“It is particularly ironic that the battle to save the world's remaining healthy ecosystems will be won or lost not in tropical forests or coral reefs that are threatened but on the streets of the most unnatural landscapes on the planet.”- Worldwatch Institute. 2007

Saturday, 9 October 2010


I have a look round St. Paul’s Cathedral and take photos of the London skyline. I spot some green roofs and a PV array and some pretty good bike parking at Euston. As we spin northwards the sky gets bluer. It is a little known fact that we do have sun in Manchester, but we save it for special occasions and when I lift thebike off the train it feels pretty special to be back.
The sandbar is closed but Polomental is sitting outside eating onion bhajis. I give him his duty free which I managed to fit in by dangling carrier bags off each handle bars. Katface arrives, we get beers from the shop over the road and cut up the cycle chic stickers she got in Copenhagen so instead of reading ‘Hold my bicycle while I kiss your boyfriend’ so they say ‘Hold my friend while I kiss your bicycle’ and stick them on our bikes. The housemate arrives on the Pashley and we have another beer. There’s a lot of cars out, all getting wound up and angry with each other. It’s because the Mancunian way is shut, the big not-quite-a-motorway flyover route that generally stops this sort of scene. Katface suggests we ride it home so we cut past the barriers – easy on our bikes. There’s no roadworks going on yet – I think they’ve just put the bollards up and we fly along, four abreast with the sun shining overhead. This is home.

Kilometers 5030
Kilometers cycled 400
Countries visited 5
Transport carbon emissions 156 kgCO2

October 9th Presentations, Presidents and Lighthouses

So despite cobbling my presentation together on the train and not having a proper run through beforehand it went rather well. No one nodded off and I even got some laughs (and at the right places!) and had a few people come up and say well done afterwards which was very nice of them.
Then I had a crazy cycle back from London Bridge to the hostel. Before I was out of the station proper a taxi driver tried to kill me, and then shouted at me for it. I backed down and got out of his way (before he barged me out of it) and shouted ‘Oh I’ll be back in the UK then, welcome home’ after him. Even though I was up against the clock I stopped to take a series of photos of cyclists (and cars and buses and f**cking taxis and motorbikes) leaving the lights at the bottom of the bridge. It was pure chaos. The bikes were mostly at the front with a couple of motorbikes and everything else up against their back wheels like a great wall of metal death and when then pulled away I was amazed that no one died in the rush to barge past and overtake the cyclists. I know I know that they do it every day but you can’t just put a blue line on a map and call it a ‘cycling superhighway’ – you have to put the blue line on the actual physical ROAD as well.
As always in London, I spend more time pushing my bike than riding it but from St Pauls to Trinity House I do ride, with my camera phone in my pocket so I can take pics of everyone who tries to kill me.
Trinity house, where the presidents dinner is, is very posh but they are not at all sniffy about the newbike and happily let me chain it inside their railings. Inside is all sweeping staircases and chandeliers, a string quartet, huge paintings of famous royal types and ships - of course. It is the headquarters of the lighthouse association and we are treated to a potted history of the organisation and the building by a great speaker who tells it like he’s sharing gossip from last night about close friends as he namedrops monarchs and politicians, many long dead. Dinner is delicious, the wine is free and my dinner date is driving not drinking so I get to have his as well and by the time I have to get up to be given my award I’m on the port and brandy and look frankly wasted - on my photos at least. There is a professional photographer there who gets me to pose next to a ships bell with my certificate – I dread to think how badly they will come out.
At least by the time we leave the streets are empty. St Paul’s Youth Hostel don’t have a bikepark but they let me bring it inside. I’m woken by the bells and reminded of a hungover Katface in Copenhagen shouting ‘I don’t believe in your god, shut up and let me sleep’. But I quite like it, I have a lovely view and the breakfast is ace.

