I recently had the opportunity to travel to Sweden and spend a few nights in Stockholm. Of all of my micro-impressions about the city, the culture, and it’s people, what stood out to me the most was the mindset and attitude towards a sustainable transportation network.
Most, if not all, major streets across it’s network of interconnected islands are designed with both the pedestrian and cyclist in mind. Pedestrian walkways and sidewalks are a common sight in the city, along with fully separated and ribbed cycling lanes that would make Torontonians salivate with envy. Car lanes are usually reduced to solo lanes, even on most major roadways.
This configuration doesn’t have a dramatic impact on traffic delays, as the general population seems to embrace walking and cycling as part of their daily lives. It’s particularly endearing to see a middle-aged woman or man in their professional work attire scuttering away on their vintage bicycle at 5pm on a Wednesday afternoon.
In the end, this has a positive impact on traffic, and results in less pollution generated due to car emissions. Not to mention the positive health impact of cyclists and walkers due to regular physical activity. Truth be told, I didn’t see many obese people walking around in the streets of Stockholm during my stay in the city.
I live and work in the Toronto downtown core. There isn’t a day where I fear for my life when I hop on my bicycle to get to and from work on a regular basis. All in all, it was refreshing to see how other cities are shifting their mindset away from cars, and towards a more sustainable way of living.
This is certainly something that city planners (and, *ahem*, mayoral candidates) should take note of when striving to develop and maintain a well-grounded transportation network that is built with people’s best interests in mind.