We all know that cyclist and car drivers don’t see eye to eye. The cyclists claim that cars don’t leave enough space for them and drivers claim that bikers have no respect for the rules of the road. We also know that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Recently though, I discovered a new side to the argument. Cyclists don’t actually like other cyclists! I’ve been caught out by this twice and it really made me think.
Sveavägen in 1946
I was cycling into work along Sveavägen (not my favourite place at the best of times) and stopped for a red light. The next thing I know there is a screech of brakes from behind me and a very pissed off Swede swearing at me for being a “jävla idiot”. I had no idea what he was talking about but he kept on ranting and I worked out that he’d got pissed off because I’d stopped for the red lights and, at least according to him, bikes shouldn’t have to stop for traffic lights. Now if I had just suddenly jammed on my brakes and caused a problem for him then I could understand his irritation but I’d stopped in a normal, calm fashion and not caused him any problems it’s just that he’d assumed I was going to keep on going because “all cyclists go through red lights.” Sorry mate but just because you want to a) break the law and b) risk your own neck by blasting straight through a light at a busy intersection, doesn’t mean I want to…
A few days later I was on the way home. I caught up with a “normal” cyclist who was just minding his own business heading home after his own working day had ended. Since I was going faster I overtook him but, a few hundred metres further along, I hit a red light so I stopped. As the lights changed I moved off only to be overtaken by the same guy who had caught back up with me. He then proceeded to do his best to block me from overtaking him until eventually I pulled off the cycle path onto the road and overtook there instead. This manoeuvre was accompanied by a stream of insults directed towards bloody show off cyclists in their lycra suits just doing whatever they please. Give me a break! I’d overtaken him carefully l before, he knew I was going faster, so why get in my way? What harm was I doing him?
There are different classes of cyclists with different styles of cycling. Some are happy to just pootle along and get there in the end, others want to go faster. Some want to obey all the rules of the road, some don’t care. Some people want to have all the techy gadgets and measure every possible parameter of their ride, others just want to get from a to b.
In the end, we are all going to have to share the same piece of tarmac. Cycle however you want to but don’t lose the plot just because every other cyclist doesn’t share your view.
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.
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% ((http://www.dn.se/sthlm/obama-rensar-luften-i-stockholm/)) 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.
Sometimes we wonder how it was back in the days. Were people cycling in Stockholm or just walking because, you know, they did not have carbon frames, spandex clothes & GPS trackers, right? Could they possibly commute on two wheels without these basics back then? Well…
1945 – one car to smoke them all
1946 – bike parking facilities (replaced later with beautiful asphalt)
1946 – Stockholm Central Station before mad taxi drivers conquered the spot
More bicycling vintage pictures of bicycle cycling Stockholm here thanks to Stockholmskällan.
I might have missed the news but I don’t think I’ve heard of anything like SL (the organisation running all of the land based public transport systems in Stockholm County) being allowed to park buses on bicycle lanes.
I’ve been cycling the same portion of Sveavägen (between Kungsgatan and Sergels torg) for the last 2 years and it’s only since the last couple of weeks that I’ve had to ride on the main road in order to avoid SL buses parked half on the parking area, half on the bike lane.
I did not mind at first but today I got tired of it and decided to stop for a quick shot. There were three buses in a row parked as bad as the one shown on the picture and I’ve got to ask SL: “when did it become OK to use the bicycle lane on Sveavägen to park buses?”
With a concrete wall on the left side of the road there is no way for car drivers to avoid a cyclist who is maneuvering around the bus. Does the situation look safe? Is the location supposed to be a bus depot in the first place?