Friday, 8 October 2010

8th October Home Straight

I planned to have a final cycle ride through the Dutch countryside to the ferry but my nose starts streaming and my head aching and within the space of an hour I’m in the throes of a cold bad enough to make my nose red and sore from the tissues and something (air? mucus?) come out of my tear ducts when I blow my nose. So instead I get the train, via Rotterdam, paying an extra few euros to take the newbike on unfolded. At Hook of Holland I cycle round the quiet streets beside the ferry port. It has everything you’d expect in Dutch village – several bars, a coffee house and three massive cycling shops. I find a place that does mussels in a garlic sauce that tastes like all of the garlic in the world and hope this will cure my cold. I could cut through bank vaults with my breath by the time I’m done eating it. Despite this a guy on the ferry boldly strikes up a conversation with me – he’s a composer of operas and his friend’s dad worked out the solution to the travelling salesman math’s problem – I have heard of neither the operas or the maths problem and he doesn’t know what the solution was so I go back to putting my presentation together, trying to breathe away from the netbook in case I melt it.
Friday morning and I come off the ferry to be greeted by five wide lanes and ‘CARS ONLY’ written big beneath them. A sign tells me that Harwich ferry port wishes me a safe and pleasant journey’ which rings rather false as the road to the station is an A road with no cycle lanes (but plenty of trucks). The little road leading into a housing estate says beside it ‘No through road’ so I go down the big road grumbling and complaining under my (still smelly) breath. When I get there it turns out that the station which I need is back at the port but I’d missed the signs so I cycle back and chat to two other cyclists on the station (because we’re all riding bikes) – they’ve just returned from five months touring Europe. Without folding bikes they’ve struggled on trains, especially in France and Italy and tell me that the Czech Republic has amazing cycle tracks but crap roads – needs a mountain bike apparently but great apart from that and very cheap.
On the train to London I start trying to pick just a couple of case studies for the presentation but then start to just put them all in on the basis that I can always skip through them but will need more if I do a longer presentation at our office later. I start to realize just how much stuff I’ve got, how many places I’ve seen and how much I’ve learnt.
In London I get a City of London cycle map which shows me a special bicycle route to London Bridge. I fail to see what is special about it – there’s no segregated bike lanes and the traffic ignores me. Maybe Boris will be painting some on really soon.
But it’s not all bad – people are generally friendly, the bacon butty I get at Liverpool street is good. I don’t have to pay extra to put my bike on the train. At Balham it seems that Boris has been out with his paint can and they have have big blue cycle tracks, like Copenhagen.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

October 7th Rotterdam Climate Initiative

It’s easier to wake up than I expect, even after being up late, on the internet and then lying awake with my head buzzing. I’m up before my alarm for a short walk to Holland-Spoor station at the end of the road, past the bakery, the sex shop, the bong emporium and the abeya (the long black head to floor covering considered suitable by some muslims for ladies) fashion house.
In the world trade centre I meet with Paul, a colleague at a company we have professional links to and Nicole who works for the Rotterdam Climate Initiative. This came into existence in 2007 in the wake of the Clinton climate initiative. Media hype for the topic was high then and Rotterdam’s green mayor and government boldly decided on a reduction target for carbon emissions of 50% on 1990 levels by 2025. This was before any studies had been conducted into how feasible it would be – it was almost arbitrarily chosen as a suitably high target. The project and it’s sister scheme, Rotterdam Climate Proof have calculated that this represents a reduction of 46Megatons of Carbon emissions per year, and that 85-90% of this will have to come from the docks area. Currently the largest chunk of this (around 20MT) is expected to be a carbon capture and storage scheme being developed by E-on for a replacement power plant for which three gas fields in the North sea are being investigated for suitability – storage, as with nuclear is turning out to be the greatest challenge with this technology.
The latest elections have seen a shift to a more democrat/right wing coalition and so it is uncertain what funding will continue but they are confident that they have enough to continue the scoping studies that are underway. In four years time when the real work begins of ensuring that all the so-far voluntary commitment shown by various companies makes it into reality. The biggest problem they’ve faced, Nicole tells me, was an initial reluctance by companies – fears that their ‘level playing field’ was to be removed - but that over the course of the scheme they’ve come round to it and even started proposing initiatives of their own, or working in conjunction with competitors on areas outside of their area of competition (heat supply for example to industrial processes). The aftermath of the ‘climate hype’ has affected them too but they’ve learnt from this and are careful to present the scheme as a whole package that will see Rotterdam as a world leader on climate mitigation specialists, especially in the area of sea level rises. As I’ve been told by the people working in the domestic housing market government subsidies or support for low carbon initiatives is unreliable and no one can allow for it in payback calculations. The majority of the port companies look for paybacks times of less than two years on investment. This combination makes any sort of renewable energy take up almost impossible.
The Stadhaven, ‘city port’ area is the nearest bit of the part to the city and the target of a future large re-development scheme. After the meeting Paul drops me off there and I wander around taking photos of the architecture – there’s a few different styles from the ‘lets make it look like a spaceship’ and the ‘I went to Pisa for my holidays’ school.

