Stop motorways, remove parking, boost bicycling, says Sweden’s Climate Law Inquiry

23rd May 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 297: Stop motorways, remove parking, boost bicycling, says Sweden’s Climate Law Inquiry

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Anders Roth

TOPICS: This show is a 37 minute conversation with the secretary of Sweden’s Climate Law Inquiry. 44 page English-language summary starts on p. 41 of this PDF.


Carlton Reid 0:09
Welcome to Episode 297 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was recorded on Monday 23rd of May 2022.

David Bernstein 0:22
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even carrying another adult, visit That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:00
Thanks, David. I’m Carlton Reid and welcome to the spokesmen. This episode is 35 minutes or so with Anders Roth of the Swedish Environmental Institute. He has just handed the Swedish government with recommendations from the Climate Law Inquiry. Now Anders was Secretary of that inquiry and worked with a team of six on the radical for some recommendations, including boosting, bicycling and critically reducing car use through the removal of parking spaces. And the radical, definitely radical for some pruning back of national road building. I began by asking Anders to introduce himself.

Anders Roth 1:48
Well, I’m a mobility expert at the IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Organisation, or Institute. So and I have been part time working for the this climate law inquiry for since last autumn.

Carlton Reid 2:06
So when when they appointed you wouldn’t they know pretty much what you’re going to say?

Anders Roth 2:13
Yeah, I think so. Because me and my colleague, we wrote them a report of suggestions for what they could focus on for the next part of their inquiry. And apparently, they found that quite good, because then they asked me to join them. So I guess they knew pretty much what I was going to focus on.

Carlton Reid 2:37
So it’s no it’s no surprise what you’ve what you’ve come up with.

Anders Roth 2:41
No surprise at all. Also, it’s I must say that this is the part of the investigation. We are a team and it’s not really my suggestions. It’s the person that leads the investigation, the inquiry, and that was the former head of the what’d you say last to loosen the lungs served in Swedish.

Carlton Reid 3:06
But is that Anders Danielsson?

Anders Roth 3:08
Yeah, that’s right.

Carlton Reid 3:10
Right. So he was the governor of Västra Götaland yeah?

Anders Roth 3:15
Yeah, that’s right.

Carlton Reid 3:16
So you’re basically the Secretariat, you’re the person behind the thing.

Anders Roth 3:21
We were six of us doing the work in different fields here.

Carlton Reid 3:26
And the million dollar question is you’ve come up with these recommendations. But does the government have to implement them?

Anders Roth 3:34
No, they don’t. They can do whatever they want. And and also, this inquiry was really, what do you say? They asked for this inquiry, when their government look different when we have different parties or political parties in the government. So this government, we are not sure if they are fond of all the suggestions. Of course, you never know that. Because the procedure is that you, the government send this inquiry for out to a lot of other organisations and companies for to hear their view. And when they get their answers, they decide what to do with the suggestions that we come up with. That’s the normal procedure for inquiries i Sweden.

Carlton Reid 4:23
You said that, that the complexion of the politics has changed in Sweden, but when it was originally brought in, it was seven out of eight parties agreed on this, to have this inquiry.

Anders Roth 4:35
Well, I guess that that was seven of eight. Yeah, I guess you’re right.

Carlton Reid 4:39
Can you give me a brief introduction to your main findings and what you say Sweden is going to have to do if it’s going to be carbon neutral.

Anders Roth 4:51
I’ve been focused on transport issue. So that’s what I’m going to tell you here. But the main point of our inquiries that

We have to focus stronger on on steering towards transport efficient society. Today, we have a lot of politics and measures for introducing electric vehicles. And that’s important. We also have strong measures for biofuels into the transport sector. And that’s also important, but that’s not enough. And if you tried to introduce too much of biofuels, you will do that in non what you say, it won’t be good enough on a global scale, you will have a lot of sustainable problems with that. So you have to have a no a policy that takes down the need of, of fuels in the beginning. And that’s what’s lacking. I would say in Sweden, for a long time, we need better policies for transport efficient society with measures that takes down the, say, the demand for for transport in the first place.

