Why Sweden Clears Snow-Covered Walkways Before Roads

Photo:  Stockholm Transport Museum
Photo: Stockholm Transport Museum

In Swedish cities, the approach to snow removal used to be pretty similar to the way it is in the United States.

First cities would plow major highways. Then they would plow big surface streets, especially near large employers. Last, they would clear walkways and bike paths.

But after analyzing government services through a process known as “gender-balanced budgeting,” many Swedish cities, including Stockholm, prioritize snow clearance very differently. They now clear walkways and bike paths first, especially those near bus stops and primary schools. Next, they clear local roads, and then, finally, highways.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions explains it all in this English-language video:

An analysis of Sweden’s snow clearance practices showed that it disadvantaged women, who were more likely to walk, while employment districts where men predominantly worked were more likely to have streets plowed first.

Not only was the impact of snow clearance priorities discriminatory, there were negative consequences for society as a whole. Three times as many people are injured while walking in icy conditions in Sweden than while driving. And the cost of those injuries far exceeds the cost of snow clearance.

So the order was reversed. Municipalities faced no additional cost for clearing pedestrian paths first. And it reduced injuries, in addition to being objectively fairer.

Now Canadian officials are interested in importing the idea of gender-balanced budgeting, the CBC reports, which is expected to be a hot topic when world leaders gather in Davos this week.

48 thoughts on Why Sweden Clears Snow-Covered Walkways Before Roads

  1. The City of Boulder Colorado should consider doing this. Currently they don’t clear crosswalks unless citizens file many complaints. Cars are the main priority.

  2. I think ypu missed the part of the article explaining that the reversal was cost neutral. Swedish cities just changed the order of clearing snow. They didn’t
    increase taxes

  3. And Swedes are on average much happier people than Americans. Imagine that. Free universal health care, free University, fantastic Social Programs… to name a few. I would happily pay more taxes to get all that and more.

  4. They also walk because many people in Sweden cannot afford cars. Most middle-class households have one car because that’s all they can afford. Young people bike everywhere in the Nordic countries because a vehicle is often out of reach for them financially until their late 30s or early 40s.

    Those high taxes come at a price, and the exorbitant cost of doing basic things is not something most Americans would stomach.

    I’m not sure Swedes are as happy about the astronomical increases in crime they’ve suffered in recent years, due to…well, gosh, the media seems pretty mum on the subject. And the suicide rates in Nordic countries are notoriously high, something these “happiest country” surveys quite consciously neglect to reference.

    But you’re more than welcome to donate all the money you wish to the State. Live the dream.

  5. Many young American’s also cannot afford cars.
    It depends on your take on “afford.”
    If car ownership often comes at the cost of a car loan on top of student loans and possibly other debts (like CC debt), then many American’s can’t actually AFFORD cars either. They just buy them, because driving is a necessity in our society.
    http://www.who.int/gho/mental_health/suicide_rates_crude/en/
    I don’t think suicide rates are that far off either.

    I’ve never heard of Sweden painted as a particularly crime prone or dangerous country (where, unfortunately, I’ve heard criticisms of the highly publicized crime in the US), but either way I don’t think higher taxed countries are necessarily more dangerous than lower taxed countries.

    There are a lot of deep theoretical economic arguments on more vs less taxation, and I don’t think it’s wise to completely knock increases in tax revenue to offer more social services, if the pros seem to outweigh the cons in terms of safety+budget. No need to call it a donation to the state.

  6. Do not confuse “cannot afford” with “choose not to”. Most people in Europe can afford a car, but our extensive network of public transport and cycle paths means a lot of them choose not to buy one and use the money for other things.

  7. Nonsense. Sweden is a richer country than the US. Almost everyone can afford a car. Many though choose to spend their money on other things instead because they don’t want or need one.
    I always chuckle at Americans banging on about how awful it would be to give money to “the state” and then think nothing of spending more than my monthly tax bill on overpriced healthcare. By the way, my tax bill includes free healthcare.
    It’s not *who* you pay that matters really is it, but the value for money you get from what you pay.

