Malmö was named Cycling Friendly City of the Year twice before in Sweden. What does that mean on an international scale? How cycle friendly is Sweden’s third largest city from a Dutch perspective? After my visit to Copenhagen some weeks ago, I took the train across the Öresund bridge to experience cycling in Malmö firsthand. In 2013, this city expressed the ambition “to make a good cycling city better, with world-class cycling environments”. I had high expectations. Let’s find out what my feelings are now.
Kaptensgatan in Malmö is one of the busiest streets for cycling (driving is not allowed here). More than 10,000 people cycle past this point on an average working day. Using a (smart) phone while cycling is not permitted in Sweden (and possibly also in the Netherlands from 1 July 2019) but I saw many people who did use their phone.
Yours truly with the Öresund bridge to Denmark that was opened in July 2000. I came to Sweden over this bridge with the train from Copenhagen. Picture by Olle Evenäs.
Malmö, in the extreme south of Sweden is a city of 340,000 people, but larger Malmö has well over 700,000 inhabitants. This makes Malmö the third largest city of Sweden (after Stockholm and Gothenburg) and in size it is very comparable to Utrecht where I was born and raised. Malmö was mentioned for the first time in 1275 and was then a Danish town. It only became Swedish in 1658. The city is very compact. It is a mere 10 kilometres from the city centre to the edge. Because the landscape is very flat, Malmö is very suitable for cycling. The historic city centre is relatively small and a large part, the shopping area, has been pedestrianised. There is a small ring of pre-war expansion, but most of the city seems to have been built after World War II. Those post war areas have larger roads for fast-moving car traffic and a finer grid of residential streets away from those larger roads. The many green areas in between have cycle routes that are completely separate from the motor traffic routes. Where the two types of traffic do meet there are mostly protected intersections but also very often underpasses or overpasses. Because of all this, cycling in Malmö felt pleasantly familiar to what I am used to in the Netherlands and a big contrast to the unfamiliarity I experienced in Copenhagen the day before.