More and more cities around the world are introducing congestion fees for people who drive their cars into town during peak times.
The idea is to discourage people from bringing their cars into unnecessarily crowded areas unless they really have to and are willing to pay for the privilege. So far it seems to be working but a lot of the money being raised isn’t used to improve the inner cities but to build more rounds outside towns.
Now Johan Ehrenberg (@JohanEhrenberg) at Dagens ETC has come up with a novel alternative. Instead of just discouraging people from driving their cars, we should actively encourage people to cycle. His idea is that everyone who cycles through a congestion station once per day will be paid 25 SEK. I don’t agree with all his ideas (wearing a hi-vis jacket with a registration number on it and that all people who cycle fast are idiots for example) but I think it’s a great idea. If I knew that I would actually earn money by cycling (as well as the savings I’d make on train tickets), I’d be much more likely to cycle as often as I could.
I don’t know if it’ll ever happen and it’ll certainly need some more thought but it’s pure genius. Read his full article (in Swedish) here.
When I looked out the window this morning it was 3.5 degrees and pouring with rain.
The guy on the right shoulder said, “Go on, you know you should cycle to work. You need to keep cycling and get used to crappy weather.” but the guy on the right said, “If you take the train you can watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead and be dry and warm.”
I thought about it for a while then got dressed, switched on my bike lights and hit the road. 50 minutes later I arrived at work cold and wet but feeling like a very good boy.
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
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. ((http://www.dn.se/sthlm/sju-av-tio-vill-se-cykelsatsningar/))
Meanwhile, a couple of Dagens Nyheter journalists packed a laser speed gun and took a short walk to Västerbron. ((http://www.dn.se/sthlm/bara-10-av-130-korde-lagligt-pa-bron/)) 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 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. 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!”
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…
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.
On September 25, the City of Stockholm and Naturskyddsföreningen (the most influential nonprofit environmental organization in Sweden) will give goodie bags to cyclists around Stockholm as a thank you for riding a bicycle (“tack för att du cyklar”).
In order to get one of the 100,000 bags you will have to ride by one the following 17 check points:
Liljeholmsbron (east side)
Slussen – bike service available
Götgatan (by Katarina bangata)
Roslagstull (north side) – bike service available
Stadshuset – bike service available
Lidingöbron (Ropsten side)
Raoul Wallenbergs torg
Älvsjö station (by the bicyle pump)
Kista – bike service available
Will you commute by bike on September 25 and ride by one of the check points to get a bag? What do you think the goodies will be this time?
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.
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 spaces ((http://www.dn.se/sthlm/sa-ska-bristen-pa-cykelparkeringar-losas/)) 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.
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.
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.