  8. Sorry but if something is factually inaccurate, it’s nonsense. The original commenter presented no evidence or factual basis for his statements. They are simply not accurate, not correct, wrong, fake, made up – i.e. nonsense. This isn’t “a conversation” and I’m not shutting anything down, whatever that means, I’m simply pointing out that the original poster is talking out of his rectum.
    There is something, by the way, called “Hitchen’s Razor” which is relevant here – basically if you want to make a claim about something, it is down to you to substantiate that claim with evidence or facts, not down to anyone else to disprove it. Mr Bertrand presented no evidence or facts, I doubt he’s ever been to Sweden, as he clearly has no clue about the country, therefore his post was nonsense.

  9. Only in America do we see the use of public transit, walking, or bicycling as only associate with people who are so poor they have no options. Many people around the world, including in America, choose to not purchase a private vehicle. Unfortunately it is not always an easy choice in America, but that is our failure. They fact that the choice is easier in other countries is their success.
    As far as taxes go, if paying more taxes meant that we’d have significantly better infrastructure, less children going hungry, healthcare that won’t bankrupt people within reach for everyone, I would happily pay more in taxes.

  10. I imagine they’d have arrived at the same conclusion if they had done “people-balanced budgeting.” Wherever cars exist, they are overserved.

    It’s a bit like a person who lives off steak, vs a person who lives off rice and beans. If you respect the diets of both and feed both, favoring the sybarite is inescapable, because steak (and cars) cost 10+ x as much per person served.

  11. You are repeating American propaganda about Sweden. Particularly the very fake point about suicide. But you’re more than welcome to donate all the money you wish to Wall Street. Live the dream.

  12. The “propaganda” I relate is empirical. I have been there and have seen this for myself. My suicide rankings come from sources that are generally reliably neutral–i.e., vital statistics per country. Why would the state make this up? Sorry to burst your bubble, but Sweden is NOT a utopia. Very pleasant, extremely communitarian (and thus also very authoritarian and ultra-conformist), but not perfect.

  13. I have and I have seen everything I described. You are a statist and a collectivist who thinks Sweden is a modern utopia and you wish, by force if necessary (and it WILL be necessary) to model the United States after this. It’s highly pleasant place if you’re willing to buy in to the idea of the government making a ton of decisions for you. Most Americans aren’t–clearly because they’re too stupid to appreciate how wonderful things are in Sweden.

    Car ownership is significantly lower in Scandinavian countries because the taxes are higher, wages are lower, and purchasing power is considerably lower. It’s the same reason that young people in countries like Sweden often have to have potlucks using a mini-grill in their beautiful parks. It all sounds pleasant, but it’s mostly because young people cannot afford to eat out regularly at Sweden’s very expensive restaurants.

    Sorry, Paul–we’re not all Nordic Lutherans. But Minnesota comes close, so you might try your luck there. They’re about as close to the Swedish model as you can get in the US, though with all the Somalis coming in, their great communitarian model is likely to get diluted by people who don’t have as libertine views of women’s rights or religious pluralism. (Then again, the same thing is happening in Sweden too. Awfully frustrating, I’m sure.)

  14. The plural of anecdote is not data. “i’ve been there and seen X” has limited evidential value. Go read about expectation bias.

    Just repeating statements with no evidence doesn’t make them true.

    And as for your bizarre assertions about who I am and what I do and don’t want – honestly, they undermine you and your nonsense posts more than anything else. I’ve no interest in trying my luck anywhere thanks and I have no wish to model or force anywhere to be anything, least of all the US, a country which I have visited but have no interest whatsoever in living in.

    My only interest is in facts, of which you still present absolutely none, nada, zilch, and reality, which you clearly have a very distant relationship with.

