Observations in Oslo

A week makes a difference at this time of year in Oslo. Spring is springing alive and the people with it. Everyone is celebrating the sunshine after the long winter.

Three weeks earlier, as the locals prepared for Easter, snow fell unexpectedly in the city. It took most by surprise. It was supposed to be spring when winter tyres on cars change over to summer tyres, when the City Hire bikes return to their stations, when most people start preparing their bicycles for cycling again.

When we arrived in Oslo I noticed very few people cycling and that’s because there’s a distinct season of cycling here. Not for all bicycle riders as there are steadfast cyclists who brace for the cold and cycle throughout the year, with wind, snow and sub-zero temperatures. For others like our friend, commuting to work by bicycle begins each year in April and goes until the snow returns which might be October.

So a week after we arrived in Oslo, there were many more bicycles. It was the week the locals dusted off their bicycles and started spinning those pedals.

Mountain bikes are quite common here. Perhaps because there are a few hills to climb in the city, also I suspect for better grip on the road. The day we experienced minus two with light snow falling, the streets quickly turned slippery. Plus some streets have tram tracks which are quite slippery. It might also be that nearby there are some excellent dirt trails (but more about that in another post!)

I noticed that Oslo’s City Hire bikes are very well used by the locals. I was curious how the hire system worked. Walking back to our hotel late-morning after a walk around the new harbour front at Aker Brygge, I saw a man in his fifties, dressed in stylish jeans, with a buttoned business shirt, and a light mustard overcoat, swiping a card to use the City Hire bikes. There are stations all around the city where small bright blue bikes with chrome handlebars like dragster bicycles from the 1970s wait for their next trip. I hadn’t worked out how to hire them so I asked him.

He said he buys a season card that costs him 120NOK (AU$20 / 14 EUR). He said it’s very inexpensive as the season runs from April until November or when the snow comes, whichever happens first. The bicycle hire lasts for three hours and then you have to replace the bicycle into a station. When I asked him what he uses them for, he said he rides the bicycle for getting around the city for work meetings.

“So you would use the hire bike a couple of times a week?” I asked.

“Oh no, I use it two or three times each day!”

Interesting things happen when you place your attention on them. In the inner city we saw a string of bicycles parked against an old rock wall along a footpath. Nearby, a black bicycle was suspended on a repair stand with a man dressed in black looking at it intently and exchanging chat with two other men. A sign read Christiania Cykelversted. This was a footpath bicycle workshop. To see the footpath business was interesting in itself but the owner added another note to it.

I crossed the road to talk with him about his bicycle workshop and discovered that he’d visited Australia in the 1980s over four or five years for the Commonwealth Bank Race. He had been the coach of the Norwegian cycling team!

As the days became warmer, more bicycles appeared on the streets of Oslo. There are City Hire bicycles meandering along from place to place, mountain bikes, racing bicycles, dutch cargo bicycles with groceries and children; and a good showing of cycle chic too with retro chrome and Brooks leather saddles.

Yesterday the temperature topped 22 degrees celsius! It feels like Spring has arrived and with it, Oslo’s season for cycling!

Springtime cycles.

Springtime cycles.

Oslo's City Hire bicycles with workman replenishing the bicycle stations to ensure there are enough bicycles at each station.

Oslo’s City Hire bicycles with workman replenishing the bicycle stations to ensure there are enough bicycles at each station.

Bicycle lanes in the city centre.

Peak hour commuter in a bicycle lane in the city centre.

Minus two, light snow falling, cyclist riding. Notice the advertisement: BEACH 2015. This was outside our hotel. I tried not to look at it :-)

Minus two, light snow falling, cyclist riding, tram tracks slippery. Notice the illuminated advertisement: BEACH 2015. This was outside our hotel. I tried not to look at it 🙂

Cycle chic in Oslo.

Cycle chic in Oslo.

Amongst the

Aside from the cycle chic, a plastic bag is a practical accessory for keeping your bike saddle dry. We noticed this in Copenhagen as well. Plastic bags were often tucked under the saddle, just in case.

Bicycles parked in inner courtyard of apartment building. Photo taken from footpath looking in.

Bicycles parked in inner courtyard of apartment building. Photo taken from footpath looking in.

The footpath bicycle workshop run by the former coach of the Norwegian cycling team visiting Australia in the 1980s.

The footpath bicycle workshop run by the former coach of the Norwegian cycling team visiting Australia in the 1980s.

Spring flowers at Aker Byrgge

Spring flowers at Aker Brygge.

20 Comments on “Observations in Oslo

    • Thanks for reminding me of this part of Oslo’s history. It was known at Christiania then Kristiania for many years when the country was under Danish rule. Then in 1925, the Norwegians claimed the old name, Oslo.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m very interested in their city cycle hire program. It seems more popular than the one we have in Brisbane. I wonder if that is due to the different features of the hiring system and/or our cycling culture. Very interesting! Thanks!


    • Yes, I thought the same Jane. The bike hire program seems very well-used by Oslo residents. It doesn’t cost much which is a big plus. Also, I think not being required to wear a helmet adds extra ease to using it. This contrasts with the Brisbane city cycle hire where helmets are mandatory.

      There is also the excitement of springtime too which is really obvious. The city hire bikes are set up in their stations again after the winter, signalling the new season with sunshine and long days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • $20 for a season pass is ridiculously good value for money compared to what we’re offered! And in Brisbane you only get 30min free – not 3hrs! (Next post on this topic drafted, just got to get photos in)
        So interesting to see what we can aspire to Gail. Another great post 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, the beach scene was such a contrast Robyn. Our winter beaches on the east coast are great for bike riding so I’ll have sandy feet again before long 🙂


  2. Hello Gail

    Your posts are great to read – it is such fun travelling with you!

    I was also thinking of the Brisbane City Council bike hire and the fact that there seems to be limited uptake. As a city worker, I can say that there are three things that inhibit me from using the service – the challenge of helmet hair on a work day, the streets are still very crowded with unpredictable traffic even though there are some dedicated bike lanes, and in summer attending a meeting with your clothes clinging to you with sweat is not a great look. That aside, in the other three seasons the uptake should increase with improvements in infrastructure as you have said.

    Happy travels!



    • It’s also fun sharing the travels with you Jen 🙂

      It’s really interesting to read your thoughts on what’s unattractive about the BCC bike hire. I’d love to see helmets optional for adults. It would make quite a difference to the use of the bike hire. It would then only take some clear pathways for bike-riders and things could be very different. The heat is an issue when you’re dressed for work but, as you say, in the other three seasons it’s quite do-able.

      Thanks! 🙂


  3. Such a beautiful city and a sensible bike scheme that clearly works! The bike lanes are essential and we just don’t have enough here.


    • I agree, the bike lanes are essential. On the Gold Coast we have some bike lanes but they are often shared with parked cars which become a hazard for the bicycle rider.

      Let’s hope we see more funding directed towards creating useful bike lanes that are simply for bicycles. More people would ride for sure and the benefits that flow from using a bike for getting from “a to b” are many.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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