Cycling with the Swedish….. and one Dane

After busy weeks with my normal duties for work, an exceptional occasion to chat with our king about his cycling adventures, an inspiring cargo bike festival in Nijmegen and a bike ride in the Dutch countryside I finally could finish my post about cycling in Sweden. Two weeks ago, I was allowed to explore more of the cycling culture of the Swedish cities Göteborg and Malmö. A great opportunity to find out how the residents of these cities are welcoming the warm season and take up cycling again.

Göteborg

Cargo deliveries in the shopping street

Cargo deliveries in the shopping street

In the pedestrianized Kungsgatan of Göteborg I was welcomed by Johan Erlandsson who showed me their eco delivery concept. Goods are brought to a warehouse and delivered in two vehicles to the shopping street. One electric powered street train and one cargo bike with a large trailer. They have a 4 wheel recumbent to deliver fresh lunches. I tried to ride this prototype in the busy street. Specially avoiding of unpredictable pedestrians requires some skills, but I managed to make some full turns in the street.

In the afternoon I spoke with Mikael Koucky, his staff and some friends about the cycling infrastructure in Netherlands and the political circumstances in the Netherlands and in Sweden. The cycling network in the region of Utrecht itself doesn’t differ that much of the network in Göteborg, but the Dutch technical details are much more well thought to make cycling easier. Two directional cycle paths are rare in Dutch city centers, and when they exist, they are wider and have a wider radius than in Sweden.

Before diner we went out for a short ride to see some nice examples of cycling facilities. Like the bicycle counter gives cycling status, a direction sensitive detector for cyclists at traffic lights (also rare in the Netherlands!) and of corse the Cykelfartsgata. This Swedish implementation of the Dutch “Fietsstraat” is due to legislation issues not as clear as in the Netherlands, but it works the same. Cyclists take the lane, car drivers have to stay behind.

The former harbor of Göteborg was explored the next day in a private tour lead by Mikael Koucky. We climbed the iconic bridge and discovered the new routes along converted ship wharfs. We saw the shared history of East India with the flagship of Svenska Ostindiska Companiet and searched our way on the University campus.

Malmö

In the afternoon I traveled to Malmö, to meet city officer Olle Evenas and Niels Hoé from Denmark in the brand new bicycle parking at the train station. What a fantastic space has the city created to park bicycles! Covered, free of charge, spacey and with all essential needs for a pleasant stay. It seems the consultants took a close look in some Dutch cities, like Groningen, Zutphen and Houten and made some nice adjustments to make bike parking suitable for their needs. A lounge, toilets and even a shower can be found in the basement. The tourniquets for the secured area looked very Dutch, and also the racks seemed Dutch, but were from a heavier German brand. Of course Niels had to try his design for the cargo bike railings in the middle of the parking. Olle lent me not only his bike, but also his couch and turned out to be an excellent cook. We enjoyed a nice meal and discovered the night life of the city.

new seaside area Malmö

new seaside area Malmö

In the morning we went out for a decent ride along the coast and into the city. I noticed that the bicycle network was even more dense as in Göteborg, and that the signage and underpasses make cycling more attractive. It is only in the details that improvements in infrastructure can be made. The width of the paths and the radius of the curves doesn’t allow large amounts of bicycle traffic. It seems almost impossible to handle more than 10.000 cyclists a day on the paths Olle showed me.

Conclusions

It was a well spend weekend to see the circumstances the Swedes have to deal with. Circumstances that don’t differ that much of the Netherlands. Both cities are dense and have a good size and configuration to cycle in. And yes, I have seen quite a lot of people on bicycles. All kind of people, youngsters, elderly, mothers and fathers with young children, so good indicators of lively cities. In my limited view there is more work to do in Göteborg than in Malmö, but both cities can achieve Dutch shares of cycling. To increase cycling in the cities, the answers lay in better details, better parking facilities and better maintenance of the existing infrastructure to show cyclist really count.  Specially for the infrastructure issues the Swedes can learn from the Dutch.

See my photostream for more impressions of Göteborg and Malmö.

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2 thoughts on “Cycling with the Swedish….. and one Dane

  1. It is interesting to read your impressions of city cycling, thanks for those. I have never read your blog before but found it on a link from Wim Shermer Quest blog.

    City cycling is of course very imortant for people that live there. I would like to see exclusive cycle lanes between cities, just like the ones in Netherlands! Its a dream that i have that people could cycle long distances between towns and cities on cycle lanes, only for bikes.

    My impression is that you are influencing cycle infrastucture develeopment, is that correct?.

    bye for now

    Like

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. I work for the Region of Utrecht as bicycle program manager to encourage the local municipalities to create better cycle infrastructure. And I am happy to share my knowledge abroad, like this time in Sweden.
      Long distance cycling is an issue indeed, also in Sweden. Local roads with only access traffic are often very good to cycle, and old railway lines can be converted to cycle paths. In the the Netherlands most busy roads between cities have cycle paths and make long distance cycling very pleasant.
      Regards,
      Herbert

      Like

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