  15. Swedes get something from U.S. taxpayers as well: subsidized defense, subsidized medical R&D, inter alia

  16. You have neither data nor anecdotes…but you do have sensitivity and feelings, which is clearly more important in 2018. An assertion like “Sweden is richer than US” is also untrue in terms of GDP, GNP, per capita, or–most powerfully–purchasing power parity. So is “free healthcare”–a myth.

    As for your attempt to deflect my assertions about what you are, there’s no need–you revealed it in your previous post. You make a priori dismissals–and devote considerable verbiage to defend those dismissals–because you have no rebuttal.

    In most Nordic countries, bicycle use and mass transit are considerably higher than the U.S. This is partially because of greater cultural values for shared transit, denser development patterns, overall higher costs of living, less of a tendency to relocate, and lower wages (both before and after taxation). That’s their prerogative to place themselves in a situation where the capacity for car ownership is considerably lower, and I’m glad they have recourse through such wonderful transit and bicycling infrastructure. But it is a choice they have made that is reflective of their culture–a choice not shared by most Americans, despite the efforts of Streetsbloggers to try to shoehorn European sensibilities and development patterns into American cities. And it is a choice that reduces both their dependency on a car (a positive thing) and access to a car when it is the only option (a negative thing)

    Is Lauren typically a male name where you’re from?

  17. You are hilarious.
    Yeah OK, Sweden isn’t really richer than the US. It’s a dumb thing I said over a year ago. But Sweden and the US are both rich countries, the difference is marginal.

    I’m not “deflecting” anything. You have no idea who I am or what I believe, yet you keep telling me, playing this idenitity politics game. You want to shout “a priori” at me? I shout “ad hominem” back at you. Whatever.

    You on the contrary, deflect the “happiest country surveys” because, well, they just inconveniently invalidate your narrative don’t they? Your narrative which seems to be that happiness revolves around car ownership and not much else.
    Yeah Sweden is in the top 10 happiest places on earth, and the US is er, not. Maybe cars aren’t so important after all.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/duncanmadden/2018/03/27/ranked-the-10-happiest-countries-in-the-world-in-2018/

    By the way, the US has a higher suicide rate than Sweden
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate and a higher homicide rate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    Facts are kind of awkward aren’t they? Maybe that’s why you don’t like referencing them?

  18. Homicide rate, definitely. US wins that one. Per vital statistics, virtually every Nordic country has historically had among the highest suicide rates in Europe and higher than U.S. But none has had as high of suicide rates as Cuba. So much for that warm weather improving people’s outlook. Then again the numbers according to this table (http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/suicide-rate-by-country/) are radically different from what they were just a few years ago, suggesting that, much like unemployment, single yearly rates fluctuate greatly and are not a reliable indicator of anything, when compared to trends over time.

    I don’t believe happiness revolves around car ownership. I have a car and despise it. I merely challenge the ludicrous notion posited by the first person here that Sweden is some paradise because of its high transit use and communitarianism. If you love facts so much, how can we ever calculate “national happiness” by any metric that involves anything remotely resembling a fact? It’s just built on aggregating statistics for the things that leftists really, really like. So of course the more collectivist countries (where a micromanaging but extremely competent government makes all their decisions for them and gives them lovely parks and childcare as a result) perform highly. Those “global happiness” surveys are just circle-jerks for the people who create them, signaling to their sycophants how massive top-down government control makes a happy, supplicating populace. So we should all engage in similar centralization and high taxation. Most Americans, being evil and stupid, are skeptical of such an approach to the world, which is why they take such delight in undermining things like UN, the WTO, and the Paris Accords. It is important that those counter-perspectives exist to keep the various powers in check.

    I would use the words of a poet far more gifted than me–“the lady doth protest too much, methinks”–but, since I’m neither English nor Danish, that would be cultural appropriation. And probably misgendering too.

  19. I like how countries and cities in Europe justify a particular expense, being far less than the cost of the consequence(s) of not investing in said expense. In this case, clear the sidewalks for safety and we won’t have to pay for the injuries.

