The following blog post summarises the reporting and debate on bicycle stands along Fyrisån in central Uppsala. In short, Uppsala Student Union has been fighting to keep bike racks at Norrlands nation and outside Campus Gamla torget through a series of opinion pieces. We have been able to show that there is a majority in the municipality that agrees that bike racks should be prioritized over car traffic in central Uppsala.
At the same time, the issue is far from settled and there is still a risk that bicycle stands will be moved. At the moment, the matter is with the urban planning administration, which will investigate the matter before the street and urban environment committee decides what will happen to the bicycle stands. Uppsala Student Union will of course continue to follow the events and act for bicycle accessibility for students in Uppsala.
The drama around bicycle stands began with a decision by the Uppsala City Council on December 12, 2022. The council considered a motion written by Mats Åhlund (C) who advocated that the space along the Fyrisån should become greener. In the motion, Åhlund proposes three measures: (1) That bicycle stands along the Fyrisån be moved to a nearby location; (2) That paved areas be replaced with vegetation; (3) That the municipality investigate the possibility of limiting car traffic along the riverside streets.
When the motion came to a decision, only the proposal to move the bicycle stands was approved. In the city council, M, L, KD, SD and the local party UpD voted in favour of moving the bike racks but rejected the rest of the motion. S, MP and V voted to reject the motion in its entirety.
Uppsala Student Union was reached by the news that the bicycle stands would be moved by an article in UNT, which was published on December 15th. On the same day, P4 Uppland also reported on the decision and asked Ehsan Nasari from the Center Party to comment on the plan to move the bike racks.
From the perspective of the Uppsala Student Union, there were reasons for concern and reason to question the City Council's decision. If you have spent even a short time around Norrlands nation or Gamla torget , you are well aware of the difficulty (if not impossibility) of finding a new equally nearby location for bike racks. There is not exactly a glut of empty spaces in central Uppsala. There is therefore a risk that bicycle stands will be moved far away and that cyclists' accessibility and ability to park will be reduced.
After the Christmas holidays, Uppsala Student Union responded to the decision with an opinion piece, which was published in UNT on 15 January. In the opinion piece, we wrote that we are sympathetic to the overall proposal in the Centre Party's motion. What we object to is that the proposal to move the bike racks had been approved in the city council while the others were rejected, which went directly against the intention of the motion and only risks worsening the situation for cyclists - and thus students going to Norrlands nation or campus Gamla torget. We also argued that Uppsala is one of Sweden's best cycling and student cities, but that there must be central bicycle parking if it is to remain that way.
Shortly after our article was published, Uppsala Student Union Vice President Alexander Wilson van Deurs appeared on SVT Uppsala. In the segment, Alexander voiced our criticism of the decision and urged the municipal politicians to make a new decision on bicycle stands. The author of the Center Party's motion, Mats Åhlund, also participated in the broadcast.
Then, on 28 January, two opinion pieces on bicycle stands will be published in parallel in UNT. One of the articles came from Cykelfrämjandet Uppsala and endorsed the Uppsala Student Union's position, stating that car traffic must be restricted to make room for bicycle racks. In its opinion piece, Cykelfrämjandet presents a concrete proposal on how Västra ågatan (near Norrlands nation) can be repaired to make room for both bicycle racks, pedestrians and a one-way car path.
Parallel to Cykelfrämjandet Uppsala's opinion piece, a reply to our opinion piece was published, written by Ehsan Nasari (C), Nora Karlsson (C) and Mats Åhlund (C). In the reply, the three centre party members write that we don't need to worry about the disappearance of bicycle stands. Bicycle stands should be put in an equal place. Furthermore, car traffic will have to be restricted sooner or later, as the authors see it.
A little more than a week after the Center Party's response on bicycle stands, members of the Street and Community Environment Committee from the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party also write a reply to the Uppsala Student Council's opinion piece. Rafael Waters (S), Joachim Höggren (MP) and Carl Åborg (V) support Uppsala Student Union and Cykelfrämjandets line that car traffic in central Uppsala should be limited and pedestrians, cyclists and public transport passengers should be prioritized. At the same time, they note that the Street and Urban Environment Committee has been instructed to move bicycle stands and that it will do its best to implement the decision without worsening the situation for cyclists.
Between the two lines, UNT publishes another report on bicycle stands in which Alexander participates on behalf of the union, together with Torbjörn Albért from Cykelfrämjandet Uppsala, Nora Karlsson from the Centre Party and Rafael Waters from the Social Democrats. In the report, UNT writes that the decision lies with the city planning administration, which will now produce a basis for how the bike stands should be moved before the street and community environment committee can produce a proposal and decide on the issue.
In the article, Waters, chairman of the street and urban environment committee, replies that there is no cause for concern as he sees no risk that a decision would be taken that would lead to fewer bicycle racks in central Uppsala - or to poorer placement of the existing bicycle racks. UNT's reporter then follows up with a question in which he mentions that the number of bicycle stands on the other side of the river has been reduced from 200 to 80 by decisions taken in the Street and Urban Environment Committee. Waters replies that no such reduction is intended and that a decision will be made that is agreed with the merchants in the city, but that they are not yet at a stage where a decision will be made.
As a conclusion to the debate, Uppsala Student Union finally wrote a final response that was published in UNT on 16 February. In our final response we write that we appreciate the support for the need for a more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly inner city in Uppsala. We also highlight that the politicians who have declared that they support the vision presented by the Student Union and Cykelfrämjandet together form a majority in the City Council, as well as in the Street and Urban Environment Committee. We therefore argue that the C, S, MP and V have the opportunity to take the decision again. This would allow them to start the process at the right end by first doing something about car traffic and then finding an equivalent location for bicycle stands.
All in all, Uppsala Student Union will continue to monitor students' needs for accessibility by bike. If the bike racks along the Fyris River are moved to a worse location, which unfortunately they are still in danger of doing, we will protest loudly and work to resolve the situation in a better way.
Finally, Uppsala Student Union is pleased to have been part of the start of a larger discussion about Uppsala's inner city. In addition to the articles and debate posts we refer to above, UNT did two reports on the vision of a car-free central Uppsala; one where prominent politicians in the municipality are asked to comment on the need to limit inner-city car use, and one where Uppsala residents are asked to say what they think. With a few exceptions, it is nice to see that opinion is leaning towards a more student-friendly Uppsala where cyclists and pedestrians are prioritised over through traffic.
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