To be stuck in (car) traffic is stressful and annoying: running late to a meeting, to family, a concert or a conference. Argh! Yes, one could leave earlier; but why plan your life around a traffic report?!
Driving does not offer independence or the joys of the open road in such circumstances. On the contrary, it feels nearly enslaving to be completely and utterly stuck. This escalates when societies prioritise this singular form of inefficient transport, paving giant highways in the name of progress… which also turn to parking lots every day at rush hour.
Thankfully though, cities and citizens across the globe are slowly waking up to this absurdity. A new trend is emerging – first in cities like Amsterdam, or Copenhagen; but increasingly in Stockholm, Seattle, Santiago, Seoul, and many more.
To be stuck in bicycle traffic is uplifting and empowering. To be part of an emerging and expanding movement – silently, yet actively, demanding better transportation, better air quality and frankly better cities: one bike ride at a time. The light turns green and we swiftly and freely pedal past those standstill cars, in our own bike lane – moving forward by the power of our own two feet. (Sometimes, admittedly I hold my nose when passing a particularly dirty tailpipe – snobby yet satisfying.)
How inspired I feel on a sunny Monday morning, to cycle in solidarity with fellow urbanites on their way to school or work. Each hill I crest, I do so with a sweaty (sometimes breathless) sense of euphoria. Knowing that every day there are more cyclists sharing Stockholm’s bike routes, struggling up those hills, often on a 3-speed bicycle with a rusty chain, like mine.
Sure, cyclists in LYCRA® on mountain bikes remain common in this hilly city; but increasingly Stockholm cyclists are also clad in jeans, business suits or weekend party wear. The latter groups demonstrate that cycling is quickly becoming just another form of urban transport. Each cyclist has their own reason for opting for 2-wheels: taking ownership over one’s physical and mental health; reducing personal environmental impact; saving money; or contributing to more people-friendly transport modes in cities – or all of the above.
Every single time I hop on my bicycle an immense feeling of joy takes over from the freedom and simplicity of a bicycle ride; the interaction with the people and places around you, the rawness of the weather; the chance to spontaneously forage for berries or flowers; the realisation that we are all equals on the bike. Biking is not just a mode of transportation; it is a philosophy of how I want to live my life.
**Top photo taken from: Sweden.se Blogs; all other photos taken by the author.