Biking culture in northern Europe
We've been wanting to share the pleasant impression we have about the biking culture in this country that we're living in! This is because in northern Europe the bicycle is very popular due to its low costs of maintenance, but specially because it is a completely clean transportation, free of any pollutive gas emissions.
“Burn fat, not oil”, you can read in pro-bike campaigns.
Due to the fact that it is expensive to have a car (purchase, maintenance, fuel and taxes) and th public policies have given priority to the public transportation, the bicycle is commonly used in northern Europe. From the urban design it is contemplated that cities must have an efficient traffic distribution, so public transportation -eventhough it is also expensive- has the preference in the transport circulation. Next go pedestrians, then bikes and finally cars. Often it is hard to drive in the biggest cities because they give the cars different routes than the main ones. Parking spaces are also expensive. All of this is made so people will use less and less the car. In some cities, like downtown Stockholm, they can even apply an extra tax for driving in some of the most crowded areas. Then people restricts the use of cars when is really necessary, choosing public transportation (very well equipped subways, trams, buses, boats and trains) or the bicycle.
The first thing that caught my attention in Sweden is how well one can reach destinations by bike. In most of the streets there is a bicycle lane, understood this as a special space for bike transportation, not a sports but a urban facility.
The streets are arranged so pedestrians know where to walk, bikes were to pass, and the vehicle area is often divided for public transport and particular cars. Even in peak hours, traffic is moving along, because everyone know were is their space and who goes first, decreasing accidents and decreasing the time that people is in a traffic jam. As public transport has the preference over the other kinds of vehicles, is assured that most of the people will be moved away from the traffic quickly.
Each lane or space has their own signs. So everyone can identify which one to use. You can see that in the video we made.
Scandinavia (Sweden Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland) along with Holland and Germany are the countries that most incentivate the use of the bicycle as an urban transport in many ways, beginning with the taxes and costs that you save, but also culturally and socially: Here, using a bike is not the same as being "poor", there is a lot of design development for urban bikes, and the image of the persons that use the bike is identified more with clever people that like to move fast and green. Therefore bikes are actually "democratizing" society: It does'nt matter that you ride a 10,000 crowns bike, you're still sweating next to the one that bought his bike second hand. This also increases the feeling of being moving in an agile and free way through the city, with a low environmental impact. Women in a suit, elderly, children by themselves or in a special chair in their parents' bike, people that go to school, office, supermarket. A wide public. And most of the cars will yield for them.
The biking culture has also found a great ally in design that promotes and backs up the activity: there are helmets, reflective signs, raincoats for the bikers; locks, baskets, lights, bells, bags and all kind of accesories for the bikes. A whole culture of every-day, safe and fun use of the bicycle. For all tastes and budgets.
In this video you'll see that it is actually very safe to interact with bikes, both for pedestrians and bikers. Also that when building the lanes there are no steep slopes, thinking of the people that will be riding them. The overall system has planned the combined use of different vehicles, so there are big parking spaces for bicycles and rental bikes.
Take a look at the video and we hope we can receive your comments.
We biked more or less 3.1 kms making this video! Here you see a map of our tour. Remember to share with us your videos and posts. Let´s help people be aware of the way we choose to travel in our cities.