Not because it looks particularly nice but because I want to put it on a card and send it to all my architect friends with the slogan ‘When engineers rule the world’

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

October 6th Viverion, Lochem

Tuesday night Justin and Milena cycle me across town to a great Indonesian restaurant. It looks like a cafĂ© – small with little formica tables, no alcohol – but the food is exquisite, especially a smoky mackerel fillet with a red paste topping wrapped and steamed in banana leaves and little crispy crackers made with nuts, completely lacking in the polystyrene texture of prawn crackers, with a peanut dipping sauce drizzled in soy, also a pot of fiery but sweet chilli sauce.
They tell me that there is a law in Holland that in any collision between a cyclist and a car the car is automatically assumed to be the guilty party, even if the cyclist has no lights or is riding badly. It’s been in place for a couple of years now (with complaints from some people but a big reduction in accidents involving cyclists) although they half jokingly, half seriously say it might not be around much longer with Mr. Wilders (who is viewed by everyone I meet here with the same sort of affection we have for Nick Griffin) in power. Since the recent election he has seen fit, as one of his first moves, to increase the maximum speed on the motorways from 120 to 130km. Good to know he's on the case with the really important issues! Afterwards we go to a bar with 164 types of beer – worryingly I recognize most of them but reassuringly we only have two as on Wednesday morning I am up and out early for the train to Deventer, across the country on the East side.
At the station I’m met by Bas from Itho Vent again who drives me to Lochem to meet with Henk. Henk works for Viverion, a social housing provider, and he gives me some background to their market as well as a project that they have ongoing at the moment. Whilst he lists the increasingly tight building regulations and EPBD as a driver it seems that social housing organisations across the board in Holland have chosen to target higher levels of energy efficiency and renewable energy generation for their own reasons - partly in preparation for what is coming, partly for corporate social responisbility but also because they want to. The have a ‘Gentlemans agreement’ he explains to all meet certain targets by 2020 – zero carbon in new build and 25% reductions in existing stock. How they approach this is up to the individual organisations.
As part of this Viverion have a development of 500 houses and are replacing them all between 2006 and 2016. One part of this, a collection of 57 houses is to be a test site for different technologies. From an initial list of 15 solutions they have trimmed it down to 5 which will be implemented. They have their calculations for the energy improvements they expect to see but are especially interested to see what impact resident behaviour will have on the results. The entire cost of the additional items will total 750 thousand euros, a bill that, with no grant funding, the association will have to foot. Legally they cannot charge more rent for low energy housing – there was some discussions around this in the government last spring but now with Wilders in neither Bas nor Henk seem confident that it will be back on the agenda any time soon – he has other priorities (like ensuring that cars can drive more quickly I say – they nod and laugh and I feel quite smug at being so well informed and up-to the-minute). The five levels of measures are as follows:

1. Demand flow ventilation – this is Itho’s product – the concept of carbon dioxide sensors in each room and humidity sensors in the bathroom giving ‘intelligent’ ventilation that will respond to the location of the occupants to provide adequate ventilation. At a cost uplift of 3K euros per house this lifts them just above the EPC value of 0.8 (in line with current regulations) to an EPC of 0.66.

