Cycling Across Scandinavia: The Road To Gothenburg



Guest poster Robert Ouellette has written for the National Post, Corporate Knights and his own Reading Toronto. He is cycling across Sweden and reports:

The plan, such that it is given the endless rain, is to travel north along Sweden's east coast to Gothenburg today. From Helsingborg it is too far to cycle in a day. We decide to take a train half way hoping the downpour will stop by the afternoon. The starting point for our Gothenburg ride will be Varberg, about 180k north of Helsingborg. (in my last post I mentioned that the now generation-old waterfront revitalization of Helsingborg would have been a good model for Toronto. The plan includes a mix of housing, grade-level business, and cultural uses. It is dense but surprisingly intimate and enjoyable in spite of the bad weather. It leaves good sight-lines to the water for the city behind and makes us wonder where were the planners for Toronto's waterfront development during the eighties and nineties? Recent planning there is getting it right, if twenty years late.)

One difference in biking policy here is clear. The contrast between Denmark and Sweden is that now they charge us children's fares for our two bikes. We embark onto a dedicated train car though. The bikes are lashed down at the end of the car which is populated by an odd mix of travellers. The one who attracts the most attention is a hiker with a giant backpack accompanied by his equally massive dog, a black Great Dane ( no surprise there) who sprawls unselfconsciously across the aisle.

The electric powered high- speed train is impressive. It makes the summer coloured Swedish countryside outside a blur. Compared to the diesel trains in Canada that belch black fumes, these are clean and surprisingly quiet- -and did I mention fast (Sweden's Green Party promises to increase train use by 100% in the next decade if elected). We spend our time in part looking at passing wind generators often placed within outhouse distance of farms. Apparenty 'wind concerns' is not getting much traction here.

Arriving in Varburg lands us right in the middle of a classic American car parade. It's one of the strangest manifestations of auto culture anywhere. A rod head's dream. Every permutation of California candy-colored, chrome-plated hemi is violating noise bylaws and common-sense cruising with their tops down along Main street. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernacular_architectureig Daddy Don Garlits would be at home here. The contradiction between a culture that is- -at least by Canadian terms- -green, and one that makes a cult of quarter mile in twelve seconds flat post-war American sedan worship does cause a double take.

Thankfully, escaping the parade takes us along the coastal cycle route north to Gothenburg. By road the distance is just over eighty kilometers. This path, on the other hand, while picturesque ends up being one-hundred and two. The difference is because the cycle path designer wants to show off every golf course south of Gothenburg. The scenic route. After a while I get frustrated and just want to get on the road and ride no matter what kind of traffic there is.

But, the costal route is breathtaking at times. The foundations of modern Scandinavian design are seen in the vernacular architecture of the region. There is impressive contemporary building as well.

We arrive in Gothenburg late. The hotel staff let's us put our bikes in their office space behind the check-in.

More on the impressive city and it's approach to city-building in the next posting.

Previously in this Series:
Cycling Across Scandinavia: Après Moi, Le Déluge
Cycling Across Scandinavia: You Don't Have To Be A Starchitect Ambulance Chaser To Be Impressed
A New "Lost Generation" Cycles Across Scandinavia To Understand North America

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