Bicycle Diaries: Reykjavík traffic tamming

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17.6.08

Reykjavík traffic tamming

Iceland's
Pedal Power


In her Daily Life column for The Iceland Review, Zoe Robert writes:
Everyone seems to be getting around on bicycles these days. Last month the sixth annual “Cycle to Work” initiative kicked off, the idea being that companies compete to have the most employees travel to work by bicycle.

Between 2003 and 2007 the number of participants increased by more than ten fold from 533 to around 7,333. And it seems projects like this and the efforts of one school where more than half of the students are reported to ride to school are seeing more people get out of their cars and on their bikes.

I spent most of last summer and winter getting around by bike (that is until recently when someone decided to cut the lock and run) and I was often alone riding along Reykjavík’s footpaths (there aren’t really any cycle paths in Iceland and it would be too dangerous to cycle on the road, partly because drivers are not use to cyclists). So, it is a surprise to witness so many people out and about peddling around town this summer: parents cycling with their kids in an attached cart or on a double bike, children with their brightly-colored and decorated bicycles, downtown’s fashionable youth with their vintage looking bikes and others decked out in their skin-tight cycling attire. It seems that a bicycle is this summer’s must have accessory. Yes, I never thought I’d say this, but it seems that bicycles are coming into fashion in this northern-most capital of the world.

You may have heard that Iceland has more cars per capita than almost any other nation. Fréttabladid reported last year that, of the 230,747 registered cars, just 1,400, or one percent, are considered eco-friendly. And, a 2007 Capacent-Gallup poll revealed that around 60 percent of Icelanders currently drive alone to work, while only two percent use the public bus system. And the soaring price of fuel is another incentive to leave the car at home.

While Reykjavík isn’t exactly the most bicycle friendly city in the world – with its lack of paths and bicycle racks – this may be changing.

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