Thursday, October 27, 2011

Biking in Uppsala

I've been thinking this week a lot about biking in Uppsala. Some of these thoughts started when I read on Facebook that a friend back home got door'd when biking in Boston. She was luckily wearing her helmet, and it sounds like besides a few stitches and bruises, she'll be ok. At home I never biked for commuting purposes. The only biking I did were the occasional bike rides with Dad around the suburbs. Here, I find myself biking almost every day, either to get to the grocery store, IKEA, club trainings, or other errands. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I don't wear a helmet. At home, I would never even consider biking without a helmet. In student populated Uppsala, it seems like more people bike than drive each day and only the older and wiser population wears helmets.

Uppsala is made for bike commuting. First of all, it's flat. Sure there's a rise from the river to where we live (and I often grumble about it on the way home), but it's hardly a hill. Due to the lack of hills, many people have single speed bikes. Those who really want to relax while biking have 3 speeds. I splurged, it seems, and have 4 gears on my bike. It means I can bike up hills faster than Ross :)

In addition to it being completely flat, there are bike paths everywhere. I don't fear getting door'd when biking because I almost never bike in the street alongside traffic or parked cars. When I am forced to bike in the street, it's either on a small side street with no traffic or in a painted off bike lane. Most of the time the bike lane is painted on the sidewalk, so there is a curb between you and the large moving vehicles. Where there is no sidewalk along the road there is a paved bike path a bit off the side where you can take the scenic route through the trees.

I think that bike commuting changes the culture and feel of Uppsala when compared to Newton, or Boston. First of all, everyone owns good raincoats and rainpants, and bike fenders are a must. As much of this city's population is students, they don't have a car to use when it's cold or rainy. When you arrive at your destination you just change and look all cute and fashionable again, like Swedes always do!

The following is from an article that I read thanks to Beth, via Facebook. It's about Denmark, but it  certainly applies to Sweden as well. The article is titled Looking for the American Dream? Try Denmark. It's an interview with Danish chef and climate change activist Trine Hahnemann, whose latest book is The Nordic Diet. Thanks, Beth for sharing! :)

KT: So, is it socially acceptable in Denmark to arrive at one's destination looking like a sweaty, disheveled mess?
TH: We don't have an obsession with hair like you have over here, we don't have that hair that sits in one place; that's never been in fashion. But if you bicycle ten miles to work on a racing bike, let's say, you'll have your regular clothes in a bag and most work places in Denmark provide a shower and a changing room.
KT: And what about the time that it takes to get changed into your work clothes, are you on the clock? Is it like taking a lunch break?
TH: Yeah, but Danes are like the Swiss, we're always on time. Danes are not late -- being on time is a big part of the culture.
KT: So, it's acceptable to show up with messy hair, but not to be late?
TH: Yes.

I should add, fashionably messy hair. :)

This is my bike:
I bought it from a guy through blocket , which is Sweden's Craigslist. I really wanted to spend less than 1000kr on a bike, but that was a challenge. The only bikes I was looking at were used single or 3 speed bikes.... and I couldn't find one for less than $150. In the States, you could find millions of cast aside single speeds in the junkyard. I bought Ross a nice road bike at home for that price. In the end, I only paid 500kr for this remarkable bike. In retrospect, paying twice as much would have saved me a few headaches. Luckily, Ross is a champ and is capable of fixing more than I am on a bike. My gears were skipping and he fixed that perfectly. Then my rear wheel inexplicably started wobbling, so we had to tru it at home. It still wobbles a bit, but Ross pushed the brakes out so that it won't rub :) The old seat was very uncomfortable, and Dad sent me a new one via Boris. This one is more comfortable, but I can't tighten it all the way. When I go over bumps it falls back a notch, as you can see in the picture. It's still too small for even me, but the seat is permanently rusted at that height (although I'm still oiling in hopes that it will loosen up). I look a bit silly biking, but I can reach the ground while sitting on the seat - which is useful when my rear tire skids out because it's bald and has no traction. Many people here often change over to their medal studded tires for the winter :) But, my bike isn't the worst looking bike in the rack:

Having a nice bike just means it's more likely to be stolen. I was told not to park my bike by the river during the spring celebrations as it's a game to thrown them into the water. Good to know.

Isn't this more than you ever wanted to know about my biking experiences? :) But, it's just another way life here is a bit different than home. The other day I was biking and smelled a burning car like smell. My first thought was, "Oh, no, is that me?" That was immediately followed by relief that I didn't have to worry about my car breaking down. Bike are cheaper and easier to fix than cars.

Fianlly, a big THANK YOU to Lisa and Tom Carr who mailed us a fantastic fall package:

I look forward to my pumpkin spiced coffee everyday :) Plus, I got a milk frother at IKEA. Just like home :)


Boris said...

Wow, your life sounds amazing! Wish I could be there. :)

Samantha said...

Haha, very funny :)