A Look at “The paradox of public acceptance of bike sharing in Sweden”

Published: 23 January 2024

Written by Anna Lefrançois | LinkedIn

With Sweden’s largest cycling lane network, Gothenburg has become internationally recognized for its remarkable commitment to promote cycling as a popular and accessible mode of transportation. Recently, the city government launched its bike sharing system Styr and Ställ, that has been positively received by the local community.

Yet, the success of this policy has only been partial, as the public’s enthusiasm for Styr and Ställ was not necessarily reflected in an increase in the usage of shared bikes. While they recognized the positive value of the scheme, the engagement of respondents remained limited. This resulted in what the authors call a “paradox of public acceptance.” Thispaper looks at how mobility projects can fail to galvanize their theoretical popularity into concrete results. 

The authors cite a survey of over 500 respondents on their attitudes towards cycling and towards Styr and Ställ, specifically. The majority of them reported that they were “not consistently using” the system. The lack of safe cycling infrastructures and perhaps  the rapid roll-out of the system could be explaining factors of this ambiguous support. Interestingly, the survey results highlight the fact that the extensive municipal investments and Gothenburg’s developed cycling culture are not necessarily sufficient to influence local mobility behaviors. This raises the question of what strategies cities with fewer resources should adopt in the deployment of their bike sharing projects. 

Moving forward, the appealing image of bikes will need to be reconciled with attitudinal blockages if cycling projects are to have broader support. According to the authors, time could ultimately be the ingredient to ensure higher usage rates of systems similar to Styr and Ställ. This article could be interesting for city governments that aspire to untangle the reasons behind paradoxes in public acceptance of bike projects.


Nikitas, A., Wallgren, P. and Rexfelt, O. (2016) “The paradox of public acceptance of bike sharing in Gothenburg,” Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Engineering Sustainability, 169(3), pp. 101–113. https://doi.org/10.1680/jensu.14.00070

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