Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stockholm Cyclist Holiday...

..well, it was really a business trip, but I was able to tack on a day to do an extensive tour of the city by bike. As I said in an earlier post, I'd never been in Sweden before. I found it very English-friendly. (This is good thing, as my Nordic is pretty non-existent. One of the weird things about visiting Sweden is that "Hello" in Nordic is "He!" pronounced "hey". It's tempting to just say "hey" right back, kind of comfortable and informal, until you realize that you're sending the wrong signal about which language you prefer.)

Stockholm has a lot of practical cyclists. It would not be hard to believe that (at least in the warm months) 20 to 25 8 to 10 percent of city-dwellers commute to work, or do at least some practical transportation on bikes. The city has an extensive network of bike lanes, and the sensible Swedes wear helmets in far greater proportion than I've seen elsewhere in Europe. I'd guess 50% of the urban riders I saw wore helmets, which may not sound like a lot, until you see Paris where the percentage is in the low (and I mean low) single digits.

Stockholm has a public bike-sharing system called "Stockholm City Bikes". It has been put together by Clear Channel advertising, who I think also did the Washington DC "SmartBike" system. The systems look pretty much identical: the bikes (3 speed w/ coaster brakes on the rear) are the same (see my post on SmartBike here), and the rental system is very similar, with a 3-hour usage limit. SCB is more tourist oriented, though, with a 3-day pass available (for between $15 and $20) at the central railway station.

I got a better deal than SCB, though. I got a free bike for two days from my hotel (a very nice central hotel called the Scandic Anglais). Evidently this is not unusual. The larger hotels keep a collection of bikes available for patron use, and you just check them out and a deposit is put on your hotel tab until you return them. Simple and convenient. The bikes are nothing special: one-speed "ordinaries" with rear coaster brake (coaster brakes suck, by the way) and drum brake on front, rack, mudguards, and lights. Pretty basic stuff, and not very different from what a lot of locals use on their own. Just guessing, I would say that about 50% of the locals were on "ordinaries" while the other half were on more high-tech modern bikes. I saw very few people on the SCBs. It was late September, and past the tourist "high season", so maybe that was it -- the SCBs were mainly for tourists.

The SCB website is here, but it's in the off-season now. Bikes are available only for seven months of the year, 3/31 to 10/31. I guess winters are pretty tough in Stockholm. One of my acquaintances there said he had a co-worker who put on studded tires and rode year-round, but he was considered extremely hard-core by his colleagues.

So, to document the holiday and encourage other tourist-cyclists in Stockholm, I've mapped my city tour on Google Maps below. My first day tour (8.5 miles, Friday afternoon) is in red, and my longer Saturday tour (19.5 miles) is in purple:


View Larger Map

..and, even more fun, have an annotated collection of "travelogue" photos on flickr here. You can click on the map link on each photo page to see where it was taken in Stockholm. I hope you enjoy seeing Sweden's capital by bike!

1 comment:

Joe D said...

Technically, "ordinary" is another term for a pennyfarthing, which made for an amusing mental image.