The New York Times puts it) and I can only agree. Whether you are a bike commuter or not, you live in Sweden or not, it’s a book you should read but if you’re a bike commuter and live in Sweden, it’s a book you must read.

I doubt you will ever read this Mister Weiss but if you do this is an invitation to Stockholm for you and your little family. I can’t pay for the flights but would be happy to host, put some fun between your legs (it sounds scary I know but we’re actually talking bikes here) and give you a tour.

The previous books of the “trilogy” are Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling (also listed on the cycling books page) and The Enlightened Cyclist: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Transcendence (see also on the books about cycling bikes list).

bike lanes network gets 250 million Swedish kronor upgrade

As more and more people choose to commute by bike the city of Stockholm needed to revisit the relatively low investments made in the cycling infrastructures over the past few years (decades?).

Even if Stockholm is a rather nice city for bike commuters some had to leave the bike home (long before the winter came and commuting by bike became a real challenge) because of overcrowded lanes (150,000 cyclists every day) and the risks it might mean for someone who is not use to handle a bike just like another part of the body.

Long story short, the Committee on Transportation will go through a first 246 million Swedish kronor (38 million U.S. dollars) batch of improvements and initiatives next week out of the 1 billion Swedish kronor (157 million U.S. dollars) budget set aside for cycling infrastructures.

new bike lanes on the horizon

Stockholm’s cycling network is getting major attention right now (Lilla Västerbron, Kymlingestråket, Perstorpsvägen and Flatenvägen are first on the list and planned for 2013) and will develop together with other big projects and changes in Stockholm’s landscape (Slussen and Hagastaden for instance).

All of that sounds good to my bike commuter ears but there is no such thing as a free lunch and here’s the catch.

Stockholm will gradually become a better and safer city for cycling. But it will eventually get crowded in many places and we just can’t make bridges wider for instance.” – Ulla Hamilton, traffic commissioner

This post is my own interpretation of this article published in Dagens Nyheter on January 30, 2013.