Pedalling their wares: Nordic ambassadors push bike friendly culture
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Pedalling their wares: Nordic ambassadors push bike friendly culture

Next time you're driving your car past a cyclist remember you might just be sharing the road with the Norwegian ambassador.

Ambassador Paul Larsen wants to share with Canberra what his home country knows about cycling.

Danish ambassador Tom Norring, left, Estonian ambassador Andres Unga, centre, and Norwegian ambassador Paul Larsen riding through Yarralumla.

Danish ambassador Tom Norring, left, Estonian ambassador Andres Unga, centre, and Norwegian ambassador Paul Larsen riding through Yarralumla.Credit:Lawrence Atkin

"In general I think all politicians should all be out there promoting how good biking is," Mr Larsen said.

He said cyclists helped reduce pollution, traffic congestion and helped people stay in shape.

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So far Mr Larsen hadn't encountered any hostility from local drivers but said despite Norway's bike heavy culture, Norwegian drivers and pedestrians were prone to getting angry with cyclists.

"We see the same in Oslo and we bikers - I'm a biker myself - we may accept a small part of the blame since we have a tendency to not follow all the rules," Mr Larsen said.

"I don't, of course, condone that. I can see both pedestrians and drivers can be a little annoyed at that."

Mr Larsen said one fix to the tensions was to foster the culture of cycling and to explain to people bikers were helping reduce traffic congestion.

He pointed to Norway's capital, Oslo, where the local government had taken dramatic steps to get people out of their cars.

This included reducing the parking space available in the city and plans to ban cars entirely from the area next year.

"Of course this is a controversial policy; not everyone is happy with that. Many people need their cars, people like their cars but I think there is a general acceptance that it is a good idea," Mr Larsen said.

He said the problem facing Canberra was its spread out geography and even how hilly it could be in places.

"It's not so easy to get from A to B and you don't really have a really defined centre," he said.

"We've seen an impressive number of very serious and able bikers here in Canberra but what we don't see so much here is people just flicking on their suits and taking their bike to work. How do you get there?"

Mr Larsen said more cycling infrastructure could be added by simply painting more bike lanes on more of Canberra's roads.

Smarter and sustainable cities weren't just a matter of getting people on bikes though: while Norway had the second highest number of Teslas in the world after the United States, Mr Larsen said the country was still financially incentivising people to buy electric cars.

In Australia's case, Mr Larsen said when batteries could take cars longer distances then things would become interesting but more infrastructure was also needed.

Mr Larsen and his Danish counterpart Tom Nørring rode their bikes to federal parliament on Thursday to begin talks sharing insights from Nordic countries.

Lars Backström, the Finnish ambassador, and Andres Unga, the Estonian ambassador, will also be lending their home country's insights along with Pedal Power ACT executive officer Ian Ross.

Finbar O'Mallon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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