Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws

This 1996 Australian study suggests that a mandatory helmet law for motor vehicle occupants could save seventeen times more people from death and serious head injury than a similar law for cyclists.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0001457596000164

living the dream

Some say Sweden is the most Americanized country in the world. I’m not so sure it’s the 51st state yet but it’s definitely going in that direction.

Driverless vehicles have been wandering around Sweden for a while already and it’s become normal to read things like “Snowplow runs cyclist over” or “She was run over by a black Golf” even in the most influential newspapers. I hadn’t read the “Oops, wrong pedal!” (very popular in the U.S. and New York City in particular) gambit yet though but it’s finally here and Sweden is definitely catching up.


Oops, wrong pedal!
Oops, wrong pedal!

Motorist pressed the wrong pedal – drove off the road.

Hagsätra. It can go bad if one mistakes the gas for the brake.
Police was called out to Hagsätravägen after a motorist drove down a hill and into a parking lot last week.
This was the result of a driving student mistaking the gas pedal for the brake. Both the student and the driving instructor had to go to the hospital.


No one else was injured but we might not be as lucky next time it happens around a playground or a busy terrace. I would have liked to read that the student and instructor had been charged with something because that kind of “mistake” means they both should, in my book, never be allowed behind the wheel again. Ever.

cyclist reveals filthy air filter after sitting on his couch drinking coffee in Stockholm

I was not sure how to begin a post on air quality in Stockholm and since Black (Smoke) Friday was a week ago I could not use that for an introduction either. But then I read this.

Cyclist reveals filthy face masks after commuting in London

A cyclist is calling on the government to improve air quality after his face mask filters were left covered in filth after a week of commuting.
John Lenehan, an engineer, purchased the mask after suffering from a cough and irritable throat as he cycled to his office in Old Street, east London.
He wore the mask for three days as he made his way from Enfield to his workplace, cycling for about 60 miles in total, in April.
But when Mr Lenehan looked at filters inside the masks, designed to trap harmful particulates, he was shocked to find them completely blackened by pollution.1

Anti-pollution mask, air filters, London
Air pollution: a mask before travelling (left), mask from cycling (one week, centre) and mask from travelling on the train (one week, right)

Cycling advocacy groups campaign for wearing helmets and high visibility clothing while riding but never or rarely talk about the crap we breathe along the way. Every day I read about yellow vests and how they’re supposed to make cyclists more visible during Stockholm dark winters (given that the other person is looking in the right direction obviously) but I haven’t read a single article on air quality in central Stockholm lately that did not end with that one old plan: “we really should start looking into starting to think about banning studded tyres in the city center… next year… or the year after.”

Air quality in Stockholm is not as bad as in London one might say (it was in the news sometime ago on some website somewhere) but air quality in Stockholm is far from perfect either.

Cyclist reveals filthy air filter after sitting on his couch drinking coffee in Stockholm

Now, ladies and gentlemen, please let me show you the anti-pollution filter that sits between the couch I drink coffee on and the wild world outside.

Anti-pollution filter, Stockholm
According to the manufacturer’s recommendation that filter should be replaced once a year but not only did I not think it would turn black that quick, I did not even know there was a filter I needed to check once in a while.

Long story short, this one was last replaced sometime between 2008 and 2012 and is already black as coal. I’m getting a new one as soon as possible and the air quality around the couch will definitely improve but what about when I’m out walking, riding or just having a drink on the balcony?

Last time I checked lungs, bronchioles and windpipes could not be ordered from the Internet like spare parts for ventilation systems can and there’s a good chance they were not made to filter as much crap as they nowadays should. There are 17 different classes of air filters available on the market but only one for lungs. One that, unlike helmets and high visibility vests, doesn’t get much media exposure and is seldom brought to the public’s attention by all the new cycling experts in town.

At the end of the day it’s up to everyone to decide which piece of “safety” equipment should be acquired first but I know I’d buy and wear an anti-pollution mask before any sort of neon yellow jacket. So what about you? Do or would you wear an anti-pollution mask when cycling? Do you think the City of Stockholm and Naturskyddsföreningen should give some away in their “Thank you for cycling” goody bags next Spring?


  1. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/cyclist-reveals-filthy-face-masks-after-commuting-in-london-9901951.html 

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 

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.