Carlton Reid 6:05
So in other countries, and I’m guessing in Sweden also, there’s there’s been over the last 5, 10 years, there’s been a big push to get bike lanes to get, you know, better walking facilities put in. But in your in your view, do you think that almost no good, unless you also stop motoring being quite so efficient. So if if you if you build loads of bike paths, and if you build loads of pedestrian infrastructure, that that seems to be fantastic. But if you don’t also, at the same time, reduce the amount of motoring the facilities you build, for active travel will not work?

Anders Roth 6:50
Well, they will not work as good as you think. So you often need what do you say a package of measures where you have both carrot and stick? And that is something that the would you say the transport research is quite a lot of result that points on that. And that’s what we point out. Also in our inquiry, for example, we have this with extended urban environmental agreements where we think this could work Excellent. Where you have you state go sing with money and support, as you say, public transport and bike lanes and other things that enables people to change travel mode. But on the same hand, you need also restriction measures for car traffic, otherwise, you won’t get the same effect from it. So that’s a main measure. What do you say? Point from our inquiry also, you need both stick and carrot. And therefore, it’s important that we have national measures. And that we have goals that says that it’s not okay for car traffic to to increase all the time. And we shouldn’t plan for that. That’s what we do today. And that’s, that’s wrong to do that.

Carlton Reid 8:13
And what about road building? Where does road building come into that?

Anders Roth 8:18
Well, if you plan for car traffic, and also lorry traffic to increase all the time, then it will be more economical viable from economic from what you say, socio economical view to build more roads. And therefore, ways if, as we suggest in the inquiry that you shouldn’t plan for that you should plan for a decrease in traffic instead, you won’t get as many road projects.

They won’t get beneficial from a society point of view anymore. So you won’t build them. You will and you.

You have money that you could do other things for instead, that will be better for the climate.

Carlton Reid 9:05
Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Sweden have lots of private roads, and communities

own their roads? And they can they can do things with their roads that in other countries they couldn’t do Is that correct?

Anders Roth 9:19
That’s small roads really. And so that’s not

that’s not a big thing. The big roads are really controlled and build and so maintained by the state.

Carlton Reid 9:31
The big roads have to be fed into by the little roads. So could there be more small communities? For instance? Yeah, maybe take the recommendations you’re making and actually restrict on that. Do you see any future for restrictions on not just the national major roads, but also, the more local roads?

Anders Roth 9:53
Er, no, I don’t think so. I think this will, on the other hand, be an opportunity for smaller roads.

They can get more money for,

for measures that could be beneficial. For more active travel, for example, we have roads, on the countryside that are quite dangerous to bike on, because there are no side space for bikes or walking. So it’s It feels very unsecure to bike or walk there. And if you then build them, you take money from the big roads to the small roads, you could, you could improve the possibilities for active travel on the countryside. So I see, on the other hand, a better future for small roads here. And I think that’s important also, from an acceptance point of view. Because often you end up with measures in the cities, and you perhaps forget, tend to forget the countryside, and then you get the big problems when you when energy prices go up, and fuel will get more expensive.

You get sort of the yellow [jackets] you know, problems with the acceptance among people living on the countryside.

Carlton Reid 11:09
Because because Sweden does have a very high number of electric cars, yeah?

Anders Roth 11:14
Well, we have a high number of new sales of electric cars, but still, the total number of electric cars is low. And that’s also what we say, even if we

have a high sale, new sale of electric cars still in, in 2013, most of the vehicle kilometres driven will be non electric.

That’s why the well, we have to do all things to get sustainable here.

Carlton Reid 11:46
Now, I know this is an almost an impossible question for you to answer politically. But because you kind of mentioned beginning there that that there has been this change in, in political complexion in Sweden. However, in your gut, what do you think will happen with your recommendations? Do you think they will be put into law and actually carried out?

Anders Roth 12:12
Well, of course, I hope they will. Because otherwise, I am me. And my colleagues wouldn’t be involved in this inquiry. But really, I don’t know, we’re going for an election year this year. So I think at least I hope there will be a good debate and discussion about that, because we need this to get sustainable. We can’t just go on on two legs for the transition. We we need the transport efficiency scientists well.

