This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 100.
Lund is a university town in the county of Skäne, Sweden. It is about 30 minutes by train to Copenhagen. As a town, it has a lovely character with many narrow streets, market squares, shopping, a large research hospital, a sprawling university campus, and business parks on the E22 motorway. Doesn’t this sound a lot like Cambridge?
Lund also has a strong cycling culture. Most people don’t drive cars around the city. Cycles are everywhere. In fact, on the first day there, a Friday, I saw only 7 cars on the two-mile journey from the centre to the business parks for a meeting. Admittedly I didn’t follow the main roads, but this is still amazing. And this was between 8.30 and 8.45 in the morning. I saw a few buses from afar, and a few pedestrians, and a lot of bikes.
I arrived in Lund on the Thursday evening on a train from the airport, walked to my hotel, and then awoke the following morning to a rainy and cold day. I walked back to the station and a place called LundaHoj (Lund by Bike). This is a ‘CyclePoint’, like that proposed by the new train company in Cambridge, that has paid-for secure parking, bike rental, free water, shoe cleaning, and toilet facilities. The bike rental is incredibly good value – just 50 Swedish Crowns (approximately £5) for 4 days over the weekend.
After picking up the bicycle, I cycled northwest out of the city centre, up the hill. The bicycle was yellow, with lights, basket, back rack, three speeds in the rear brake hub, and a hand front brake. All the roads in the city centre are 30km/h, and built using granite block sets. This slows the traffic and allows you to hear the cars before they get too close. I didn’t feel that I had to constantly look behind me to feel safe.
Once outside the historic centre, the roads widened and segregated cycleways appeared. These were typically separated from the cars by a strip of grass or, where space allowed, with trees and grass. These cycleways weren’t that wide, just sufficient for two skilled riders to ride side by side. Next to them is the same width for pedestrians. The significant difference was that the cycleway was tarmac whilst the pedestrian path was built using paving slabs. This gave a clear indication of who should be using which section.
Even further out, the routes became shared pedestrian and cycle paths. These were all a good width, but very few pedestrians were seen. Also, these always went behind the bus shelters. Sometimes the width reduced significantly, but never did a cyclist have to push between a bus and a bus shelter. Once at the meeting location, there was plenty of cycle parking available and this was significantly closer to the entrance than the car parking.
The ride back down to the city that night was fast and efficient. I tried to get lost, just heading downhill at all points. This led me past the hospital and its bus station. The traffic on the four-lane road was much heavier, but there was a box hedge separating the cycleway and pedestrian footpath from the main road. This felt incredibly safe.
Obviously, at major junctions something had to be done to maintain the perception of safety. I had to cross over the main road that was turning right across my path. In Cambridge, I’d probably have to merge into the traffic, cross over a lane of fast- moving traffic, and then wait in the middle of the traffic junction. In Lund, I stopped at my own traffic light, the little signal box showed that it had recognised me, and then the traffic turning right in front of me stopped and I was given a green light. All very safe.
Once back in the centre of town, the cars disappeared, the bumpy roads reappeared, and everything felt relaxed and safe. I was following a local down the road, watching where she rode. She just rode down the middle of the lane as if nothing was going to interfere with her route. I did the same. A taxi did follow us, but didn’t try to overtake. Wow.
Back at the hotel, I was directed towards some bicycle parking just across the street. Bike locked, I waited for my colleagues who had decided to get a taxi. They turned up 30 minutes later, complaining that the taxis had all refused to pick them up, and instead they had caught a bus to the station and walked from there. I convinced them that getting bikes would be a better option the next day.
The following morning, and five additional bikes later, we set off in convoy back to the meeting location. We went through the middle of the university and past the Ikea design centre, and to the business park. This journey was entirely uneventful. Some junctions had separate traffic lights for bikes, some were just zebra crossings. It was weird having cars stop in the middle of the road as you rode up to the crossing and wait for you to cross.
That evening, we went a different way back to the city. We followed a segregated cycleway next to the E22 motorway and then an old railway back to the city centre. This was a busy route, with many cyclists going both in to and out of town. The route had many junctions going off towards various housing estates, though some weren’t yet surfaced. The lights on our bikes were not great, but this was not a problem as there was a lighting column every 100 metres or so. These were not bright, but enough to see pedestrians, dogs, and other bikes. Once at the end, there was a roundabout. No sweat, we just rode around the cycle roundabout that was outside the vehicle roundabout.
Once in the centre again, we rode past the market square and much cycle parking to get back to the hotel. One colleague wanted to go to a book store, and parked literally outside the entrance in yet more formal cycle parking. This route was considered much better, so we repeated it the following day as well.
On the Monday, a couple of us went for a longer explore before getting the train out of Lund. First we went west, and just randomly started following signs for Nöbbelöv. We didn’t know where that was, but this gave us a good impression of how easy it was to follow a route by signs alone. We started out on Kävlingevägen, obviously on segregated cycle paths. There was a very faint white line down the middle of the footpath and segregated cycle signs.
At one set of traffic lights, we were directed left, and onto a two-way cycleway on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. This then went away from the main road, and up a hill to get to another main road. We crossed this at a bicycle traffic light, and then went down a narrow cycleway. After about 150 metres, this reached a main cycle route that went under the main road. Because of the steep downhill gradient, there were barriers across the route (see photo, top left). This was quite a surprise as this was the first such ‘barrier’ that we had seen so far.
Once under that main road, we were in a housing estate and jumped between very minor roads, cycle routes between these routes, and tunnels under the main roads. We went past a school, but didn’t see any way to get to the school from most of this housing without using the cycleways. From there, we went to a ‘local centre’ with hairdressers, tattoo parlours, and a supermarket. We had arrived at Nöbbelöv.
There was plenty of cycle parking, but no evidence of car parking. Once we left this area, we cycled past the multistory car park for this part of the development. Most of the buildings in the area did not have any car access from their front door. But each building had both outside cycle parking and a shed for secure bicycle parking. We headed back to the city centre, again via another suburb. Between these there were always wide open spaces, and wide shared-use cycle/foot paths. These were two bike lengths wide.
Once back in the centre, we headed out east along the old railway line, labelled ‘Violett’. We ended up at a place called Södra Sandby, about 10km from Lund. This would be the equivalent of the St Ivo Way to Longstanton. There were no interactions with roads at all. The cycle path went underneath all the roads. But these underpasses were brightly lit, and had plenty of space either side to make one feel safe.
Outside Lund, the route first became more formal, with a dashed centre line. This, and the ever-present street lighting, made the route appear to be very safe. At a small tight underpass, three lanes appeared, one for pedestrians and two for bikes. This approach to separating traffic was also repeated on narrow bridges and tunnels. Typically, the pedestrians were raised slightly by a curb.
The cycle out to Södra Sandby and back was lovely. Relaxed, mostly flat, and incredibly busy with people cycling and walking. Along this route we saw a racing bike or two, and heard a tinkle of the bell.
As we dropped the bikes off at the train station before walking back to the hotel, the rain started. Perfect timing.
The only interesting similarity between Cambridge and Lund is the apparent lack of cycle parking at the station. There was plenty of cycle parking, but all of it was full. However, I must say that the topiary between the cycle parking did look nice. But there was plenty of fly-parking with bikes just parked in any random location, near lampposts, or in unused space.
I have to say that, and I believe this would be echoed by the others who joined me cycling around, Lund is an excellent place to cycle. Nobody felt unsafe. The segregated infrastructure, low speeds, plentiful cycle parking, road and path surfaces were all clear in their intent. The signposts were legible and clear, and the routes well lit. The whole experience will be repeated again next time I’m here. In fact, next time I won’t even think about it.