2. Mechanical vent with heat recovery and low temperature underfloor heating, cost 7.5K euros, EPC rating 0.55

3. Increased insulation, mech vent with heat recovery, low temp underfloor heating, ground source heat pump, heat recovery from shower water, some solar PV and solar shading. This gets down to an EPC value of 0.29 (Passivhaus would typically achieve 0.3) but at a cost of 30K Euros

4. At this point they move into passivhaus construction (extreme insulation and airtightness). Heating is provided in these through the ventilation and solar thermal, solar shading and shower water heat recovery are all employed. EPC rating 0.27, cost 36K euros, so a much greater cost for a small reduction.

5. Staying with passivhaus they then add sufficient PV to provide the hot water as well getting up to a total of 40K euros and achieving an EPC rating of zero.

The interesting aspects of this project are the creation of a project team in the early stages that included suppliers of equipment who, in return for their input, will not be value engineered out in favour of someone who claims to do the same product for a few quid less and representatives of the residents association. Henk feels that this will be what makes the project work – because the whole team started with a common goal and aim in mind and worked together to create the whole concept, before they split off into their traditional roles and financial responsibilities.
The other key factor is the time this process has taken. The project was conceived five years ago, it took three years to come up with the ‘long list’ of 15 solutions and another year to whittle it down to five, which is where they are now. Construction has just started and they will complete in October 2011. They are still working out how they are going to monitor things like customer satisfaction and behaviour and plan an initial monitoring period of two years so I reckon on not much less than a decade to have some really useful conclusions – it’s a long time but a lot of thought has gone in.
I ask about other aspects – water, transport etc but with it being an existing development they haven’t had to look at these, although Henk tells me it’s a matter done by the planners on new build.
I catch another train to Utrecht and then another to the Hague. I retrieve the newbike from the underground bike storage at the station – this is in addition to all the free parking areas they provide. It's safe and dry, open from 4.30 in the morning until 2 the next morning. And costs 1 euro 20 per day. They have a bicycle repair shop and hire bikes there too. I ride home, with my lights on, trying not to let the knowledge that car drivers will be in the wrong if they hit me make me any less observant. It’s dark by the time I’m back at base. Last day tomorrow – a last minute meeting with Rotterdam Climate initiative has been arranged at 9.30 tomorrow morning and then time to see if everything will fit back in my panniers and head for the ferry.

October 3rd – Itho Ventilation

I decide to cycle to Schiedam from the Hague as it’s just over 20km on nice flat flatness and mostly along a canal side. I get hopelessly lost in the Hague – partly because the directions Justin gives me are ‘Just get to the canal and then you can ride right down the side of that’. Hmmm…. problem being – which canal? When I finally find the right one (which is massive and was quite clearly THE canal) I’ve only 20 minutes to cycle the remaining 17km. So with that, and getting briefly lost in Delft and having to buy a map in Schiedam I’m well late by the time I roll up to Itho ventilation where I am met by Ton, Bas and Willem. In the UK Itho just do domestic heat recovery but over here they do whole house systems, integrated with heat pumps or solar thermal. We talk about the construction in Holland ‘Of domestic, that’s what we do, we know nothing about offices, don’t ask us’ they cheerfully tell me. They’ve chosen their market and they’re sticking to it and what they do know about, they know a lot. They have live monitoring of all their recent heat pump installations and show me a case on one which was running in cooling mode even in January. They thought this was a fault until they looked at the neighbours – all of whom had turned their heating up to 24 degrees. Conclusion? Thermal insulation between dwellings, not just acoustic.
After an informative couple of hours Bas helps me work out train times for the meetings he’s set up with me for the next couple of days with a passivhaus architect in Belgium and a housing association and Willem gives me a 2015 calander. They had them made to send to people as a reminder that the building regulations then will mean whole house ventilation becomes a necessity (code level four looms equally for us). ‘It’s to say – if you just want to build to the regulations don’t talk to us now, but come and talk to us in 2015’ he explains.
They’re concerned about me cycling back, possibly getting lost again and in the dark but I assure them that I know the way now and that we have dark in Manchester. I am rewarded by a bright orange and pink sunset on one side of the canal and a rainbow on the other. I do get lost, several times but I still find my way home past a Chinese takeaway where I order too much food without knowing what it is I’m ordering and eat it too quickly with a growling stomach and nicely aching legs.

