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Another reminder of how the UK is so far behind our continental neighbours is in Scandinavia. This time it’s about the cycle friendly Malmö in Southern Sweden. I’ve been there and I’ll say something about that towards the end of this post.
What caught my eye recently was this apartment block which is being constructed in Malmö. It is for people without cars as there are no car parking facilities. Instead it is designed for people to bring their bicycles into the building using the extra wide lift which has doors at either end, so you don’t have to awkwardly turn your bike around. Extra wide doors have been designed into the entire building to make it easier to get your bicycle in and out.
The architects have taken it a little further to consider the needs of those with cargo bikes. These could be constructed to carry children, weekly shopping, dogs and all kinds of things.
That’s all pretty cool (especially in the winter time) but there’s so much more going on in Malmö which is worth admiring.
Unsurprisingly the very culture in Malmö is far more established in day to day life. Roads, crossings and cycle parking is at a completely different level compared to the pitiful UK standards. It is a sad reflection on the UK Government, regardless of which party is in power, the investment in cycling has been so meagre. I do acknowledge there are some encouraging signs but nevertheless it is still far to little and being deployed far too late.
My own trip to Malmö
It was in 2008 or 2009 I went over to Sweden in the course of my work. Unfortunately I wasn’t there long enough to think about how I could try riding a bike there but it was nevertheless very clear cycling was taken seriously.
I was there in the course of my work and taking a look at the education system used in prisons and I was kindly hosted by Kriminalvården colleagues, which is the equivalent of Probation. They had a positive approach to education and had developed an internet based system of a prisoner being able to keep in touch with his or her tutor and receive lessons. It seemed quite good and overcame a problem of maintaining continuity when a prisoner was moved from one institution to another.
The focus of the visit was I was looking around the prison at Malmö and I remember being taken there in an official car (a new Saab 95) and the rear hatch kept flying open! The driver was so embarrassed. When we got there, the prison itself was mixed and looked like an Ikea showroom in places. The regime was relaxed and levels of meaningful activities were high.
I remember being shown into a family apartment, right inside the middle of the prison. This is so a well behaved prisoner could have his or her family come to stay for the weekend. I remarked on how enlightened I thought this was, as a step towards helping to keep families (this being a huge factor in successful rehabilitation). My Prison Service colleague whispered “not in a million years Doug, don’t even think about suggesting this”.
Photo from feel-planet.com
Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip was going over the Öresund Bridge and tunnel which links Copenhagen to Sweden. This is a breathtaking journey to take; I did it by train along the track which runs under the motorway above. Alas it doesn’t seem possible to cycle the whole distance (I don’t suppose the tunnel would be very pleasant) but I would be interested to learn more about this and maybe go back with a bike.
Somewhere I have some nice photos from my trip there (no, not of the prison!) and I’ll see if I can post them sometime.