There are enough contenders for the title of the world’s bicycle capital, but the Swedes are convinced that this title belongs to Stockholm. Here you can get to any place without leaving your bike.
750 kilometers of bike paths allow you to drive two wheels to any area of Stockholm. Photo: Tullio Valente / Alamy / TASS
How long have the swedes been for the cycling season? “All year round, of course, we live in the south, there is no cold here,” Marcus Nielsen smiles blankly. He is a bank clerk, he is thirty-four years old, and thirty of them he rides a bicycle. June is on the calendar, but only 16 degrees on the thermometer, and a piercing wind is blowing from the Baltic. The ideas about the mild climate of the Swedes seem to be different from ours.
However, it’s not just the cold resistance of the Swedes. Over that inhabitants of Stockholm could pedal all year round, the city authorities purposefully worked for more than a dozen years.
The entire metropolitan agglomeration of 26 municipalities with a total population of about two million inhabitants, which is commonly called Greater Stockholm, is permeated with a well-designed network of cycle paths. In less than half an hour, you can take a bike from the center to any outskirts of the city, and in an hour to the suburbs. But it is today. Fifteen years ago not every district of the city was accessible to the cyclist. Changes began in 2006, when the municipality approved a comprehensive program for the development of the cycle network. In Stockholm, hundreds of kilometers of new sidewalks and bicycle paths were laid, separate crossings were set up for pedestrians and cyclists, so that they would not interfere with either cars or each other.
In the same year, the City Bikes bicycle rental system was organized. Now in Stockholm – 140 points of bike rental. They are located near metro stations and central squares. Renting one bike for three days costs 165 kroons (about a thousand rubles), so it is much more profitable to buy a seasonal card – it will cost only twice as much. The season at City Bikes starts in April and lasts until the end of October.
Marcus’s family does not use bike rental: everyone has his own bike. Alignment for Sweden, familiar and none of your friends are not surprised. Rocking the pedals, sellers and TV presenters, officials and university professors drive to work here.
But today, Marcus has the day off – and instead of taking the usual route to the office, he goes on a bike ride around the city. Immediately it becomes clear that the walk will be more like a vigorous sports bike ride: for most road users helmets (by law, they must be worn only for children under 14 years old, but in practice almost everyone does it), the average speed on bicycle paths two meters wide reaches twenty kilometers per hour, the stream goes without interference, only occasionally slowing down at traffic lights.
The status of the kings of the road for cyclists finally approved the plan “City for walking”, developed by the mayor’s office in 2010 and entered into force two years later. The name speaks for itself: pedestrians and cyclists are given priority in moving around the capital. For them, equipped with even more tracks and parking lots, dozens of free points for tire inflation. The total length of bicycle paths in Stockholm has now reached 750 kilometers.
Following in the tables of ranks placed public transport with the lanes allocated for it, and private cars dropped in the hierarchy to the last step. They take money not only for parking (from 20 to 60 CZK per hour – from about 130 to 400 rubles), but also for entering the central part of the city and leaving it. The fee is not too high – depending on the time of day, it ranges from 15 to 35 Swedish kronor (100–230 rubles), but serves as an additional barrier. The result is not a hint of traffic jams in the historic center.
At the same time, in other cities in Sweden, they did everything to transplant the Swedes into a bicycle saddle. In Gothenburg and Malmo, everyone who promised at least two days a week to refuse to travel by car was given bicycles for free for six months. Anyone who had time to get used to a new lifestyle could buy a bicycle at a big discount.
Marcus leads the way to the island of Djurgården. Located not far from the city center, it was once intended for royal hunting (hence the name “Animal Lands”), and now there are a national park and a dozen museums.