October 2nd Dutch carbon emissions and the Waterboard

Holland is the smallest country I’m visiting, and the most densely populated (double that of the UK). It’s also got a low level of urbanistaion (only spacious Sweden has less) which is apparent on cycling along it’s flat roads through a relatively busy countryside with no great expanses of wilderness. Take all this into account and the fact that they’re practically underwater, it’s understandable that the Netherlands has the highest CO2 emissions per head of population (10.82tonnes/annum compared to our 8.32). They still beat us on percentage of energy generated from renewables (based on the last international energy agency figures which are for 2004) although we’re both so pitifully low that it hardly seems a competition worth having. Their carbon emissions per household are low though. This could be attributed to a large use of natural gas – their governmental policy for energy at one time was that they should use as much of their natural gas as possible before nuclear became the norm, when it would be worthless. Still getting by on their domestic reserves they have more recently decided that it’s price should be linked to that of oil and taxed it accordingly and so prices have climbed steeply over the last few years. The revenue they get from this is not channeled into subsidies for energy efficiency or renewables and so there is low uptake. From what I understand so far the subsidies sound a little like the domestic half of the low carbon building programme – a laughably low amount gone within hours of being opened to applications. Also feed in tariffs have no certainty with the government changing it’s mind too frequently to give anyone the confidence to install on their account.
Performance on other areas of sustainability seems patchy, especially waste and recycling. One area they excel, of course, is drainage. It seems crazy to me that a country that logistically speaking, ought to be under the sea, doesn’t worry about rising sea levels. There are Indonesian islands further above the waves who are already making mass evacuation plans for when it happens. ‘We have great faith in our dykes’ a Dutch friend tells me when I ask. Their Waterboard, I am told, is ‘older than the British Royal family’ (bet it’s not older than their combined ages) and ‘the oldest democratic establishment in Europe’, dating from the 9th century. They have some interest in rising sea levels it would seem as they’re investing one billion euros a year into researching it (per year for the next century), government funded. ‘Until the government changes it’s mind?’ I ask, thinking of the feed in tariffs. They laugh – no no – this is the Waterboard, they say how much they need, and they get it. They have the power to stop any project at any time, without question, although they don’t exercise it as a matter of course. It may be the case that engineers secretly rule the world in other places but here in Holland, it’s the Waterboard.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

October 1st Copenhagen to The Hague

I get on the train and find my carriage. I’m sharing (so far) with Alan, an eldery refrigeration engineer who has been on a business trip to Sweden. We chat a bit, he tells me about his wife’s cycling, then settles down to watch a film. I do some knitting and cut into my bottle of red. I share my crisps and he passes me a piece of orange.
After a couple of hours we’re joined by a Dutch couple. He’s done some Aikido so we chat about that whilst I sort out photos on my laptop. It’s only half nine so we’re not rushing to put the bunks out. Then another guy gets on who doesn’t want to talk but sits with a hand to his head like he has a migraine or something. I finish up what I’m doing on the netbook and set up the top bunk that I’m on. As soon as I’m done the new guy sets up the other top bunk without speaking to anyone. Once he’s in I ask him if he wants the big light out. He grunts and nods so we turn it off and put the night lights on. Below Alan and the Dutch couple say ‘What do we do with the boots then?’ and the smell finally drifts to the top of the carriage – it’s like he hasn’t ever changed his socks. After some discussion they put them outside.
Saturday morning – smelly feet man and refrigeration Alan have left – we get delayed and so don’t arrive at Amsterdam until lunchtime. Once again I’m impressed with just how easy it is to see a city by bike – within minutes I am away from the main tourist crowd of the central station and spinning along canal sides and little streets. On foot this would take me hours, and be a lot more tiring with my luggage, likewise public transport. The segregated cycle paths mean that I’m never in danger or getting in the way of cars. I wonder if the only reason that Amsterdam isn’t number one cycling city is that they don’t realize they do it – it seems as heavily cycled if not more and as well provided for as Copenhagen. The sun is sunny and the sky is blue and I stop for a beer and a burger which they forget about and so give me another beer to make up but as it means I’ve just had as much internet access as I could want for free it’s fine, and the guy at the next table is very complimentary about the newbike. After a bit of an explore I get another train down to The Hague where I’ll be based for the next few days. Justin, the brother of a friend has (been) volunteered to put me up – he lives in an old school building, originally squatted some thirty years ago and then bought from the council. Split loosely into about twenty units some of which are studios, some entire family homes it’s owned by an association. It’s a great place and my Justin is staying with his girlfriend around the corner so I have yet another amazing pad to myself. They take me to a party in the building – one of the family home set-ups. It’s a great space, open and airy and all the better for having been designed by the people who live there to suit their needs and wants exactly. They are at an interesting point in it’s ownership as the original loan is almost paid off, potentially major renovation looms but there is no clear agreement on what they actually want to do with it. Interesting times ahead I suspect but the host of the party tells me that although they don’t always respect each others opinions, they respect each other and so this will see them through.
Justin has a pile of books on cities – he’s a ‘sound artist’ (which is not the same as a musician) and so I’ve been looking through some. It reminds me how low lying so many of our cities are. If we’re to take some of the worse predictions for sea level rises into account for climate change mitigation perhaps we should all just be moving to the hills rather than pouring any more effort into current infrastructure.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