Carlton Reid 12:44
So do you think that the climate law inquiry will be very difficult for politicians to argue against? Or could they just not argue against it, but just completely ignore it? And like sweep it under the carpet?

Anders Roth 12:59
Well, that could be a case, but I hope not it will happen. But really, I don’t know. We will see. And then we’ll I will try and my colleagues will try to discuss this and try to explain why we have this recommendations. And I know they’re still other researchers and organisations as well that that have wanted this suggestions for a long time. And at least I think that are some suggestions here in our inquiry that are perhaps have a broader one set acceptance to be and that perhaps is helpful, I think,

Carlton Reid 13:39
Would it be correct in saying that because of the kind of energy that you have in Sweden, that transport may be compared to other countries actually more important component of of reducing

carbon emissions then then other sectors?

Anders Roth 13:56
So in Sweden, this is much more important than perhaps in other countries? Yeah, I think you’re right there because we transport stands for a big part of our climate

emissions in Sweden, so therefore, it’s much in focus.

Carlton Reid 14:13
How big a part, Anders?

Anders Roth 14:15
I beg your pardon?

Carlton Reid 14:17
What’s the percentage how important?

Anders Roth 14:20
It’s about 1/3 of the climate emissions comes from transport or a little bit more even.

Carlton Reid 14:28
Putting it putting your your sucking your finger and putting it up in the air to see you know, where the winds blowing from? Do you see this being popular? Do you see the climate law inquiries findings? To be something that most people in Sweden will say yes,

we should be doing this I mean, I’m thinking of things like you know, the the flight shame, you know, movement which which which which started with you and and has spread around the world and you

had to get more long distance train travel instead of flying. So it, I’m assuming that these measures are probably going to be more likely to be popular in Sweden than perhaps in other places again, is that is that? Is that fair to say that? Am I putting words in your mouth there?

Anders Roth 15:15
No, I’m not sure about that. Because so far we haven’t seen the same movement about car travel as we had with flight shame. So I think the still could be pot. Well, it’s not that easy to implement such measures. But on the other hand, I know when when we see

when when we ask people in different cities in Sweden, what they think about car restrictions, generally they are not there is a majority for car restrictions if you just do them in a proper way. But the debate tends to sometimes be dominated about for from interests that are perhaps not that general.

So it’s it’s an important measures for the politics to have measures that are would you say

Pro that are reflecting all of the people even the those that are not here in the debate, I would say

so you don’t see a movement just yet for car shame you’ve had flight shame was very successful. You don’t see car shame low. I haven’t seen that yet. Well, I’m not sure you need really need the car shame movement, either. But you need a better understanding for why actually, we can’t just drive more, and think that’s okay.

Carlton Reid 16:53
But why? Why why wouldn’t there be a movement for car shame? Why Why would flight shame

take off, in effect take off? So well, compared to what why is that crazy? Why is Why is thinking car shame? is crazy. Whereas flight shame isn’t crazy.

Anders Roth 17:10
Well, actually, we have talked a lot about driving less for I would say 30 years since we we have campaigns about this different cities, her work this. So it’s if you ask people, is it good for environment to drive less? I think most say yes. But on the other hand, to to point back to yourself and say, Well, should I do it as well? Well, that’s step two. And we are not really

at that stage yet. But perhaps we will soon. And I really don’t know.

Carlton Reid 17:49
Let’s, let’s circle back to you again, Anders, where we came in, so your mobility expert, what is your your research being about what would explain explain your research background?

Anders Roth 18:02
Well, we have done and May, I have been involved also in a lot of projects, for example, about parking, and the importance of parking policies to steer traffic and to promote mobility services, such as public transport done, and also car sharing. So that is one of my field. Also, my colleagues have been quite into infrastructure planning and why infrastructure planning from the national level is often in to say, coalition with the local planning and local goals from Citizen municipalities. So that is two fields. And I used to be also the environmental manager for the second city for the Traffic Authority in the second city in Sweden. So I’ve been responsible for, for example, a congestion charging scheme in Gothenburg in parking policy scheme, environmental service scheme and some other works as well. And I’ve worked a lot with also environmental vehicles, biofuels, and so on. So well I have a quite a broad field of experience, I would say from 33 years of of this in this field now.

