Where would the world be without the climate movement, and what has it to do with me cycling through Sweden. It starts with me entering Göteborg on friday, but way to early for #FridaysForFuture, continuing with the anouncement of the second heat wave since I started cycling, and furthermore discovering after starting my journey to Norway that a good cycling infrastructure is very important. And that brings me to the amazing Critical Mass organized throughout the world, which I joined in Ghent. So, I will talk about the journey a bit, but this blog will most likely end as an ode to all the climate activists out there, and everyone who is trying their best in their own way to make the world a better place.
Göteborg to almost Norway
Day 22 – 67 km to Stenungsund – after some shopping, it was a long, humid, warm ride out of Göteborg. Industry for about 20 km, and then quite some houses. Did not find a good spot for camping, so went the the campsite with a nice view over the water.
Day 23 – 76 km to Lysekil – A lot better than the day before in terms of landscape. Beautiful views over fjords, nice fishing villages, and agricultural fields alternating with forests and lakes on the islands. Managed to arrive just in time for the ferry all three times.
Day 24 – 0 km – Now that’s a rest day! My legs need to get adjusted to climbing, so I thought I’d take a break before I injure myself. Waded on the beach, fixed my gears and replaced the chain and made some sudokus.
Day 25 – 77 km to Grebbestad – Up and down, rolling around… no, rolling hills. A bit of everything. In terms of landscape, in terms of weather. Finally ending in a forest for my first ever alone free camping night.
Day 26 – 64 km to Färringen – A bit less up and down, but still a bit of everything in terms of landscape. Did groceries and (oh, how dreadful, not.) ate some dinner out, to spend my last Swedish cash. Ending at a beautiful lake, with a nice swim, and of course, since I was planning to write, meeting people.
Sweden is a fantastic country! Also to cycle in, but I guess the North Sea Cycle Route is a little less perfect. Which means that enjoying the wonderful landscapes is interfered with fear of the upcoming very busy road and wondering if the next car will give me even less space and hit me. All of that disappears into nothingness when you can end your day by jumping into a lake and hearing the water splash and sound of birds when you fall asleep in the middle of nowhere. As I am writing this, I am actually sitting at the shoreline, enjoying the sun slowly drop behind the trees.
Of course Sweden has to be connected with Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future. I can’t help but to visit one of the #FridaysForFuture locations. A couple of hours to early, but it is nice to imagine young people on the square claiming their right to be heard, in an attempt that the world not only listens, but also starts acting!
While cycling through this small part of Sweden, I did not notice much about the concern people have for the climate. A whole lot of old timers passing by, the fjords full of motorboats and cycling past quite some industry. Once I looked more closely to the cars overtaking me, I did notice that a larger proportion than I am used to is electric. And although the windmills are not as abundant as they were in the polders of Germany, I have seen hydrogen and solar panels.
Most striking was actually in a conversation that someone pointed out to me that in these times (i.e. with climate change), cycling is actually the best way to travel. In no other country has anyone started the topic of climate change. In Germany many people (on their electric bikes) were in disbelief that I did not want to cycle with an electric bike. The fact that I am generating electricity whilst cycling was unheard of. So in that sense I suppose in Sweden and Norway, climate changes is more addressed that in many other countries. To all other countries: please prove me wrong and act now with an ambitious and social climate plan. The Swedish govournment actually wants to have only electric new cars on the market by 2025. With the outstretched countryside of Sweden, cycling is not often an option. Electric cars running on renewable energy is a way better way forward. But I think I will leave the topic of energy to another blog. Either in Norway or in Scotland.
Electric cars are not everything though. A proper cycling infrastructure can motivate people to leave their car at home and get their bikes out of the shed. As said before, cycling may not always be fun. Eventhough the landscape is beautiful, feeling unsafe is never good. And feeling unsafe is not caused by the cyclists, but by the drivers. Yes, you could wear a helmet (which I do now, and felt weird the first time after cycling for 20+ years without a helmet), and you can dress yourself up in bright yellow (which I don’t, I makes me feel ridiculous, but my panniers do a good job), have a lot of reflection (yes! my panniers are completely covered!) and turn on your light (usually yes, in the dark definitely, but now I’m charging my battery instead of have my light on). But most of these actions will not make you safer. Although there is some debate. Apparently the most effective for drivers to drive more carefully is having a blonde ponytail, rather than wearing “safe” clothing to make you stand out. And helmets are definitely good in protecting your head (when worn correctly. I’ve seen some people wear them at crazy angles), but wearing a helmet may also cause the cyclist to take more risks.
As an alternative, and in my opinion a much better one, the cycling environment needs to be safer. Making drivers more aware to the vulnerability of cyclists (seriously… the amount of times I’ve had minimum space between me and a car overtaking me, preferrably with another car coming from the other directions) is one thing. More effective is seperating cyclists for vehicles: cycling lanes. Other options are for instance reduced maximum speed, cycling streets (cars are not allowed to overtake cyclists) or the ban of cars from the city centre.
One way of promoting a safe cycling environment is Critical Mass. These are mainly organized is cities. I joined the ones in Ghent often. By the way, there is another Critical Mass in Ghent upcoming Friday! Cycling with a big group of others does not only create awareness, it is also fun! You see a whole aray of different bikes, but more importantly, a very diverse group of people. Promoting cycling is not only good for the environment. Cylcing instead of using the car also reduces particulate matter emmision. If you cycle yourself, you also become healthier. Not only physical, but also mentally. You become happier! So, check out your local Critcal Mass. Most of them are found on Facebook.
Like Critical Mass is a movement to promote a safe cycling environment, the entire climate movement (of which Fridays For Future is only one part) promotes – no – demands taking action to stop climate change. In a week where Greta Thunberg got the first Freedom Prize in France and the Belgian Youth for Climate got the award for democracy, I want a huge shout out to everyone in the climate movement. You empower people! You make the world a better place! “This is what democracy looks like!”, “Plus chaud, plus chaud, plus chaud de le climat” and “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” come to my mind directly. Sitting here on a rock in a very peaceful environment, the memories of the amazing climate marches are extremely easy to recollect, despite the complete opposite surroundings.
My personal experience with the climate movement are all centered around Belgium. The red line on the beach of Oostende in 2015, organized by Climate Express was one of the main imprints in my mind which made me decide to ride this route. The 65.000 and 75.000 people in Brussels in december 2018 and spring 2019, organized by Climate Express, Klimaatcoalitie, Youth for Climate, and a whole other array of organizations were extremely impressive.
The movement will not stop, unless climate change has stopped. Anuna and the others for Youth for Climate already anounced that their actions next year will be bigger. Extinction Rebellion is continuously growing an this week also reached Buzzfeed, which might reach a new group of people. And actions such as Ende Gelände will, I assume, also continue. I might actually take the ferry from England to Belgium a few days earlier to you the third Global Strike for Future in Brussels (and not only there!) on the 20th of September. See you there?
The coming weeks
For now I will leave this very peaceful lake and continue my route. Some time tomorrow I will cycle into Norway. The only country on my route that I have never visited before, and the last new country I’ve never cycled in before. From next blog onwards I will be able to compare thee countries with each other in respect to the topic of the blog (energy for instance). I will be at least three weeks in Norway.
I already know I will love the country, with amazing views over the sea. I also know my legs will love it a lot less. But with the memories of the enthousiasm of the climate movement in my mind, it may also empower my legs to cycle up those mountains.
Till next blog!