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.
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.