Sweden is a formal place and accordingly its cities are planned thoroughly by experts. It now and then this top-down planning is tickled. Here are two of my favourite anecdotes when this happened/s:
Below our apartment, there is one of two roundabouts for cyclists in Malmö. (The city in Sweden where we live.) The counter reads that 390 529 cyclists have passed through this month, that is around 12 500 cycles a day. As well as the cyclists, pedestrian cross here too. There are no formal traffic rules on how to navigate this place; you can, for example, cycle around the roundabout any way you want. The fact that you navigate the area informally (or what Gehl would call ‘a shared space’ where different types of traffic coexist demanding higher levels of consideration for each other, and so creating safer spaces) frightens many. So much so that they contact the relevant traffic department about their fear. The transport department of Malmö frequently receives letters about this from citizens.
The many experience that feel that place is unsafe want that the municipality puts some order into the flow of traffic. They are not only used to, but comforted by following top-down directive. Here even demand it, suggesting signs, rules and more policing. The department responds that there is nothing they can do because the statistics are clear; this is a safe place. There have only been two minor accidents here since it was built fifteen years ago and that is lower than any other such intersection in the city.
Another of my favourite anecdotes;
Some years back, due to low demand, Sunfleet moved its carpool from Rosengård to another part of town where demand was high. Shared mobility services such as carpools have proven to work well as an alternative to the private car ownership in Malmö except in neighbourhoods where many newly arrived people to Sweden live, such as Rosengård. Sunfleet nor the municipality could not figure out why and hired a consulting firm. We supported the consulting firm through in their investigation by connecting them to community members.
I laughed when the consulting company presented their findings. The answer was that this community already share; they don’t need an app or a company to set up a sharing system for them. Sharing in this part of town is through informal networks and for free! Full report here. (in Swedish)
… If this tickled your interest in knowing more about Sweden’s urban informality and how the municipality policy is to formalize the informal – read my previous blog here on Favelissues.