  20. How does an article describing a practical approach to a public safety problem become a landing spot for Republican myths about Sweden and the horrors of “socialism”? We sure live in interesting times.

  21. Those gosh-darn Republican myths… I truly need to stop believing my own lying eyes!

    Beyond that, you’re the one who made some reference to the horrors of socialism. I’m a centrist who recognizes the achievements of the Nordic social model, as well as its drawbacks. It’s amazing how miffed ideologues on the left get when I dare suggest there are drawbacks. So yes, I just enjoy giving a good thwack to all the Pollyannas who think Nordic countries are paradise on earth. What can I say–I can’t help myself. Must be my lack of sophistication.

  22. Oh, how happy we would be in Sweden if this were true. But, alas, it isn’t. A few municipalities are trying out this new principle, under heavy attacks from right-wing and far-right politicians. But the vast majority of the municipalities just maintain the streets the way they always have: major arterials first, then other streets, lastly residential streets and bike lanes. Walkways are generally not maintained at all since they are the responsibility of the bordering property owners. “We’ve always done it this way” is a strong force to overcome.

  23. People like having even full-size grills in park and eating al fresco with their family and friends!

    That is not being poor….in fact, it is part of having a richly-rewarding lifestyle of enjoying both a personal life and a separte work life without working your ass off for 50 weeks a year at 7.35$/hr !!!

    It is cool that you acknowlege the parks are beautiful!!!

    And if they are beautiful, then it makes people want to go visit them, gather with their people in them, and yes even to eat while in them!

    It all sounds pleasant….because it IS pleasant!!!!

    And, plenty of Americans that I have joined for family reunions, friends, games, wildlife explore, and myriad other events — love reserving pavilions to have their own outdoor potlucks and grills!

    so many cities and counties, such as chicagoland, even require permits to get a pavilion, and the first day they go up for sale there have been lines bcs some people/families have a specific annual weekend date and place and try to assure themselves of being first to get the place reserved before others take it on them!

    More Americans need to get out of their offices and the few remaining factories, and enjoy time with their family and friends a bit more!

    Americans are so work-aholic, that it is maddening everytime I live there…..and especially when most Americans don’t ever leave the country to see what better pay and more vacation time – and even laws now that prohibit employers from bothering employees with emails during off-hours – can do to enhance people’s lives, reduce their stress

    …and also reduce the risks of stress-out or pissed-off employees from coming back with a gun to shoot the place up, as what happened in Aurora IL last month – and gawd knows how many post offices, the origin of the term “going postal”!

    You are also wrong about cars and people’s choices….even in USA, over 25% of people ELIGIBLE for a drivers license are choosing to not even bother to go get one! and the largest growth rate we see in this statistic is the 15-30 year olds range!

    If someone does not even get take drivers ed nor get a license, then they also will not buy cars! and this is an American trend that is growing…bcs most of the world already had far fewer teenagers driving (due to higher minimum age requirements) and much more stricter – and expensive private lessons not provided for free by schools – testing and requirements before getting a license!

    but seriously, you lost me with your points about grilling outdoors, eating, and being with other people — milions of americans do it — whether in the backyard, at a city/county park, on beaches, at national parks, street festivals, interstate/motorway rest stops – and so many more places…

    People do these things, around the world as well as inside the USA – because it is a pleasant activity! not because they are poor!

  24. or actual denials of services and payments, such as the private for-profit american health insurance industry??!!

    Paying hundreds (or thousand + as my brother pays 1500$ per month thru his job for his 3 dependents on his health insurance) for premiums is already outrageous…

    but if/when paying that much, they better be paying the bills when they come!

    We know damn well that these health insurance industry (yes, “industry!”) FIGHTS tooth-and-nail for excuses (excess reasonable costs, failure to get preapproval, going out of network, and formerly even “pre-existing conditions” before the government prohibited that, in a rare loss for the insurance political game) to not pay the full costs – or even any costs – of quite a few medical procedures….and to try to lobby government to change laws when their payouts start getting too high for something (ie government-back flood insurance for houses bcs what insurer in their right mind would insure something that is pretty assured to result in a payout!)

