Mobility day in Uddevala, one day before the election

Imaginative land use in central Uddevala

Sometimes I get asked to come and speak and when I turn up find that the location for the talk is not at all how I imagined it to be. Such was the case yesterday when I turned up in central Uddevala looking for a marque full of seats placed facing some kind of podium. No seats, no podium, no marque nothing like that. To celebrate the European Mobility Week the town of Uddevala had filled it’s central square with cars. To mark the international effort to persuade ordinary people that there is an attractive alternative to auto-mobile addiction, the town filled the only semi carfree square in the centre with cars. They must have been special cars, I hear you asking and they were, that is if your definition of special is meeting the present, far to weak, European emissions standards for new vehicles.

To be fair the town had also two electric bikes for test drives and a bus parked up on the square. Allowing the Uddevala locals to at least get a feel of these exotic modes of transport. Giving them the chance to lean back in a bus seat and smell the upholstery or something. That and the fact that they invited me in to speak. “To give the whole thing a bit of balance.”

Just to make things just a bit trickier one side of the square, the side where all the people were, was taken up with election campaigners. As is the Swedish tradition at election times every party has their own shed placed out in rows. These sheds provide shelter for tired campaigners and rallying points for party support. The other speakers for the day were all politicly active locally but instead of sharing a podium and taking turns to speak they all stood outside their own sheds to orate. They did take turns though, no one tried to shout down the others, there was no debate just orderly party political burble.

Shopping centre Torp on the outskirts of Uddevala

Then my turn came, using the plinth of a handy statue as a podium (old habits die hard) I took the microphone and faced the empty square. Empty that is if you don’t count the twenty shiny new cars and a couple of salesmen. And I started to speak. Standing in an empty square surrounded by parked cars. Separated and blocked from the only public available by a row of politically coloured sheds I abandoned my planed talk. Facing the row of sheds I gave the local political elite a piece of my mind. I don’t know if they listened to any of the home truths I flung at them about autocentric town planning. I couldn’t see if they where cowering behind their sheds and listening or just burbling on as usual while handing out their fliers but one thing I do know. I’m loud.

And I did get asked back 🙂

Gothenburg 19th September 2010


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