The cycling mode-share in Stockholm decreased in 2014 (compared to both 2012 and 2013). The 7-8% we’re at today seem quite far from the 15% target set for 2030 and if the Capital of Scandinavia was only counting on natural growth to become a world-class cycling city, well, not only will we fail to achieve 15% but we already have.
Getting your hands on a bike
I was recently on a two day business trip in Copenhagen and planned to use some “alone time” to ride around the city and roll over the Bicycle Snake (Cykelslangen). I obviously needed to get my hands on a bike first and, since I could only pick one up after 18:00 on the first day and had to return it early in the morning on the second day, I decided to skip bike rentals and went for a city bike instead.
The City Bikes are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Each city bike has a touchscreen tablet used for navigation, payment and guiding to points of interest in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg.1
Wha?! Could it be that simple? Because it sure isn’t in Stockholm where one has to first get a card from one of the retailers2 to be able to get a bike between 6:00 and 22:00, from April 1st to October 31st only3.
Sure getting your hands on a card (3 days minimum for 165 SEK) isn’t that hard but it’s an extra inconvenient step in the process and being able to register an account directly from the bicycle’s screen and ride for 32 SEK an hour or 88 SEK + 8 SEK an hour with a monthly subscription is just very, very much easier and cheaper for short stays.
If one wants people to get around on bicycles one has to make sure those bicycles are easily accessible at all time for those who don’t own one for whatever reason. Some might not like Copenhagen’s bike share system and criticise but I, as a tourist, really enjoyed the experience.
Cyclists as first-class road users
If you build bike paths, cyclists will come. If you build great bike paths, even more will come. And so what do I see less than five minutes into the ride? Something I haven’t seen so far in Stockholm: a roundabout where cyclists are given a lane within the junction and not around it.
In Copenhagen, cyclists are clearly not second-class road users. They enter, flow around the central island and exit the same way cars do. Cyclists never have to cross one of the roads leading to or leaving the intersection and stop -like they often have to when the lane is outside the island- because a driver could not enter and stopped right on the cyclists and pedestrians paths.
It does not seem much but it makes a huge difference. It also sends a strong message: cyclists are part of the normal traffic flow and share the road.
Stealing a bike is no big deal
Now, I don’t know how bicycle thefts are dealt with in Denmark but when it comes to sending the right (or the wrong for that matter) signals for a better cycling mode-share Sweden has a lot to improve.
According to the Swedish government valuable police time being is wasted by officers forced to deal with unnecessary reports and complaints and the interior minister, Anders Ygeman, suggested that police either drop the complaints without processing them or simply stop taking such calls altogether.
Ygeman believes that “it would benefit everyone if insurance companies did not require a police report when it comes to minor offences, such as a stolen bike or a camera.”
Yes, to Sweden’s interior minister, stealing a bike is a minor offence. It doesn’t matter if it was the bike you used every day to commute to work and/or drop off your children at kindergarten. It was just a bike. Now, if you just had a car instead…