Some hotel rooms come with a boat, others with a bar. At the Oh Boy Hotel, every room has its own bicycle. “We try to do things that are a bit different,” says manager Peter Bengtsson. Indeed, what the Oh Boy lacks in size and décor — most of its 31 split-level rooms measure 22 square metres and have austere concrete walls — it more than makes up for with its sustainable transportation options. The owner, architect Cord Siegel, wanted to dissuade guests from bringing their cars into the neighbourhood — the carbon-neutral Western Harbour. “We thought, what can we do instead?,” says Bengtsson. “And the first thought was bikes.”
Malmö is increasingly a city of cyclists. Some 40 per cent of residents bike to school or work every day. (Many keep it up in winter, too — aka “Viking biking”.) Why? Because Sweden’s third-largest metropolis now has more than 200 miles of bike lanes which make cycling almost always the fastest way to get from A to B. For residents of Cykelhuset (The Bicycle House) — a seven-storey building connected to the Oh Boy Hotel — that literally means the front door. Designed to allow residents to live car-free, the 55-apartment building boasts a bike garage and workshop, as well as an elevator big enough for cargo bikes.
“It’s a revelation in urban development and way ahead of the global curve,” says urban design expert Mikael Colville-Andersen. The author of Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism, he applauds Malmö’s efforts to transform itself into a bike-friendly city. “Now we see it developing its own innovation,” Colville-Andersen says, citing the use of cargo bikes to collect rubbish and its naming of alleys and unmarked paths so they appear on GPS systems.
There’s further evidence of cycling’s popularity in Malmö at its main railway station. The subterranean Bike & Ride facility offers secure parking for up to 1,500 bicycles and dedicated spaces for cargo bikes, plus a shop, a mechanic, bike pumps, showers and ticket machines for the trains. The station is also home to a large fleet of the city’s rental bicycles. It is just 80 SEK for 24-hour access to one of Malmö By Bike’s sturdy, orange steeds. Don’t worry if you get a flat tyre – free bicycle pumps are dotted around the city.
With its bike lanes separated from traffic, Malmö is very safe for cyclists. It’s also a compact city, and as flat as a pan, making it a relaxing place to whizz around. All kinds of people take to two wheels — from children to grandparents — as well as countless businesses using cargo bikes and trikes to ferry goods back and forth.
In its 2017 index of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities, the Copenhagenize urban design consultancy promoted Malmö to fifth and described it as home to “a great group of people all intent on carving out a place for themselves in the global bicycle narrative”. Indeed, as dusk falls, a dazzling local invention that has been adopted in many other cities comes to life: SolarLite road studs — solar-powered bulbs that automatically illuminate bike lanes in dimly lit neighbourhoods. It’s the perfect metaphor for Malmö — lighting the way, one cycle lane at a time.
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