Helsinki Cycling Strategy

Mima, one of our members, just got back from Helsinki, her hometown. She was pleasantly surprised to see more people cycling in the finish capital, a trend she had already noticed over the last few years. In her online investigation, she came across the City Cycling Strategy 2013 – an ambitious programme building on a steady increase in cycling since the early 2000s. Helsinki’s modal share target, 15% by 2020, is not too dissimilar to Newcastle’s ambition of 12% by 2022.

Helsinki is planning to treble its annual cycle budget, investing an astonishing €33 (£27) per person per annum (pppa) for cycling, nearly three times more than the CCAF cities received from DfT (limited to two years) – and similar to Dutch figures too. This also means that Helsinki’s current annual cycling budget (£8.7 pppa) mirrors the minimum amount recommended by the Get Britain Cycling Report 2013 which is £10 pppa. Helsinki definitely means business and is putting some serious money into its cycling infrastructure. Here is Mima’s report and some pictures to show that cyclists are common sight in the city that values and invests in cycling.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is like so many European cities striving to become a cycling city. Slightly larger than Edinburgh, it has a population of just over 600,000 or 1.4 million when including the surrounding metropolitan areas, making Helsinki the third largest city in the Nordic countries. It sits on the same latitude as Lerwick, Shetland, which means that the winter months are dark, cold and snowy. Its public transport network, consisting of busses, trams, metro and trains is extensive and inter-linked.

In the past 5 – 10 years there has been a marked increase in cyclists of all ages pedalling around the city. This hasn’t happened by chance; improved infra-structure, links with public transport and increased cycle parking have all added to this change. Some interesting figures: on average people in Helsinki cycle 270 km per year with seasonal variations; cycling in the winter months (October – April) is about 20 – 30% of the total average and only about a tenth of the summer months; over 18% of all school trips are by bike, compared with 15% by car.
In 2013 Helsinki published its Cycling Strategy with an aim to increase the share of cycling as a mode of transport from 11% in 2012 (up from 9% in 2008) to 15% by 2020. To do this, it proposes to increase the current cycle budget of 7 million euros to 20 million euros, justifying the increase with the long-term financial benefits this will bring.

The Strategy sets out 25 targets under six themes: political will, infrastructure, services, communication, evaluation and implementation. The targets under infra-structure include the development of direct bike corridors into the city centre; clear routes across the city with a specific focus on safe crossings; the segregation of cyclists from pedestrians and where necessary from motorised traffic; traffic calming; clear cycle signage; lighting, road surface and winter maintenance; bicycle parking. Behaviour and attitude change is seen as a bi-product of the strategic changes. The Strategy recognises the need for partnership between sectors and institutions and emphasises the importance of coordination between Helsinki and surrounding municipalities for a sustainable and cost-effective transport plan.

For more information, see: http://www.hel.fi/www/Helsinki/en/maps-and-transport/cycling/promotion/

One small problem: the Strategy is written in Finnish, but it has an English language summary and some interesting charts and maps

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Photo 1 – Wide crossing in Helsinki – credit Christian Backman

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Photo 2 – Cycling/Public transport integration in Helsinki – credit Christian Backman