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Anders Roth

Carlton Reid 22:53
The other cities are catching up, maybe to your experience, like Paris, famously, is now catching up. And one of their biggest ways of catching up is restricting parking spaces. Yeah. Do you see that as something that that will be successful? If you restrict parking, all the other modes go up?

Anders Roth 23:12
Yeah, parking is definitely one of the most important tools that you have as a city, you have a

would you say your mandate is big on parking for most cities. And it has a great potential to really shift modes if you do it in a good way. And also, it’s not just shifting modes, you could also take down the the ownership of cars in the series. And that is also important from an environmental point of view and also from a city point of view, to use the this to say the space in the city in a better way. And actually we have new new actors in this. It’s not just the municipality that works with this, but also property owners that see that they understand that parking is something that could be beneficial for they if they not have to build too many expensive parking lots.

Carlton Reid 24:15
Mm hmm. And what about bike lanes? What what Sweden doing in the building of hard infrastructure for cyclists,

Anders Roth 24:25
mostly in cities, I would say and some cities working quite well with this. We have for example, Uppsala and Malama. That is good biking series in Sweden. So

I would say that biking is on

not perhaps steep but nevertheless up going trend.

Carlton Reid 24:49
Is has been very pro cycling for many years. Yeah, that’s like it’s laced with cycleways Uppsala.

Anders Roth 24:55
Yeah, they are good. They are working on this but also you see that

The general trend that junk people tend not to bike that much anymore.

And so well, you have good result in some cities, but also on the countryside, perhaps you see that people bike less? So? Well, it’s not something that is happening just by itself all over Sweden.

Carlton Reid 25:25
Is that is that partially because of I mean, you’ve you’ve you’ve obviously got a slightly more severe climate than as in weather.

Certainly compared to the UK, so a car is comfortable has a roof, air conditioning, you know, you’re comfortable year round, public transport. Also you have a roof, climate conditions around bicycling and walking, you’re open to the elements. So is that one of the reasons why it’s not popular? Just maybe the weather?

Anders Roth 25:55
Well, it could be one reason, but it’s not all of the answer. Because if you look at different cities, where the different circumstances as were there, we can find both cities in Sweden and Finland that has a very tough climate, but still a good promote a good share of people that to taking the bike. So it’s other factors that really will make the difference. If you do it attractive enough.

Carlton Reid 26:27
The Netherlands doesn’t really have a car industry. You know, there are no major car manufacturers in the Netherlands. And that’s that’s often touted as perhaps one of the reasons why

they’ve been able to have a relatively successful a very successful bicycling culture. And whereas Sweden does have a car industry, very famous car industry, how much of the recommendations that you’re making,

will actually get a kickback from the car industry? Mentioning no names in Sweden? Well,

Anders Roth 27:07
I don’t know that remains to be seen still from from our suggestions, but well, it they are the car industry in Sweden, they have a strong influence of the national politics. No doubt about that. But still, I think many cities and municipalities, they are not that affected of the car industry. So they could they are free and could will do their own policies without being affected by the car industry. So it’s more into I would say what the local politics in cities really decide that matters.

Carlton Reid 27:50
Hmm. Yeah, I’ve talked to lots of people in your kind of position around the world in which that that’s a very frequent

point in that, you know, we often talk about national policies. Yeah, in fact, it’s municipal policies, which are the thing that makes the difference. However, I always bring it back. And we have to, we did kind of touch on this earlier is, that always leaves the countryside, the rural areas out, because they tend to be much more conservative, much more car focused. And you can’t, then you can you can cycle you can walk, you can have good public transport in cities, which is great for people who live in cities. But you go outside of those cities, and the conditions become incredibly bad very quickly. So how can how can local local areas benefit from what cities are very much now at the forefront of?

Anders Roth 28:47
Well, I think we have some projects at my work where we try to implement different mobility service on the countryside in connection with the public transport. Because it’s expensive to have public transport services on the countryside where not many people travel. But if you can do that in a more efficient way, and at the same time to give people better possibilities. I think that could be one way. And as I described earlier, we had this with extended urban environment agreements, we have a project where we try and try to have something that we called

Rural environmental agreements instead of where we try to focus on both mobility services, but also like having your distant office promoted in a way that gives you a chance to have a better way to have handle your day to day go to work situation and local services.