October 1st - Back through Malmo

I catch the night train again, going southwards this time from Stockholm to Malmo where I have an appointment with Li at E-on to talk more specifically about the energy at Western Harbour. They were invited to make some propositions, having their headquarters in Malmo and being the biggest energy company in the world. Although it’s interesting that energy was never the big issue with Western Harbour, more sort of just there for completeness with ecology and placemaking taking the forefront. It certainly wasn’t used as a selling point by the developers she tells me.She pretty much just wants to run through her presentation, including some little pictures of ‘How district heating works’ with little red lines going to a house and blue lines coming back but I manage to distract into talking about energy in Sweden more generally and the decision process and issues at Western Harbour. The electricity comes from one big wind turbine with a minimal amount from a small PV array located on one of the buildings at the entrance to the development. Likewise the heat comes form a district heat main run on waste incineration. Smaller contributions are made by a solar thermal array, located on the building beside the PV at the entrance and they have a water source heat pump as experimental installations, also a heat pump to provide district cooling and an interseasonal heat store in an aquifer below

Western Harbour again - solar thermal to the left, Solar PV shading to the right
It works well but the one on the other side of the Western Harbour isn’t performing – geology is a difficult science. Likewise they have a small sewage biogas plant which feeds into the gas main I’m surprised at this – in Germany I was told that district heating can’t compete with gas. In Sweden it’s a different story it seems and Li shows me some good graphs from Sven Werner which illustrate clearly that the reduction in carbon intensity of Swedish energy goes hand in hand with their move away from oil as main fuel for district heating. They also shows the long lead times from the decision to implement an energy choice (when they moved to nuclear from oil for example) to the point where the energy mix actually changes. But, as elsewhere the approach seems to be small but visible installations of experimental technology and relying on tried and trusted means for the main provision.
I ask about objections but it seems that the major objections to the scheme were from locals who were worried it would become a rich people’s playground that they would be excluded from and that the council has repeatedly made it clear that it will never become a gated community and that the public areas will remain public. This has been the case with the area become a popular place for people to hang out. I recall Tor told me this as well – that the new residents complain a lot about it. He sighed when he told me and I thought how tough it must be to be a planner – worse than an engineer because we only get noticed if we get it wrong whereas from a planners viewpoint you’ll always be in the wrong from someone’s perspective.
After my meeting with Li I get some food from a supermarket and go to sit on the harbour front at Western Harbour to eat it, hopefully upsetting the posh people by doing so. Then I go back to the bath house at the end of the pier, just because I can, before getting another train to Copenhagen for a sixteen hour train journey to Amsterdam.

