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.



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.