Linkoping and its surrounding areas of interest (e.g. University campus Vallan and US, Ryd, Ikea…) are on average 30 minutes walk away from where I live. I learnt the hard way, on my first day, that walking everywhere is not an option in the long run. I also learnt the first day, no one walks anywhere and few take the bus. Public transport is difficult in my opinion – you need to find a “quickomat” or ticket machine to get a ticket for the bus and so far I have only found one in Ryd. Or go somewhere very specific – don’t know where – to get the local equivalent of an Oyster card. You can only buy tickets on regional buses, by card (no cash on buses). Clearly, bikes are the superior mode of transport in this country.
But what about winter and the snow? I imagine some of you asking. It is true, that the rest of the world that is not used to snow (and all transport comes to a halt – I’m looking at you Brussels), we tend to shy away from the cold. Not in Sweden. Where the rest of us tremble at the thought of biking in the cold, they brave it with – warm cloths. That simple. And they clear the roads with salt.
Speaking of roads – Linkoping has the best biking infrastructure I have yet seen (and I have visited – briefly – in the Netherlands). You can get anywhere without being in danger on the road. They either have a separate biking path on the sidewalk, or a designated lane on the road. With everyone biking, the divers are aware of cyclists and there is none of this irritating honking of horns and silent swearing. That being said, the cyclists respect road rules, stopping at red lights and indicating their directions like any other road user. It’s a system that works well, and could easily be implemented everywhere else with a bit of effort.
Tip #4: They drive on the RIGHT side of the road. So do the bikes.
Knowing that I would need a bike eventually, I had even brought my helmet from Manchester, not knowing if it was mandatory or not by law (however, always heavily suggested everywhere even if not legally binding). So I did what everyone looking for a second hand bike would do. I googled it. Turns out, there are local second hand shops (see suggestions from the Univeristy here – a receipt is needed for insurance coverage) as well as bikes being sold off by students who either no longer need them or are leaving. Those that are sold by students are either on the university notice board, or there is a Facebook group – ESN Linkoping Flea Market (also has various other items such as kettles, routers, furniture, etc.)
Tip #5: Suggested price for second hand bikes is between 700-900 SEK. But you be the judge, you can find some for more and some for less.
The bike I eventually got seems to be fairly standard. No gears (tiny inclines are a bit challenging, but let’s be honest, I am also very out of shape), peddle brakes (rumour has it this is because hand brakes risk freezing during winter), a kick stand, bell, lights, and the metal thing on the back to put stuff on. Sometimes they also have a basket and lock. But you can also find mountain bikes, city bikes with gears, with hand brakes on the group and definitely in the shops. So it depends what you are looking for. There are some legal requirements for bikes in Sweden – both front and rear lights, front and back wheel reflectors, and a bell. I still have some fixing to do to make this bike “legal”, but for now, it should be fine.
Tip #6: Umm, maybe don’t by the very first bike you find? I mean mine is fine and everything and it does the job… but those peddle brakes will be the death of me.
So, now that I have a bike, I can honestly say that I no longer feel stuck. If I wasn’t fit when I arrived, I definitely should be by the time I leave!