26 July 2007

Stockholm cycles

I've just spent the last two weeks in Sweden - mostly in a small town in the North called Kramfors, where my sister lives. And the last couple of days in Stockholm. The fact is, they seem to cycle a lot, at least in this mild summer weather. Much more than in the UK, and in a more relaxed way. Fewer people wearing helmets. Less pannier bags and more open baskets. Less lycra and more everyday clothes, less toe-clips with fancy magnetic shoes, and more sandals, flipflops and that latest fashion, 'crocs'.

And few, very few bikes are locked - I'm very impressed. For some reason it seems to be the older bikes get locked up - for their sentimental value? - while perfectly decent hybrids or town bikes just get left on a kick-stand. I saw this in Kramfors and thought 'it figures'. Kramfors is after all a very small, somewhat sleepy town in an area which is, one could say, under-populated. But Stockholm is, by any measure, a thriving European city. And yet, and yet, one sees many bikes are not locked.

Cycle paths are, by and large, trully 'segregated' and not like our British ones, where green paint is expected to do the job. But they are no panacea and here too I have seen many that defy common sense, eg that are right in the way of car doors opening, or could too easily attract absent-minded pedestrians (or children) as they are segregated from car traffic, yes, but they are almost indistinguishable from the pavement. The extreme example of this is those cycle paths on the very many bridges that criss-cross the old town and sorrounding islands: their pavements overwhelmed by tourists who spill over quite naturally onto the cycle paths, utterly defeating the object of having them in the first place, and forcing cyclists onto the road to mingle with motor traffic.

But who cares: cycling clearly is thriving here.

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