Extract from the interview with Kent Andersson, Vice Mayor of Malmö, Sweden and Film Director Fredrik Gertten, director of the film „Bikes vs. cars“, who represented the citizens of Malmö.

16 September 2016

Duration: 14 min

Kloss: How do you get people on bikes in Malmö?

Andersson: In very many ways. There is an international competition for bike-friendly cities and in the last 4 years Malmö won the first prize. We have 400km of separated cycle paths and we have a concept for park and ride which means good facilities to put your bike at the stations of public transport. We also have a bike rental system „Malmö by bike“. And we are doing campaigns. For instance we had a competition in which people should tell us the most stupid car ride ever done. The first prize was a bike and was won by a guy who went out in the winter to warm up an ice cold car to go 50m to buy cigarettes and then drive home – so he got a bike!

Kloss: How high is the share of cyclists?

Andersson: It’s about 30%, and the number is growing.

Kloss: The share of cyclists is already very high and the infrastructure very good, but do you still have quantitative goals?

Andersson: Yes we have an investment plan for bicycle roads. We are further improving the bicycle parking places. And we are now building the first parking house only for bikes, there is not any place for a car.

Kloss: How can or should eastern European cities or cities in general learn from Malmö to become a bike-friendly city?

Andersson: You can see that the City of Malmö built new big areas and there it is easy to find new solutions, the tough thing is to change old residential areas, because it’s hard to find space, it’s always the discussion around traffic, people moving through the city, so I think the most important thing is to make place in the master plan.

Kloss: What do you think why so many people are riding the bike in Sweden? Is it for environmental reasons, or just a different mentality?

Andersson: Tradition means a lot. There is also a generation shift and change of habits. If we change the mindset nothing is impossible. It takes time and it takes some efforts.

Gertten: I have been to many eastern European cities showing the film (Bikes vs. cars), I met many mayors and everywhere people say „this is impossible here, we are special, it’s like that in Zagreb, Prague or Belgrade…“, and it’s not like that, you can change any city, and you can get more people on bikes if you give priority to bikes and give safety. Of course in cities like Malmö biking never stopped, it has a long tradition. In every city in the world the working class was on bikes a hundred years ago, and in Malmö this never stopped.

Andersson: The harbour is very important for the identity of Malmö as industrial city. And the most visible sign was when at 4 o’clock 5.000 workers went by bike through the city to their homes, it was a critical mass. Biking is a part of the identity of Malmö.

Kloss: Was Malmö never a car-dominated city?

Andersson: In the 50s and 60s we were planning as everybody else wide alleys made for cars. But cycling never stopped.

Gertten: And there were protests of bicycle guerrillas in the 70s with critical mass rides. They managed to change the politics. When they were building the suburbs then, they always included separate bike lanes. The problem was that they didn’t consider it so much in the centre of the city. And this is coming up now.

Andersson: Issues around the car are always political and there is always a debate in the council about new plans and new streets. We have some big roads that were changed now with bicycle roads.

Gertten: One interesting thing: in the last election 3 years ago, the conservative party campaigned: Stop the war on cars! And it’s normally a vote-winning concept, because there are so many men in big cars who want to be there. But actually they lost by 5%. So it’s not a winning concept in Malmö. If you go to the smaller cities around Malmö it is still a winning concept.

Andersson: We have a generation shift in the mobility behaviour. Half of the city of Malmö is younger than 45 years, which is a different demographic situation than most western cities.

Kloss: Do you like to ride the bike?

Andersson: I like to ride the bike. This is the old city hall, the new city hall is a kilometre down that road, and going there by car would be stupid. In the city I go by bike.