CYCLING IN SWEDEN: MY LIFE ON TWO WHEELS
What’s your favourite mode of travel? Before moving to Europe, I would have said car, but after two and a half years of cycling almost every day – bike is my preferred way to get around!
As someone who grew up riding around in a car and was only introduced to public transportation during my university years, using a bike as a form of transport rather than purely exercise is still novel to me, but is one of my favourite things about living in Europe, and Malmö in particular. Similar to our bike-friendly neighbour Copenhagen, Malmö’s bike culture is next level.
With miles of protected cycle paths, the compact and flat city of Malmö is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. From 2012-2018, the city launched an ambitious cycling programme to better the city’s biking infrastructure, and increase the number of people who used bikes for transportation. The programme was extremely successful- currently around 40% of the population cycles to work or school!
As all bike lanes are separated from traffic, Malmö is one of the safest cities for cyclists. Traffic and driving laws are quite strict in Sweden, and cyclists can rest assured that cars will stop at every crossing for bikes to pass. This is still something I am not used to – when I lived in California, cars RARELY stopped for cyclists. So even though I’ve cycled in Sweden for a while at this point, I still always slow down when crossing just in case the car doesn’t stop.
One of the things I love most about Malmö’s bike culture is that everyone can take part. From children to grandparents, your CEO to your neighbourhood baker – anyone can be seen on two wheels. Families, businesses, and others simply needing to carry a little extra are also able to ride with the use of a cargo bike.
What started out as a hobby back home has turned into an integral part in my every day life. While there are definitely times I miss the ease and comfort of hopping into a car on a rainy day, I am so thankful that I live in a city where cycling like I do is possible.
Keep scrolling to read more about the benefits and tips to integrating cycling into your life!
The benefits of cycling for transport
While the benefits of cycling are numerous, here are a few that I personally love:
Cycling is a great way to stay healthy while on the go. Getting in some cardio on the way to your morning meeting? It’s a win-win situation!
It allows you to connect to your surroundings in a new way. Because I’m outside so much more when cycling, I love that I pay more attention to the changing seasons and environment around me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt so grateful to see the first signs of spring or autumn while speeding down the path on my bike.
Less traffic! While “bike rush hour” definitely still exists in Malmö, it’s nothing like the one that involves cars! Pay attention to your surroundings, and 5:00 pm traffic is a breeze.
Environmentally friendly! Even though all of Sweden’s public transportation is considered “green”, this is one more great way to love our planet Earth!
Things to consider
Cycling is definitely the superior form of transport in my book, but there are a few things that you come to know as time goes by:
You often end up at your location a little winded and/or sweaty. The more the body gets used to biking a certain path (think hills or windy patches) or length of time, the easier it gets. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t turned up to my fair share of classes or events a bit winded (and let’s be real – a bit sweaty too). My tip for keeping your cool after a ride: arrive early! Give yourself a few minutes to catch your breath and readjust your hair as you lock your bike up.
Cycling makes you vulnerable to all the weather changes – dress appropriately! I remember the first time I biked in the rain in Malmö and thought – how do people do this all the time without looking like a disaster? The key: owning the right clothes! A pair of rain pants that you can slip over your clothes and a good rain coat go a long way! Extra points if you remember your bike seat cover.
Be strategic about what you carry home, especially after grocery shop visits. It has taken me a LONG time to switch from the American mindset of buying all of my groceries at one time to making a trip once or twice a week. Finally understanding how much I can realistically carry on my bike (I usually have a backpack + bag in the basket) has saved me from making more wobbly and tricky rides than necessary – though cat litter is still a pain!
Dressing professional and bike-friendly at the same time can be tricky! Though most workplaces in Sweden are causal, there have often been times when I found myself needing to bike with a dress or shoes with some sort of heel. The key: if it’s not an option, or you simply don’t want to wear pants, wear shorts or tights under your dress! If you want to rock those awesome heeled boots but worry you might slip off your bike, wear flats and change at the office! With a little bit of planning (think extra shoes, rain pants, etc.) cycling to work is no stress!
Tips to cycle to work or school like a pro
Try using a Hövding – an inflatable helmet that was invented right here in Skåne! All the cool kids have one 😉
Need to bring your kids along? Try using a cargobike!
Do you bike to work or school? Is it something you would consider doing? Let me know your thoughts below!