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?
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).
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.
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:
- Alvik (Alviksplan)
- Liljeholmsbron (east side)
- Ekelundsbron (Solna)
- Slussen – bike service available
- Götgatan (by Katarina bangata)
- Hammarbyfärjan (Södermalm)
- Roslagstull (north side) – bike service available
- Stadshuset – bike service available
- Lidingöbron (Ropsten side)
- Sankt Eriksplan
- 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?
What’s the difference between James Bond’s car and every other car? Well, apart from the fact that most of us don’t have Aston Martin’s, Bond’s has tonnes of gadgets. Nowadays it’s possible to add more gadgets to your bike than Bond could ever fit into his car. First we had the humble bike light then speedometres. Now you’ve got power metres, GPS trackers, smart phones apps, Bluetooth devices, the list goes on.
I’ve been cycling since I was a kid but it’s only in the past few months that I started cycling in any serious way to get exercise. My plan is to complete Vätternrundan as a part of the Svenskklassiker next year so I needed to get a new bike (my mountain bike just isn’t right for 300km in one go). I bought myself a Columbus Pinta from CykelCity in Stockholm.
It wasn’t cheap but it was far from the most expensive bike available. But buying the bike was only the start of the tale. Then I had to get special shoes to fit the clip pedals, a speedo to measure how far I’d gone and how fast, decent cycle shorts to cushion my butt, a cycle jersey with some pockets to hold the essentials and, and, and…
What I didn’t know at the time is that there’s a term for a new cyclist who buys all the gear but still isn’t very good. A Fred. I read a bit about it and I guess I have to admit it, I’m a Fred. I love having my gadgets. I track my riding with RunKeeper and/ or Endomondo, I planned to buy a Wahoo bike system from a friend (couldn’t make it work so I backed off) and now I’m trying to choose between a heart rate monitor strap or a sports watch. Do I need most of this stuff? No. Does any of it make me a better cyclist? Probably not. Will it help me get round Lake Vättern? Doubtful. Is it doing anyone any harm? 100% not so where’s the problem?
So who else out there is a Fred? What kit have you got? What’s worth getting and what’s total rubbish? What’s the best app to use for tracking your rides?
Say it once, say it loud. I’m Fred and I’m proud!
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 spaces1 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.
I would be very much surprised if Barack Obama and Fredrik Reinfeldt discussed liveable cities, bicycle commuting and the absolute absurdness of tiny narrow sidewalks in city centres but I’m pretty sure they did not bring these subjects up over diner.
And that is very unfortunate considering what Stockholmers and newspapers keep talking about since the City of Stockholm returned to its former self: The Obama Effect1.
The Obama Effect (also known as Circus Obama) is a paradoxical reaction observed in Stockholm for the first time in September 2013. Motorised traffic was limited and roads in the city centre were blocked to make room for Barack Obama’s bulletproof vehicle and better ensure his safety (???). Thanks to the King of the United Kingdoms of Carmerica Stockholmers had the chance to enjoy, for a short while, a city where public spaces were for people and not for cars; a city where it was, for a change, possible to breath clean air.
Unfortunately good things don’t last forever and there ain’t no such thing as car-free days2 in Stockholm even though 70% of the population (who reads Dagens Nyheter online) would like to see that happen. 70%. Seventy percent. Four of the seven political parties in Sweden are also in favour of one yearly car-free day and that number will probably increase as the next general election (in 2014) gets closer.
Should Stockholm be car-free once a year? 70% says YES
And yet the City of Stockholm doesn’t seem to be concerned by the opinion of its citizens and while other cities around the world will celebrate the now traditional car-free day, there is nothing planned for September 22 in a city which was awarded the first European Green Capital title in 2010.
But things could change and will hopefully change before 101% of the population and 8 of the 7 political parties can’t take it anymore. Otherwise I’ve already recorded a distress call: “Help us, Barack Obama. You’re our only hope.”
Note. When the post was published almost 10,000 people had answered the poll and the result is still the same, 70% says YES to a car-free day.
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%1 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.
Not much riding this month since I was on parental leave with my girls. Still, here are the unimposing figures from August, 2013.
On my way to work
- Time – 5:42’52
- Distance – 129.14 km
- Average speed – 22.6 km/h
- Maximum speed – 51.5 km/h
- Calorie consumption – 2422 kcal
- Carbon offset (CO2) – 19.36 kg
- Operating cost: 40 SEK (flat tire)