    And we have millions of examples – and bankruptcies, home losses, wiped-out savings accounts – of Americans who were screwed over by their insurers not paying the bills, than they ever were screwed by the medical providers!

    Obstensibly, at least medical providers might give some treatment, or medical advice, or referral to somewhere else. Some people get cured, or at least hope for a cure, or tests, or sometimes even bad/grim news…

    but the private health insurers add NOTHING to the medical services between the patient and the medical provider.

    Single payer, and government/social benefit – because health care IS a right —- as well as being cheaper in the long term for society —- than having people avoid or be turned down for medical care over ability to pay…..and invariably then when they get sicker and sicker, they’ll still need emergency treatment then, at much higher costs, and after the risks of whatever they had spreading to other people.

  25. but the USA wants to subsidise these things, because the USA actually wants control of these items!

    “my money, my rules” – also the Golden Rule, “he who has the gold, rules” are both mantras that I learned while living in the USA !

    The USA has its military – bases, soldiers, equipment, spies – in over 100 countries of the world! Hardly unique to Sweden, or even Europe!

    This is just USA being on a power trip to control events in the world.

    The pharmaceuticals, as private businesses in the USA, are the beneficiaries of subsidised medical R&D….and the government does it because if these companies can develop the medicines…it wll of course have a humanitarian aspect to save or improve lives, and maybe even win a nobel prize…

    but make no mistake, the reason the USA PHARMA does it, and the USA throws money at it….

    is because then the pharmas can charge astronomical prices for 17 year monopoly period…and the best way to do that is to try to pay for and control the R&D. The money is being used as a proxy for more world-wide control by USA or American business/financial interests!

    If the USA would get its nose out of some other countries’ business once in a while, the taxpayers would save some money, and perhaps even avoid some debacles like Iraq, Syria, and what is coming up with Venezuela.

  26. “Walkways are generally not maintained at all since they are the responsibility of the bordering property owners.“– wow, really. I thought my city Tallinn Estonia was lagging behind the Nordic countries. Because apparently it’s more efficient to get bordering property owners to hire some guy with a shovel than have organized clearing with plows on city’s own property. in Helsinki it’s taken care of by the city, including carting it outside the city.

  27. well, yes, lauren and laurent are both masculine names in euro languages, like french….i was going by the last name as being french “bertrand”…..

    the female version normally would be Laurence, like the famous french movie…

    but now that you mention it, it has just occurred to me that in American English, then Lauren might probably be female. Whereas in Canadian English, people’s names normally retain whatever they were born with, no matter where we live in the country.

    Thus, Michel and Michael are both masculine names that everyone uses everyday, even tho’ of course the first is pronounced the french way and canadians in English do not think it is female…

    unlike the american English speakers who bullied me when I went to american university for my undergrad until i took to saying the american English Michael, even tho’ that was not my preference nor my given name. Michele and Michelle are differnt than Michel, in spelling for sure…and thus in gender…but also there is a slight pronounciation difference.. canadian and british English speakers, and irish ones too it turns out…understand the difference in hearing it….americans do not.

    Since it seems gauche these days to use Miss or Mrs….and I’ve never liked either, as I always preferred Ms as the counterpart to Mr….as a title should not denote marriage status of either if not applied to both… but even gender titles these days seem a bit of “boxing in” considering the gender identity awareness we now have…

    but, ya, without a Mr or Ms… and without necessarily knowing a person,s family or linguistic background…

    it is hard to sometimes know if someone is masculine or feminine…and in general, on the web and in message boards it should not matter so much, as facts and opinions are valid from either…

    but, sorry if i offend, i thought in this case with the first and last name combined, i went french and thought it to be masculine.

    interesting that we all get reminded sometimes of our cultural expectations and that we should be more aware going forward.

