Counting the number of bikes on the bike path in Boras, Sweden.
Guest poster Robert Ouellette has written for the National Post, Corporate Knights and his own Reading Toronto. He is cycling across Sweden and reports:
Leaving Boras takes us past a digital sign that counts and displays the number of cyclists using the adjacent bike lane. It is a good idea. I'd like to see guerilla versions put on Canadian streets. We need to make visible the growing number of cyclists our politicians are eager to ignore... anyone want to take me up on this? Mobile automated bike counters have to be easy to make and use . . .
Our destination is Jonkoping a small city on the southern end of Sweden's second largest inland lake. The day is wet and cold. We go off route a bit to take in a town that was recommended to us. Turns out not to be worth the forty kilometers it adds to our trip, but once again we waterfront housing development that works. The balconies of these units are apartment sized in their own right. In a cold climate with long, dark winters having access to light makes a big difference in life.
Oversized, glass balconies, Sweden
After some cross-country cycling that involves pushing our bikes up what generously can be described as a logging road, we make Jonkoping where, once again, we find a pedestrian street at its core. It is yet another livable Scandinavian city with interesting architecture and a decent transit system. We are beginning to understand that cities don't have to be built to service the needs of cars. The economy still runs (and Sweden's economy runs better than the that of the US, at least according to Standard and Poor's). People live worthwhile, greener lives. They are prosperous. In fact, one phenomenon is really obvious here: young couples are having kids--lots of them. I can't remember seeing this many kids since the sixties.
The stats, however, say Sweden has a birth rate of 10.1 per thousand. That's low by world standards. Maybe we are seeing more children because kids here aren't locked away in some looming black SUV, but are promenaded down the boulevards in bike carriages. In any case, there really are a lot of children being paraded around the cities.
The Scandinavian alternative to taking your kid to school in a SUV
The remainder of our bike journey to Stockholm is often physically challenging, emotionally recharging, and visually breathtaking. The cities of Linkoping and Nykoping offer even more support for urban models different than those we are encultured to in Canada. And pedestrian streets don't ignore bikes. Take a look at the "Luftpump" amenity in Nykoping. Public bikes pumps are everywhere in Scandinavia. Have I ever seen one in Toronto? No. This is in spite of the fact that at least 1 in 3 adults in Toronto ride bikes.
The bike ride across Sweden to Stockholm needs 100,000 words to describe not 1,000, but I'll end it with one more ecologically inspiring road trip experience had just as we near our destination.
The village of Jarna on the Baltic coast offers us one of those unexpected chance encounters with genius that reinforces our LostGen2-driven, grand tour aspirations. Powered by the first strong tailwind we've had since starting in Copenhagen, we sail by a massive sign that reads something like, "James Turrell, See! Colour!" Behind it is an oddly shaped building at the end of a long lane. Right away I get the association. This building could have been built by Rudolf Steiner--instead it was built by a disciple. What we see from the road is a small part of an arts community and college dedicated to Steiner's work.
Turrell is here with a major exhibit exploring the properties of colour through the lens of Steiner's colour theories. Given our focus on sustainability this chance encounter with Steiner is serendipitous. His work, under the general mantle called anthroposophy, explored an array of topics including the very contemporary sustainable agriculture--not to mention environmentally sound architecture. You may also know Steiner's name because he helped found the Waldorf school system in 1919.
We'll leave you with these images from one of the Turrell installations at Jarna (a smaller one). More are available on the See! Colour! website.
Next: Stockholm's commitment to sustainable cities
Previously in this Series:
Cycling Across Scandinavia: Gothenburg to Boras, Sweden Doesn't Strip
Cycling Across Scandinavia: Making Design Choices For A Sustainable City
Cycling Across Scandinavia: The Road To Gothenburg
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