Oulu has greatest per capita amount of bicycle paths
“I cycle to work every day. The distance is about two kilometres”, says Oulu resident Veera Uutinen.
This is hardly surprising, considering that Oulu has the greatest per capita amount of bicycle paths in Finland. The well-designed network of bicycle paths leads from the suburbs into the centre of the city.
“There are 550 kilometres of bike paths, which averages out at 3.5 metres for each Oulu resident. This year we will build another 20 kilometres”, says Jorma Heikkinen, traffic engineer for the City of Oulu.
“Bicycle paths are automatically calculated for inclusion in road construction in new suburbs.”
Bicycle paths are set up as separate channels through parks and green areas. Development of the network began more than 30 years ago.
“Thanks for that is owed to Mauri Myllylä, who was traffic engineer at that time”, Heikkinen says.
For instance, in Helsinki there are about 1,200 kilometres of bike paths, 450 kilometres of which are unpaved.
According to fresh calculations, about 15,000 cyclists enter Oulu each day, either for work, or some other business. The increase in the use of cars has not cut off the tradition of cycling, and about one third of people in Oulu also cycle during the winter.
“Each year about 15,000 new bicycles are sold in the city”, calculates bicycle shop-owner Jari Suvala.
Cycling stands out in the general street scene in Oulu in bicycle rush hours on the Rotuaari pedestrian street. There is a shortage of places to park a bicycle, even though there are more than 1,000 bike racks in the centre of the city.
“If other cities were to act like this, cycling could be restored to the position that it deserves to have”, says Matti Hirvonen, executive director of the Network of Finnish Cycling Municipalities. “Before the 1980s, the bicycle was the most common method of transport in the larger cities.
Of all trips taken in Finland,43 per cent are less than five kilometres in length, which is appropriate for cycling. In spite of this, too many people still drive cars such short distances.
The possibilities offered by cycling have been noticed in other cities as well. Jyväskylä, Lahti, Turku, and Pori have all been building new bicycle paths.
Helsinki and Espoo have developed shoreline routes. “In addition, Helsinki is developing measures for cycling safety in the centre of the city”, says Markku Lahtinen, chairman of the Network of Finnish Cycling Municipalities.
A new bicycle path and bike lane is to go under construction on Arkadiankatu in Helsinki. Finland’s first “bicycle pocket” is to be set up in the same connection.
At an intersection with lights, a bicycle lane leads to a painted box located ahead of the cars, allowing the cyclists to get a head start at the lights.
“The bicycle pocket significantly increases cycling safety and visibility in traffic. In Stockholm, a decision in principle has been made to set up more than 100 bicycle pockets. The number of cyclists has doubled in a few years.”