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.

  • TourDeBoulder

    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.

  • JZ71

    Since taxes in Sweden are twice what we pay here, in the USA, this makes perfect sense.

  • thielges

    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

  • michael catolico

    and they actually get something for their taxes instead of subsidies for the rich

  • Jason

    I think you replied to the wrong person…

  • Katherine

    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.

  • Lauren Bertrand

    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.

  • Yoko

    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.
    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.

  • Dan

    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.

  • Paul JaYmes

    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.

  • Sionna B.

    “Nonsense.” What a great way to shut down a conversation.

  • Paul JaYmes

    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.

  • Gordon Wong

    Sweden’s suicide rate is equa to or lower than the US’s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_by_suicide_rate

    Interestingly, though perhaps obvious, low suicide rates correlate with warmer weather.


    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.

  • Asher Of LA

    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.

  • Joanne Butler

    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.

  • Lauren Bertrand

    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.

  • Lauren Bertrand

    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.)

  • Paul JaYmes

    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.

  • Lauren Bertrand

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

  • Lauren Bertrand

    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?

  • Paul JaYmes

    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.

    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?

  • Lauren Bertrand

    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.


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