We started our day by discussing Scandinavian attitudes toward biking after reading a chapter about Copenhagen’s biking system. The idea of Danes and Swedes bicycling everywhere in their picturesque cities and towns isn’t just a stereotype; it’s the real deal. In Copenhagen, there are more bikes than cars, and in the central part of the city, over 55% of Danes commute to work or school by bicycle. Here bicycling isn’t a salient part of one’s identity (like it is in the United States) because nearly everyone does it. So how does Copenhagen accommodate its bike-obsessed population? With the best biking infrastructure in the world, of course (Malmö is not far behind, claiming the number six spot as one of the best cities for bikers in the world). Bike paths (separate from pedestrian paths) run parallel to every street and even run through alleyways, parks, and other places cars can’t go. Traffic lights for each path/road control the flow of bicyclists, pedestrians, cars, and trucks, and the stereotypically pedantic Scandinavians obediently follow them. It would require a lot of infrastructure changes on our part, but perhaps bicycling (especially in urban areas) like the Scandinavians do could be feasible and might even improve our happiness.
Afterwards, we met with our guide, Christian, who took us on a tour of Malmö by bike. We were taken through historic downtown squares where Christian gave us a brief history of Malmö. The city was once a part of Denmark, but was conquered for Sweden by King Charles X Gustav. Christian took us to Malmö’s old-town hall and the bustling town squares surrounding it, each filled with merchants. An ever-changing city, Malmö is known for investing heavily in an industry until it goes bust, then tearing it all down, and starting over again. When it was under Danish rule, Malmö was a fishing city, known for its import of herring. When Catholicism lost its grip on Europe, herring became less of a commodity, and the city took on shipbuilding and concrete production as its primary industries. Eventually, these industries also suffered and the city built Malmö University in 1998. Their efforts combined with the effects of the completion of the Øresund bridge bolstered Malmö’s economy. Christian also walked us through the political history of Malmö and took us to the People’s Park. He even brought spray paint cans and let us create graffiti on the free graffiti wall outside!
We completed our tour by biking past the jewel of Malmö, the Turning Torso. The Turning Torso is the tallest building in all of the Nordic countries and one of the tallest residential buildings in the world. It’s certainly a sight to behold.
After biking almost eight miles without even breaking a sweat, I really came to appreciate Malmö’s flat terrain, superb biking infrastructure, the comfort of our bikes, and the pace of our group. It was a great experience, and is seriously the best way to see the city when you visit. For dinner that night, I enjoyed a delicious filet mignon with peppers, mushrooms, and fried potatoes at Bullen, a local bar serving traditional Swedish pub food.