So I fully agree we have to do projects and make steps forward on the country. So

might as well, otherwise there will be a big problem for general policies as well. And what I said about the car industry, of course, we had policies that have been affected by the car industry, for example, we have the would you say, Well, you could have a company car with the tax deductions we. And that has been beneficial, of course, for the car industry. But that has recently been.

Actually, they change that in from the environmental point of view, good way in the latest year, so it’s not that beneficial anymore.

But But still, you could have countries without car industry that have policies that promote owning and driving cars. And Norway’s a good example of that, where we have enormous of money put into if you buy an electric car. And actually there are investigations done that shows that before 2018 1/3, of electrical cars bought in Norway, it wasn’t replacing diesel or gasoline car, they were just increasing the to say, the car ownership in Norway. So instead of sitting in the bus, you bought an electric car and use the bus lane, with you electrical car making problems for the bus that you used to travel with. So that is GM, something that we tried to

talk about and make research about that you you have to think of policies that that could both stimulate new technology introduction, but without having those negative effects of increasing car demand.

That’s a problem for the politics to have those two minds are two things in mind at the same time.

Carlton Reid 32:00
How about stimulating electric bikes and electric cargo bikes? That’s that seems to be working in many places around the world, when you when you give the same kind of incentives as you give to E cars, electric cars to E bikes, that leads to basically the program’s very quickly

reaching a capacity because people really, really want these things.

Anders Roth 32:22
Yeah, we are I agree. And we seen that in Sweden, also from the research that actually, you do, you have quite astonishing results where you, you have a new travel with electrical bike, and you replace car travel. But some years ago, we had a premiere for that in Sweden, actually, and that was a big political debate. And there was a lot of discussion about this was really useless money.

And I think that could be something actually, deep below the Swedish I don’t really know. But there was a strange debate, I think, anyway, because there wasn’t any results that this was bad.

So it was more like an instinct to the debate, I would say you can’t really give cyclists money for biking. That’s ridiculous. Many people thought that. And I thought that debate was strange. Is the recommendation in your report to have electric bike subsidy? We haven’t gone into that. Actually. We have just some questions that we focus on. But do well. We do that recommendation. In other words, you say suggestions and reports.

Carlton Reid 33:49
Okay, so the inquiry had to make its recommendations about a week ago. Is that right? Yeah. And that now it goes it basically gets presented to the government. And they then they officially publish it and say this is our policy or is what what’s the progress for it after and after it was handed in?

Anders Roth 34:10
Yeah, well, we’ve handed in to the climate and environmental

Secretariat last week, they will look at it and I think they will wait for another inquiry as well. That also touches on the same subjects, not transport issues, but other issues that we had on in our inquiry, and then there will sound this arch. I don’t know we call it remise and Sweden. They will send it out to a lot of other organisations to hear what the broader society in Sweden thinks our suggestions and after that, they will

they will look at the answers and they will decide what will happen what

Carlton Reid 35:00
suggestions they will put in for the parliament for a new laws and Anders how, how radical are your recommendations?

Anders Roth 35:12
Well, I think on a scale from one to 10, I would say seven eight, perhaps some of the recommendations are, I would say quite radical to the policy that we

have today, but they are not. They have been long discussed among people working with this. So they are not too radical from, I would say, the the general discussion among

scientists and people working with this, but they are quite changing the policy that we have today. So, in that case, you could call them a bit radical, perhaps, perhaps not radical. That’s not I don’t know if that’s the right word, but they are changing the policy of that we have in in a quite distinct way I would say thanks.

Carlton Reid 36:08
Thanks to Anders Roth there. For an English language summary of the recommendations Anders and his crew made in the Swedish climate law inquiry, go to and this has been episode 297 of the spokesmen cycling podcast brought to you in association with Tern Bicycle. Thanks for listening. And watch out for the next two Dutch-themed episodes popping up in your feed real soon. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

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