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Trafikslag på undantag: Cykeltrafiken i Stockholm 1930-1980
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, History of Science and Technology.
2012 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The modal share of bicycle traffic in Stockholm increased from 20 per cent to over 30 per cent during the 1930s, and reached staggering levels during World War Two – peaking at over 70 per cent. Soon after the war, however, the share declined rapidly. In 1950, 1960 and 1970, bicycle traffic accounted for about 30 per cent, then 3 per cent and then less than 1 per cent, respectively, of the total amount of traffic. How should these rapid changes be understood? Why did bicycle use increase before World War Two, even though the bicycle was hardly a carrier of modernity, and then decline so rapidly during the post-war period?

This thesis analyses the changing conditions for bicycling in Stockholm in the period 1930–1980. Comparisons with Copenhagen lend contrast and depth to the Stockholm case. The thesis stresses the importance of ideology and power in the management and planning of urban traffic. The purpose is to examine which actors had an influence on urban traffic and how, on the basis of their conceptions of the bicycle, bicyclists and bicycle traffic, those actors shaped the conditions for bicycling. Although the yearning for automobility and “modern” transit alternatives should not be disregarded as important to the rapid decline of bicycling in post-war Stockholm, it is argued that bicycle traffic was marginalised by traffic engineers and urban planners during the modernisation of the city.

Given the rapid growth of bicycle traffic before, during and just after the Second World War, bicyclists were taken into consideration by the police, municipal engineers and the bicycle lobby, primarily through short-term measures. In the post-war period, in a context of a booming economy and the increasingly important position of planning, urban and traffic planners seized the initiative in urban traffic matters. Working within a longer time frame and with more extensive encroachments on the built environment to cope with the “demands” of urban traffic, the bicycle was completely absent in their future visions. Their interpretations of the bicycle as an unsafe, local and primarily recreational mode of transportation were materialised in the urban infrastructure, which led to worse conditions for bicyclists and reinforced the conversion to other modes of transport. By promoting certain uses and deterring others – such as carving out a small sphere for bicycle traffic in the suburbs, while making longer journeys to and from the inner city difficult by bicycle – planning and infrastructure provision shaped future traffic and travel practices.

From the late 1960s these interpretations were increasingly complemented by more positive ones of the bicycle as a fast, flexible and clean means of transportation. The bicycle lobby and later local politicians pushed for an increased consideration of bicyclists, eventually leading up to the first bicycle plan for Stockholm in 1978. The early bicycle “renaissance” of the 1970s was curbed in the 1980s, however, due to economic recovery as well as design choices feeding the interpretation of bicyclists as a safety problem.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholmia förlag, 2012. , 408 p.
Trita-HOT, ISSN 0349-2842 ; 2066
, Monografier utgivna av Stockholms stad, ISSN 0282-5899 ; 222
Keyword [en]
bicycle traffic, bicycle planning, city traffic regime, Copenhagen, Denmark, history, history of technology, ideology, materialised interpretation, representation, Stockholm, Sweden, traffic engineering, traffic planning, traffic policy, 20th century, urban history, urban planning
Keyword [sv]
1900-talet, cykeltrafik, cykelplanering, Danmark, ideologi, Köpenhamn, materialiserad tolkning, representation, stadshistoria, stadsplanering, stadstrafikregim, Stockholm, Sverige, teknikhistoria, trafikteknik, trafikplanering, trafikpolitik
National Category
History of Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-107111ISBN: 978-91-7031-241-0OAI: diva2:574599
Public defence
2012-12-14, E1, Lindstedtsvägen 3, KTH, Stockholm, 10:15 (Swedish)

QC 20121206

Available from: 2012-12-06 Created: 2012-12-06 Last updated: 2012-12-06Bibliographically approved

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