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Bicycle Renaissance Cut Short: Bicycle Planning and Appraisal of the Bicycle in Stockholm, 1970–1985
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, History of Science and Technology.
2012 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Like in most other European cities, Stockholm experienced a bicycle “renaissance” in the 1970s, after more than two decades of rapidly declining levels of bicycling. However, the renaissance had already abated by the early 1980s, and the present upward trend only began after 1990. This article is the result of on-going inquiries into the longer trends and contingencies in bicycle traffic and planning in Stockholm, focusing on the period 1970–85 and, thus, capturing two turning points in terms of bicycle traffic levels and public and political appraisal of the bicycle. Particularly, the fluctuations of bicycle traffic are considered in relation to urban planning, infrastructure provision, and the changing assessments of the bicycle in light of the 1960s’ predominantly urban environmental debates and the 1970s’ (“green”) environmental debates at the local level in Stockholm. While defined increasingly as a “humane” and environmentally-sensible alternative to the automobile, reassessments of the bicycle in terms of safety and speed proved more important to the (socially) constructed material conditions for using the bicycle. Although bicycle traffic had broad public and political support in the 1970s, design choices made during this decade, based on thrift and the persistence of the car as norm, led to conflicts among different road users—not least between bicyclists and pedestrians—and thus more hesitance towards stimulating bicycle traffic. In the 1980s, bicycle traffic received less policy attention and less funding for infrastructure. The huge labor dispute in Sweden in the spring of 1980 stands out as an important singular event. The resulting standstill of the Stockholm subway and generally deficient public transport (the staff went on strike) made many people turn to and reassess the bicycle as a transport option. However, due to the sudden growth of inexperienced bicyclists, the problems of bicycle traffic attracted much attention—which was similar to what had happened during the Second World War. In sum, bicycling stood out as an asset in environmental terms, but the early “greening” of the bicycle was not enough to overcome the long-standing notion of the bicycle as a safety problem.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
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History of Technology History
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-119300OAI: diva2:610746
T2M conference (History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility), Madrid, 15–18 November 2012

QC 20130521

Available from: 2013-03-12 Created: 2013-03-12 Last updated: 2013-05-21Bibliographically approved

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