The first thing you should know is that this street would probably not be built this way if it was built today. The southern end of Rolfsgatan is a picturesque two blocks in Malmo’s South Sofielund neighborhood with decorative pavers and ornamental light posts lined by quaint single-family homes. This historic neighborhood was built in the 1920s on what was then the outskirts of town.
Today, if you were to place a pin directly in the center of Malmo, it would land somewhere close to South Sofielund. This proximity offers a very strategic advantage to residents making it possible to reach any other place in the municipality by bicycle in less than 30 minutes.
Rolfsgatan is a very narrow roadway – only 14 feet including on-street parking on one side and a skinny 3-foot sidewalk – which makes it awkward to maneuver a car along. It exemplifies a street built at a human-scale for movement at a human-pace. It serves as a north-south bikeway and offers full permeability for people on foot or bike but it is closed to through motorized traffic. The bikeway links up to a heavily traveled off-street pathway just south of Rolfsgatan.
Lönngatan, a street that carries around 15,000 cars per day and four bus lines, divides South and North Sofielund. Despite the heavy traffic, cycling conditions on Lönngatan are quite comfortable thanks to a wide two-way cycle track that runs along the south side. Strategically placed bollards or railings at the entry points to the intersecting streets allow for easy access for people on foot or two-wheels. All six blocks south of this dividing line have been closed to motor vehicle (including Rolfsgatan) to protect the neighborhood from cut-through traffic. The result is a place that welcomes all human-powered forms of travel.
Following the end of WWII, the city began constructing massive apartment complexes to accommodate and attract more residents. Quickly, the historic part of Sofielund was sandwiched between densely populated areas and the city center. As was common with housing complexes built in this era, the immediate surrounding areas experienced rapid decline giving this part of town a lasting image as havens for crime and drugs. This negative perception endures to this day.
Still, based on the cars in some of the driveways, it is clear that many residents have the means to move to the more affluent western portion of the City, if they wanted to. What is unclear is how concerns about security affect the livability of this particular street.