I was last weekend in Helsinki. It started with the pleasure of an open air meeting with volunteers and other interested people of the Helsingin Polkupyöräilijät ry, the Helsinki Cyclists.
We had a chat about the poor road conditions, bad winter maintenance, the lack of parking facilities and the attitude of the press to cyclists. In Helsinki the press is most of the time not very friendly for cyclists. The often heard mantra “they jump red lights”, “they cycle contra flow” is often heard in the popular media. It is easy forgotten that the lack of proper infrastructure is the main cause that people don’t follow the rules. If you create an environment for rats, people will behave like rats. In the end the Helsinki Cyclists do a good job to address the different issues to the city.
Sunday was spend with an very informative tour along the good and the worse infrastructure of Helsinki. Of course I saw the super cycle route on the old railway line, with the bridges. It is very intriguing that the allocated space for cyclists is smaller than for pedestrians. The good side is that it is possible to cross different busy routes without interruption, as the cycle route lies below surface. But I also saw the very poor standards of old cycle tracks. They are narrow, have potholes, trees and parked cars nearby what made these cycle tracks fit for a major upgrade. On a sudden point cyclists had to evaporate, as the cycle track was blocked by a building site and cycling on the sidewalk was not allowed, nor was it possible to access the cobblestoned street, due to the parked cars. A comprehensive outline of the tour can be found on my EveryTrail page.
Business was done on Monday. First an appointment at the Royal Dutch Embassy, with a beautiful orange cycle rack in front of the building placed on the diplomatic parking space. Main goal was to inform about the results of the ThinkBike workshop this spring and possible coming up demands of the city to Dutch knowledge. The Dutch Cycling Embassy is eager to play a role in a better cooperation between Finland and the Netherlands, there are interesting opportunities on both sides.
The second part of the day was used for a meeting at HSL, the regional transport authority. This organization is rather similar to the organization I work in, the only difference is the scale. The greater Helsinki area consists of 14 municipalities, has a population 1.335 million inhabitants and an surface of 3.698 km2. According to Wikipedia the area of Bestuur Regio Utrecht consists of 9 municipalities, has a population of 650.000 inhabitants and an surface of 509 km2. So Utrecht seems much more dense, but considering the fact that the 4 central municipalities Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen cover 770 square km and 1.034 million inhabitants, it is clear that Helsinki wins. My main question was to compare the bicycle traffic model developed for the transport authority with other existing traffic models, to find out for which cases the bicycle traffic model can be used. At this moment the Region Utrecht is considering a bicycle traffic model, based on the knowledge of the Finnish consultancy Strafica. In case the region continues with this model, I will share information at a later moment.