It’s spring in Stockholm, time to take the bike and explore the city’s bicycle infrastructure. Between 2013 and 2018 Stockholm plans to spend 1,000,000,000 (Billion!!) Swedish crowns on bicycle infrastructure, and the first European Green Capital must have state-of-the-art bicycle lanes, right? Well, comparing to Copenhagen or even Berlin, Stockholm got a lot of room for improvement. Figures and plans are fine, but at the end it comes down to the cyclist’s feeling. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable on the bicycle, he/she would not pick it to go to work, especially in a city with a good public transportation.
I didn’t really cycle during the last winter. I live in the suburbs and more than 10km of hilly, windy ride to the city is not my cup of tea. I’m not a Viking yet, and I use the metro instead. On top of that, Stockholm’s praised bicycle sharing program is closed during the winter, so even a short ride in the city wasn’t an option.
But let’s forget about the cold winter. I lately checked out three different types of bicycle lanes in the city: two in the affluent Östermalm district, and another one in Södermalm, Stockholm’s ever gentrifying district.
One of the longest and most prestigious streets of Stockholm has a pretty pitiable bicycle lane. It is a relatively narrow conventional bike lane, not physically separated from the roadway. Imagine how it feels to cycle there when a big truck is passing half a meter away from you.
This form of bike lane is very common in Stockholm, and I don’t think that a physical barrier between the bike lane and the roadway should be built in all streets. But in such a busy street – a dedicated and separated bike lane is a necessity.
After cycling south at Birger Jarlsgatan, I turned right to Hamngatan. This street (at least its first block) has a great bicycle lane! It is wide and completely separated from the roadway. Allowing a fast cyclist to overtake another cyclist without resulting in a conflict. Just see the difference:
Lastly, I cycled to see the new bicycle lane being built in Folkungagatan, one of Södermalm’s main roads. The city has definitely learned a lot since building the bike lane in Birger Jarlsgatan: this lane in much wider, not mentioning the protection it offers to cyclists.
However, I still think that the lane could be wider. It is one of the city’s main streets, and it is expected to accommodate more and more cyclists in the following years. Maybe now this lane is enough, but in the future more people will cycle here, and then it will be expensive to re-build this street.
After observing these three lanes, here are some conclusions:
- Too many types of bike lanes is just confusing for the average user. Cycling should be simple and pleasant, not a complicated maze. Copenhagenize offers a nice scheme for a simpler bicycle infrastructure through the entire city.
- I’m sure that in the following years more protected bicycle lanes will be built or upgraded (How else can you spend more than €100 million?). Re-building the lane in Birger Jarlsgatan must be one of these projects.
- When building a new bicycle lane, we should plan for future. The new bike lane in Folkungagatan is great for now, but what would happen in ten years, when hopefully many more people will use it?