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IN NUMBERS: Almost one in three Swedes can cycle to work in 15 minutes

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
IN NUMBERS: Almost one in three Swedes can cycle to work in 15 minutes
A bicyle parking area in Malmö. Photo: Felix Gerlach/

Almost 1.2 million Swedes - around a third of the country’s working population - have a commute of less than 15 minutes by bike, new statistics reveal.


Sweden is a long, narrow country with large distances between its towns and cities. Despite this, 87 percent of the country’s population lives in towns or cities, which make up just 1.6 percent of the country’s surface area.

“Almost 1.2 million of employed people in the country are able to cycle to work within 15 minutes, measured by looking at the distance between their home and workplace. That’s a third of people who are employed,” Statistics Sweden analyst Fredrik Andersson wrote in a comment.

What’s a 15-minute city?

It’s a simple idea which originated in Paris in 2015 with Colombian city planner Carlos Moreno, and has been strongly championed by the French capital’s mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The idea is simple - that anyone living in an undeniably urban environment, like Paris, should have all their daily needs - shopping, education, health, leisure, even work - within an easily reachable 15-minute walk or cycle ride.  

That would mean that each neighbourhood would have amenities like a food shop, a health centre, sports facilities, schools and nurseries and an option to socialise like a bar, café or restaurant. 

"Unnecessary transport times have accelerated our lives, shortened our days to the detriment of family, leisure and the environment," Moreno argues.

Effectively, the idea is of a return to life before cars became ubiquitous, when people genuinely lived locally.


Varies based on region

In Sweden, figures vary depending on region, and the areas where a higher proportion of the population could commute to work by bike in 15 minutes or less, according to Statistics Sweden's figures, were most likely to be in smaller municipalities with a population of 100,000 or less. Six in ten of those with a sub-15 minute commute live in municipalities like these.

“At the top we have Kiruna municipality in Norrbotten, where 66 percent of employed people can cycle to work in 15 minutes,” Statistics Sweden analyst Stefan Svanström wrote. “After that comes Fagersta in Västmanland, with 64 percent, then Arvidsjaur in Norrbotten, also with 64 percent.”

Most of the municipalities with short commutes have small populations, as well as a small number of towns with large distances between them. This means that most people living in these areas work in the same town they live in, which is usually compact, so it doesn’t take long to cycle to different parts of town.

This particular set of statistics only looked at the distance from home to work, so things like closeness to food shops, doctors or schools were not taken into consideration, although in practice these amenities are also likely to be situated in municipalities’ central towns, too.

When looking at the country’s four largest municipalities - Malmö, Uppsala, Stockholm and Gothenburg, Malmö had the largest percentage of people who were able to cycle to work within 15 minutes: 43 percent, followed by Uppsala on 37 percent, Stockholm on 30 and Gothenburg on 28.

“In commuter towns like Ale and Härryda outside of Gothenburg, as well as Lomma outside Malmö and Knivsta between Uppsala and Stockholm, only around one in ten working people are able to cycle to work in under 15 minutes. That’s the lowest percentage in the country,” Andersson said.


Why more women than men?

The figures also varied depending on gender - 56 percent of women lived less than a 15 minute cycle ride from their workplace, compared to 44 percent of men.

Some of the most common professions in the country are in healthcare, education and retail, which are more often placed in central areas of municipalities, as well as being areas with a larger proportion of female employees.

“As a result of this, there are more women than men who can cycle to work in under 15 minutes in most municipalities,” Svanström said.

“The largest difference in percent is between Norsjö in Västerbotten, where 53 percent of women can cycle in 15 minutes, while men are on 36 percent,” he added.


In 172 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities, there were areas where more than half of employed people could cycle to work within 15 minutes. Areas where three quarters or more of the employed population could get to work in 15 minutes were most likely to be in the central towns of smaller municipalities with populations below 50,000.

The only municipality with a population of 100,000 or more which had areas where more than three quarters of the population could cycle to work in 15 minutes or less was Umeå, with these areas found in central parts of the city.

In Stockholm, the areas where the highest percentage of workers had a commute of 15 minutes or less by bike were parts of the Oscars kyrka area (73 percent) and Engelbrekts kyrka area (72 percent), both in Östermalm.

Statistics Sweden have made their data available here, so you can check out the figures for the area where you live broken down by region, municipality, "demographic statistic area" and gender.


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Robert 2024/04/03 17:14
One does wonder how many of those said folk have an electric Cycle !?? Percentage wise !?

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