  28. Sweden has a voucher system for education. I wonder how the left would like that in America.

  29. Sweden has a voucher system in education. I wonder how the left and the teacher unions would like that in North America.

  30. Also since 50% of your taxes goes into the military, instead of into making people’s everyday lives liveable.

  31. “This is just USA being on a power trip to control events in the world.”

    It must frustrate you to no end that the most powerful country in the world is so unsophisticated that they pronounce your name wrong (which I don’t believe for a minute is unique to American English, though your animus toward Americans is plainly visible). Most Americans in a college environment know the difference between Michel and Michael and Michelle. And most lefty Americans (which is the status quo in a uni) are more than eager to fawn over Canadians (and Quebecois), Brits, Irish, French. They probably were giving you s— because you gave them s—.

    Which leads to the other obvious conclusion to draw: Euros and Canadians love to rant and rave at Americans for their military presence, but lord knows how much money they’re able to spend on their lovely social programs because–when push comes to shove–they know that if Iran or North Korea or ___ were ever to attack them on their own soil, Big Daddy would be there to step up to save them. If they paid anything remotely on par with what the US pays to defend their own countries, there wouldn’t be as much money left for high speed rail, nationalised health care, or even snow shoveling.

    You’re right: we also have bases in Korea, in Djibouti, Qatar, Japan…but they don’t seem to fulminate over Yankees like the Euros do. And the Canadians too. Lord, if there’s any country that can shield itself under Uncle Sam’s protective wing, it’s Canada.

    “he who has the gold, rules”
    Ah yes–you see, we’re just not as communitarian as you, despite the fervent desires of our Dems to turn us into a redistributive backwater. It appears you have partially accepted it and moved back to the great white north, but I hope you extend that acceptance to the fact that huge portions of Americans are perfectly happy with the high degree of individual freedom afforded to them. Individual donations to charity on a per capita basis are still higher in the U.S. than practically anywhere else.

  32. At any rate, I’m glad I could resuscitate a year-old conversation because, on a lefty-urbanist blog (which is typical of most of them), people get cross-eyed with rage that I dare suggest that Sweden isn’t a utopia.

    The American Religious Right has heaven. For that reason they aren’t so keen on building a paradise on earth. The American Left has the Nordic countries. I’m an atheist but I certainly not so naive as to think humans can build a truly great society. We’re just too flawed and sinful; guess I’ll side with the Bible-beaters on this one.

  33. Sweden’s crime is still much lower than the U.S. But it is not a low-crime country any more. Whether or not they have no-go areas remains open to the partisan propagandists. But we know full well we don’t have no-go areas in the U.S.

  34. This is the most absurd thing I have read in the last month. Sweden, I feel sorry for you.

  35. Wait. How is this “more fair” than before? I understand reducing injuries, but all this did was give women priority when it comes to snow removal. It didnt balance the scales, just shifted them to statistically favour women.

  36. “I’m not sure Swedes are as happy about the astronomical increases in crime they’ve suffered in recent years, due to…well, gosh, the media seems pretty mum on the subject.” You mean allowing Muslim refugees and anti-White immigrants into a pure white country, one must assume. Just say that, if you mean that. It’s no shame to tell the truth:: the lambs are inviting the wolves into Europe & sealing its fate.

  37. What? Sustainable gender equality? Why are terms like these even needed – clearing sidewalks helps *all* humans and pets from falling on their faces. Drivers also share genders, and the way I see people drive – i would get to those streets pronto. Nothing is stopping the country from doing both at the same time.

  38. I agree with the whole gender thing. Most people own 2 feet and walk after a snow storm.

  39. I didn’t say that. Plenty of non-whites assimilate quite wonderfully in their host nations and do serve to enrich the native culture. Unfortunately, with Islam, there is considerably less evidence for enthusiasm toward that assimilation, and considerable more evidence that they seek to mold their new host nations after the neo-feudal cultures they were so eager to leave. It’s very strange.

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