  1. http://www.dn.se/sthlm/sju-av-tio-vill-se-cykelsatsningar/ 

  2. http://www.dn.se/sthlm/bara-10-av-130-korde-lagligt-pa-bron/ 

One basic rule for Stockholm cyclists

Cyclists constantly complain about how drivers don’t give them space and endanger us while we are out on our bikes in town. It’s not a war that’s going to be won any time soon but here’s one rule that we can all start to follow today that will let us win a battle or at least take the moral high ground.

This is called a red light.

This is called a red light. It means “Stop!” Not “Stop if you feel like it” or “Stop if there are cars coming the other way” or “Stop if it’s a Tuesday” or anything else. Just “Stop!”

OBEY IT! IT’S NOT DIFFICULT.

thank you for cycling, autumn 2013 – tack för att du cyklar

Back in May Stockholm ran the “tack för att du cyklar” (thank you for cycling) day. As a thank you for cycling, improving the environment and reducing traffic congestion in central Stockholm, each person who passed a designated station between certain times was given a hi-vis vest so they can be easily seen, a map of cycle tracks in Stockholm and a leaflet with some helpful safety tips such as “wear a helmet, it’ll protect your head.” I hadn’t started cycling then but I heard that many people thought it had been a great success. Unfortunately those people do not seem to have been cyclists.

What the organisers had failed to realise was that the people who are cycling at these times are mostly not casual cyclists. They are aware that they need to be seen and not hurt, they know their route and they certainly know that a helmet will protect their heads. In short, the “thank you” wasn’t really much use to many people.

On the 25th of September it was time for another thank you. This time I was one of the people who passed through Norrtull between 0700 and 0830. I was excited to get into work and look in my goodie bag to see what I’d got and if the organisers had listened to those who thought that May’s attempt had fallen a bit flat.

The answer? Apparently not…

Thank you for cycling, autumn 2013

I know that at least one person in my office cycled in that day just to get her goodie bag and that’s great. But one day isn’t going to solve things. A better idea would be to solve the underlying issues. Sort out the bumpy and difficult to ride on cycle paths, make it easier to cross Norrtull without standing still at the lights for 10 minutes (yes, I do actually stop for lights), stop having bike lanes that just suddenly vanish without trace or warning. Maybe then more people will feel encouraged to take up cycling to work on a more permanent basis.

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.

Hammarby Hill XC 2013

Last Saturday morning was supposed to be perfect and I had it all figured out in these sweet dreams I had. The horse was ready. I was – as much as one can be with an infant around – ready and I naively thought that everyone else would be. Wrong.

So I’m on my way, all geared up, to ride the 2013 Hammarby Hill XC but as I reach the starting line and look around me I know I’m in trouble. Not only am I surrounded by the Lycra tights army – those guys are all over town already but they usually mean no harm – but there’s also a bunch of people wearing reflective safety vests! Safety vests for mountain bike racing in the woods? Seriously? Did I miss something here? Is the cyclist hunting season already open?

Vintage mountain bike commercial
Me right before heading to Hellasgården

But I don’t really have time to think about the risks I’m about to take as the organizer fires the starting pistol (I know I’m safe at that moment since the guy between me and the weapon is wearing a vest) and we’re on the move: the dense herd rides on a tiny asphalt ribbon for a while but even though we make pretty easy targets no one gets shot.

Then the fun begins and as the group enters the first (of the too few) rocky section it’s clear some of us have never cycled elsewhere than gravel paths. Bikes and parts are flying all over the place, piles of people start to form and trees are covered with bright shiny pieces of clothing. It’s a mess but I somehow manage to stay on the saddle and make it through in one piece (I think I’m dragging two guys with their fingers stuck in my rear derailleur at that time but the bones quickly snap and I’m soon back to cruising speed).

Where has the gravel gone?
Shit. Where has the gravel gone???

Just like two years ago I signed up for the 40 kilometers distance only this year I was in better shape and should have been done with the 2 laps in less than 2 hours. That was my goal at least and I was obviously not expecting problems with the derailleur (could the bones explain the malfunction?). I unfortunately had to stop twice to put it back in place and finished the race in 2 hours and 8 minutes. Eight minutes over. Crap.

I should look at the bright side though: I didn’t take a bullet that day and I should consider myself lucky to just be alive! A fine Saturday morning after all but how wrong can it go when cycling is on the agenda? Wait. Did you just say reflective safety vest?

For the 14 islands racing buns, with cycling love.