Something Swedish

Biking

16 Comments

The first thing I noticed when I first came to Sweden was all the bikes. Everywhere. I’ve seen more bikes than people. I’ve seen people talk on the phone, text, smoke and walk their dogs while on their bikes. It was clear to me that in order to ever truly become integrated into Swedish society, I would need a bike. I even got asked multiple times, ‘Don’t you have a bike?’ as if walking just doesn’t cut it.

Sweden is a very health and environment conscious country, center stage being the strong biking culture.

This commercial was just released by our county explaining that people who bike are superheros:
(Translation:
~ Halmstad is a biking town.
~ 21% of Halmstad residents travel via bike.
~ We have 21 (swedish) miles of biking trails. [= 210 kilometers = 130 miles ]
~ We are building super bike lanes
~ Everyone who bikes is a superhero)

It took a year, but last year I finally loaned a bike from my in-laws and have been riding it nearly every time I go anywhere.

Even though I’ve been able to ride a bike my whole life, this was different. Biking to commute to work/school or when you go to a friend’s house or when you go grocery shopping is a lot different than riding your bike around the block for fun as a kid or to exercise as an adult. In NYC you don’t see too many bikes, it’s simply not a common way to get around. It’s as if I had to relearn how to ride: bike lanes, hand signals, traffic laws, and getting used to so many other cyclists and pedestrians. Oh how things have changed; before I started biking I had no idea. I was amazed by by husbands ability to hear the tire treads of a bike approaching from a block away. I was blissfully unaware of the high pitched yet gentle dinging of a bike bell telling me to move out of people’s ways. Bike lanes seemed like wide sidewalks. Every time a bike whizzed past me I thought for sure that I would be run over.

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Today my husband and I took our bikes out for a ride together for the first time. It was nice to bike for the fun of it instead of using it as a mode of transport. It’s truly the best way to learn your neighborhood, too. Even though I’ve lived here for two years, biking today allowed me to see more places and understand where everything is in relation to each other and the fastest ways to get around. I learned that there is a separate traffic light for bikes, which means that I’ve wasted a lot of time waiting for the pedestrian one instead. Better safe than sorry though! Enjoying the beautiful Swedish weather on a nice long bike ride followed by a picnic in the park is the way to go.
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16 thoughts on “Biking

  1. Gattis Meghan. This is a quantum leap for you and the process of grooving into the culture. Surprised it took you so long. We’ll have to have you bike out here for fika one day.

  2. haha yes the hearing the bike thing still after 3 years I am still totally unaware that someone is coming up behind me!

  3. Thanks for this. The bikes and biking really stood out to me as well when I arrived, and they still do. Very euro.

  4. Haha I just bought a bike for myself to get around Halmstad too. When I explain to my friends and family back in Australia about the bike thing I don’t think they actually believe me. It’s interesting to hear the statistics on bike riders in this town, I didn’t realise that (though it doesn’t surprise me). I have discovered you can forget how to ride a bike though…

    • It’s true! I was so awkward on my bike the first time. The bikes I’ve had back home were much smaller, mountain bikes – which might have something to do with it…and the lapse of about 8 years haha. I really do love biking everywhere now, it’s great! I get places quicker biking than if someone offers to drive me because I can cut through centrum.

      • Yeah I’m pretty sure my old bikes were very different. For me though I haven’t ridden for about 14 years (since I was that age), with the single exception of 2 years ago as part of a wine tour (we all started off as bad riders, started to get the hang of it after a couple of hours, but then went to too many wineries and got bad at riding again), so I am waaaay out of practise. I don’t remember feeling like it was so hard to control haha.
        That’s a good point too – through town biking probably is quicker than using the car, really. I have realised while being here how much of my money used to go on my car…I miss driving but it is a good way to save money to go back to riding everywhere instead.

  5. I do not get it. How can a New York woman get married to a Swedish man and then leave the greatest city on earth – moving to a Halmstad – a medium sized Southwestern coastal city with 100 000 people and a density with is below 100 people/Km. I do not get these middle class liberal American women that move to Scandinavia marrying some liberal blond Middle class IT-programmer with an eco-friendly apartment. Than these American women get all creative and make a blog and fill it with Swedish food, design and nature pictures to show fellow American women that – why “hide” from United States in New York or San Francisco when they can go to Sweden and get married to a blond feminist eco-friendly man and live among 9 million socialists – that is even more hipster than the people in NY and SF. Soon they get pregnant and we have to read about how good socialized health care is. Nine months later we when the baby is born they write something about how “natural it feels not to circumcise the little boy”. We are then shown more picture from her IKEA-home and in the middle the little baby clothed in Swedish design cloths made by unionized labor and that her husband will take out “daddy days” so he can connect with the kid.

    I cannot stand liberals – hopefully can the entire NY and SF move to Sweden so we can built a large parking lot over the Bay Area for our SUV:s and use NY as a test-site for no bull shit free market capitalism.

  6. We live in Linköping, Sweden which is also a very bike friendly city. My husband bikes to work every day and has actually lost a lot of weight. Of course him biking was necessary since we only have 1 car and I need it for our kids. Anyway, enjoy and ignore the a**hole’s comment above. Geez! Why comment if you’re just going to be an a**!

  7. When I was living in Sweden, 20 years ago, I was given my cousin’s bike to ride. There was never any question about it. “Oh, hi, Astrid, welcome, here is your bedroom, here is your bike.” I was a teenager at the time and didn’t drive, so my bike gave me a kind of autonomy that I had never had before. I biked even through most of the winter! I loved it.
    Recently, I’ve gotten myself a little 3-speed here in Vermont in the US. I love to bike – and have biked about 10 miles to work some days. Hoping to get back into it again after a little hiatis (and a ridiculously unpleasant winter).
    Congratulations on your biking!

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  9. Very interesting! I hadn’t realised that bikes were so numerous in Sweden, although most people own one, use one, and although people usually think I’m weird when I say that I don’t like to ride a bike and that I haven’t used one since 2005-ish. I just love walking though!

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