I have my first first world problem. I do not like the Stockholm Subway. Do not get me wrong, the tunnelbana is one of the best in the world. Its ALWAYS on time and very convenient. In fact, I do believe that Stockholm is one of the few cities in the world where one can live without a car because public transport is so good. But I just cant get used to the subway. I feel trapped in an underground box (think coffin) with 50 other strangers who are absolutely quiet and stare at their phones. Its so eerie. I just cant get used to the silence during rush hour. Of course, for most people this is a great thing.
Great bike roads
Also cycling in Stockholm is GREAT! Cycling to work takes me roughly the same time as taking the subway (around 30 mins). Plus the fresh air! The traffic is really well organized and its quite easy to find your way. This map shows all the bike lanes and finds a suitable path for you. I mostly just use google maps and a lot of instinct. I am absolutely horrible with directions and get lost quite often, but I dunno, I enjoy it that way. Stumbling upon interesting places and things. Mostly my life just happens!
Friendly bikers (?)
Cyclists all around the world have an image of being aggressive but I haven’t had any such interactions (except the occasional nudge). Also, I have been cycling in the summer when the streets are empty and traffic is minimal. What I find most surprising is how many people cycle. Around 100,000 Stockholmers cycle to work or school. And many of them do so with a child in a ‘kid’s seat’. I always get impressed when I see people with kids riding up a bridge or a steep slope. Also so many older people ride cycles as well. Its soo cool!
Translation : 1 in 5 Swedes cycles to work or school daily (that’s me!). 44% use cycling as exercise during the summer (not 100% sure of this translation). 28% cycle to work or school minimum 1 day a week. 18% cycle to work or school even during winter months. 11% cycle daily even during winters. (Source: http://www.cykelsmart.se/)
Another important reason is that Stockholm is utterly beautiful. Something I hardly get a glimpse of in the subway, why go under such a beautiful city when you could go along it! By not taking part in any of the world wars, Stockholm is has been safeguarded from bombings and thus has such distinguished architecture. I also get to cycle along the water. Its absolutely astounding. The mix of green trees, light blue skies and dark blue water with the sound of waves is something I truly love and cherish.
(Source: Mikeldi Cesteros)
Biking also gets exercise out of the way. I mean I cycle for 1 hour a day which a recent researchers say increases life by an hour as well. Most work places have a shower as well. By the time I reach work, I feel like I have accomplished something and feel very fresh and ready to go. In fact, when it is windy and rainy, I feel like I have achieved something, you know, like climbing up a mountain or something. It is challenging, but its nice to have something challenging as well. Keeps my mind and body fresh and ready to go!
And lastly and most importantly, compared to cars and even the tunnelbana cycling is more environmentally friendly! I have in fact, over the last four months, ridden at least 900 Kilometers on the bike (looking to reach 1k before winter, woohoo!) That’s a good 40-50 liters of petrol saved.
To be honest, some days its hard to wake up and feel like putting in effort early in the morning. Especially when its chilly, rainy and windy outside. But I remind myself as to why I love cycling. I tell myself I am biking to save the Polar bears. I know this might not be true at all and one person biking is not going to change anything. But it feels nice, and is super motivating. I mean polar bears are running out of ice to walk on and are undertaking long swims through the freezing Arctic ocean to find food (connected to global warming). These videos from BBC’s Planet Earth are what I have in mind when I feel lazy to start cycling early in the morning. I bike for the Polar bears.
Citybikes is probably the cheapest way to get a bicycle, but you could also get it from a friend, students leaving Stockholm or buy second hand. Those are either given away for free or are very cheap. A good servicing of the cycle would cost around 500 SEK, but you could also do it yourself with some friends.
Next I want to prepare for winter and be among the 11% who cycle daily even during winter months. Will let you know how it goes!
Some interesting links for cycling in Sweden:
Cycling news: http://www.fourteenislands.com/
Really well written cycling trips – http://www.eatdrinkonewoman.com/word/2009/08/stockholm_bike_excursions/
Cykelpromenader – http://www.dn.se/sthlm/har-ar-stockholms-basta-cykelturer/
Sweden’s most active cycling forum – http://happymtb.org/forum/list.php/1 (can post in english as well, though most posts are in Swedish)