For me, one of the things that has become synonymous with living in Sweden is travelling by bicycle.
Having visited student towns in England such as Oxford and Cambridge, I’ve been witness to small-scale bicycle culture, but nothing prepared me for the ‘two wheels good, four wheels bad’ mentality that is so apparent in Uppsala, one of Sweden’s university cities.
I was admittedly a bit wary at first – I lived in London for a few years where mostly only couriers ride bicycles, perhaps for fear of the city’s notorious cab drivers – but since buying my first bike last summer I have come to realise just how well catered for cyclists are in this country, and that I simply couldn’t live without one now.
Given the miles of designated cycle lanes, countless specified traffic lights, numerous free air stations, stretches of illuminated forest trails, vast quantities of designated bicycle parking areas and impressive amount of bike shops in Uppsala alone, it’s evident that Sweden embraces its cyclists.
I suppose it comes as no surprise that our eco-friendly country encourages the use of bicycles above other, pollutant-emitting modes of transport, but getting around by bike has so many other advantages as well.
For starters, you’re not just getting from A to B – you’re exercising at the same time, which in today’s hectic society is a luxury many just don’t find the time to indulge as much as they’d like.
Secondly, you’re inviting fresh air into your lungs – which thankfully in Sweden is actually fresh for the most part, unlike so many other areas of the world.
Thirdly, cycling is a relatively inexpensive and reliable mode of transport – never when getting around by bike will you be subjected to that famous phrase “It’s your carburetor, Guv. Gonna cost you…” favoured by dodgy mechanics throughout London.
Fourthly, as dependable as public transport is in Sweden, when you’re on a bike you can choose exactly when you want to leave to determine exactly when you‘re going to arrive.
Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, you’ll look the epitome of cool when riding your bike.
Just today whilst cycling through town I noticed a rather flash Pontiac Firebird convertible cruising around in the sunshine, but rather than the car attracting attention, all eyes were on me with my stylish red and silver helmet and 990-kronor Biltema cruiser.
OK, so maybe I exaggerated that last part…