cyclists under police watch

Stockholm riders can expect more police controls at traffic lights during spring – Peter Ågren, Södermalm police.

Last Tuesday Stockholm’s police began with a series of controls targeting cyclists at the intersection Götgatan – Hornsgatan. According to an article published today on mitt i (in Swedish) 17 cyclists rode through red light and were fined 1500 SEK ($230) that morning.

Red light

While I totally agree with police making sure cyclists follow traffic laws for their own safety and the safety of pedestrians (I don’t think the safety of drivers is at risk here) I also wonder if police attention is in sync with all the political communication, programs and concrete plans for a more livable, greener & cleaner Stockholm (projects for better public transit, bigger and safer bicycle network are making headlines pretty much every week).

In 2010 Stockholm was given the first European Green Capital Award but it does not mean things are perfect and we can all sit back and relax. One of the issues central Stockholm is facing (in winter mainly) is poor air quality with higher levels of PM10 particles than in Los Angeles: studded tyres blamed for poor Stockholm air. In response to these high levels of particles the city of Stockholm introduced a ban on the use of studded tires on Hornsgatan, the very same street I mention at the beginning of this post.

And here is the thing. As I was riding on Hornsgatan the other day I decided to stop for a minute and listen. I don’t remember the exact number (I would gladly stop for another count if I need to show proof) but I know for sure I could hear the obvious sound of studs against asphalt for more than 50% of all cars that passed by during that minute (and trust me we’re closer to 75% than 50%). I ride that street twice a day all year round (not on weekends I have to admit) and I have never ever seen a police control targeting motorists who still use studded tires.

Yes it is a good thing that cyclists follow the rules and police should send strong signals to unsafe riders but what’s the point in keeping cyclists from dying in a crash now if they’re going to die from lung cancer later? Is this an evidence of short instead of long term thinking? Of targeting the minority (cyclists) over the majority (motorists) because it’s just easier?

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Laurent Pignon

Born in 1980 in France. Got lost in Finland in 2002. Living in Sweden since 2005. Daily, year-round, rain snow or shine bicycle commuter since 2012. And yes, that's lots of dates.

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