Day Fifty Four

On the road again….  Life is starting to resemble a Willie Nelson song.  I can’t say that the E4 is the most exciting road in the world, but there are some interesting things.

First and foremost, it’s clear that the Swedes take road safety very seriously indeed.  They passed legislation in 1997 to bring about a “Vision Zero” goal for road deaths.  

This means a few interesting things on their roadways.  The blood alcohol limit is .02, if you have a drink, you’re off the road.  High readings get you a free trip to jail.  I’ve mentioned the moose fencing – serious investment has gone into that across the country, as well as signage.  

All aspects of road changes are incredibly well marked – eg, when a lane changes, how far ahead that change will start, and how long it will go on for.  It takes much of the guess work out of what’s ahead.  There are even signs signs for snow skidoos everywhere – where they can and can’t go, and where to watch out for them.

They have forbidden across road turns on main roads.  These are contained in strange hook turns off road called vandplats, where you exit on the side you’re travelling, turn via a roundabout off road then cross all four lanes in a perpendicular fashion, giving you clear visibility to all traffic and removing you off the roadway while you make the turn.  It’s very effective.  

In built up areas, the speed limit slows to 40km before traffic lights and across the country over 1,500 speed control cameras have been installed in 3,000 km of road… and this is the most interesting thing – with complete public support.  None of them come up in TomTom – it’s illegal.  They are well sign posted though.

Volvo has stepped up to the party, with a public aim that their vehicles will be crash proof by 2020 – they are aiming for no deaths and no major injury.  That’s pretty amazing.  

It’s working too – the road toll has halved since the year 2000. Deaths of children on roads has reduced to 1 last year from a high of 58 per year in the 70s.  In Europe, Sweden’s road toll is well under half the average.  We could learn a great deal from this – none of the measures by themselves are ground breaking, but together, they clearly work.

As we drive, the local storms come and go.  We’re literally driving through localised weather patterns.  It’s a light show and meteorological lesson, in the comfort of the car.

The overflowing rivers continue to frame our journey, as do the wetlands.  I had no idea that Sweden was so full of water. 

The waters come with benefits.  We stop for lunch in Torsmyran nature reserve where a boardwalk had been built across the marsh enabling us to walk deep into the wetlands.  It offers great birdwatching.  On the way, we see a woodpecker’s handiwork, and with the help of binoculars, a magnificent grey crane and a whopping swan.  The wetlands are dotted with wildflowers, including pink heather and are framed by pine forest.  It’s very pretty.

The other highlight of the day is seeing a buzzard sitting on one of the road fences, surveying his domain.  He’s a bit fabulous – they’re common here but you usually only see them on the wing.

In amusing news, I see that pet stores here are called “Flugger Farg”. This keeps me in fits of laughter for most of the afternoon.  I’m off to the Flugger Farg.  Try saying that without giggling.

Our aim today is to make the High Coast, an area of natural geological upheaval resulting from the last Ice Age, when most if Scandinavia was under 3km of ice, depressing the Earth’s tectonic plates.  Subsequently, this area has risen over 800 metres since and is still rising at 1cm per year.  It’s a UNESCO site – 100km of cliff  that we’re looking forward to exploring.  

We make the start of it, the town of Ornskoldsvik by days end. It has some pretty funky architecture.