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!