Friday, 1 October 2010

September 30th - Hammarby Sjostad

Hammarby Sjostad (Hammarby Lake Town, pronunciation – don’t look at the Sjo, instead say Hoole but then put a guttural/Welsh/phlegmy sort of start to it and you’ll be about there) has some pretty well established areas and is still being built. Target date for completion is 2017 by which time it will provide housing for around 25,000 people within easy cycling or public transport distance of Stockholm. It’s as dense as Western Harbour in Malmo although feels a bit more spacious as they go higher and it covers a much bigger area. There’s variation between the structures, although again not as much as Western Harbour, with most of the accommodation being 3-5 story flats with generous balconies and shared gardens in between Transport is concentrated on the main drag from the city with little streets spreading outwards on one side of the flats – the other side opening onto wooded walkways or the waterfronts – these last being the nicest things about it. Boulevards and little moorings and decking walkways run the whole length, with piers that stretch into the lake edged with thick rushes. I see a lot of people out walking babies in buggies, feeding ducks and the little brown birds that jump in and out of the rushes and seem quite fearless. I meet Anna from Skanska who worked on the development when it was in it’s planning stages. She turns up on a bike and we walk around. The idea behind it seems to have stemmed, as with the Malmo developments from LAN21 agreements. A lot of thought has gone into how the residents will live there with access to local shops and transport planned out as well as leisure facilities – including a (winter only) ski slope immediately behind. The had to rush the new tram stop through as people moved in faster than expected and the authorities worried that if they didn’t then people would quickly form transport habits relying on cars which would be difficult to change (School provision was also a last minute rush – the demographic was expected to be older but has mostly been couples with young children). Making it easy to be green has been somewhat of a focus here. Waste chutes are provided outside each building for incineration, paper and compostables. The compostable ones have been provided with a key (people were chucking any old rubbish in apparently) and a sign thanking people for putting the right stuff in and saying how great the last lot was. Plastics and glass have collection points on each block and all are retrieved by big lorries from the main roads by suction – saving waste trucks operating within the neighbourhood areas. District heating is fed from a part waste-fired CHP plant – but the tower than I assume to be the flue is actually from the sewage works and it’s obviously high enough as I can’t smell anything from it. It’s an experimental installation producing biogas for combustion for energy generation. What with all of this, reclaimed heat from the wastewater and using the they reckon upon completion and full occupation they’ll be producing half of all their energy needs locally, with the rest being bought in. Walkign around it I’m reminded of Richard Register’s Ecocities book – what seemed upon reading a rather fanciful flight of the imagination as to how cities might feel in the future.
It’s pretty impressive but again, the most impressive thing is the marketing. Stockholm is ‘Environmental Capital 2010’ and although a couple of the claims in the brochure are tenuous the whole thing hangs together rather well. I’m sure there’s some element of a self-fulfilling prophecy here too – that telling people about how sustainable the area they live in is encourages them to behave accordingly – provided, of course, that it is made easy for them to do so.
The cycle routes are good, as they are for the rest of Stockholm and plenty of people are out using them – including enough chic to not beat Copenhagen but certainly give it a good run for it’s money. I’m a little travel weary today and overwhelmed by the size of it and so I find a park and play with the hoop – it’s looking a bit battered since the Christiania party with bits of tape peeling off. Maybe I’m not being very sharp but I have at least five people tell me off at Stockholm station – the first being a man who just says ‘You can’t take your bike that way’. I say that I’m going to Malmo and he says ‘Oh you can take it to Malmo but not that way’ and walks off. ‘thanks, thank you, that’s very helpful’ I shout sarcastically after him but then a lady comes up to me and asks if I need any help and explains that I’m trying to get through the barriers to the Metro and that the main station is through a different set of doors. Then I negotiate several train people who tell me I can’t take the bike on the night train until I’m fed up of explaining that it folds and goes in a bag and so yes I can, before I find my train. The guard gets off and scowls at the newbike. ‘You can’t…’ he starts, I make my surely by now internationally recognized gesture for ‘it folds’ and he says instead ‘Did you check in at the main hall?’ ‘Yes!’ I say. I don’t know – I must just have an air of stupidity about me today.