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  1. #1
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Bike heaven... or close.

    I am in Finland right now doing some work here, and I am amazed by the network of bike paths I have seen in Oulo. These are grade separated bike paths that parallel and in some cases go beyond where the auto roads go.

    The bikes here tend to be heavy "workman" type bikes, most of which have racks, often have fenders and many seem to have built in locks, but few are ever locked to anything but themselves. I have seen helmets, but they are few and far between. They are recommended, or so I have been told by the locals, but they tend NOT to adorn most riders' heads.

    I have not seen drop bars or spandex anywhere. The mode seems to be basically "rolling pedestrian" in downtown areas (not much of a downtown... more like "downvillage") but faster on the paths. I see cyclists everywhere... and it has been raining. Speeds pick up on the paths themselves, but folks are not trying to reach "their personal best" at every opportunity. Street clothes are the order of the day.

    Trek has a store here, but I feel they are at a disadvantage as their bikes don't come with racks. Most all bikes have racks, some have baskets too. Some have these rather nifty wire cages that prevent ordinary clothing from getting caught in the spokes. I'll take pics and post later.

    Their grade separated system seems to work quite well. When I told them about riding "with the cars" there was an expression of disbelief... well timed too as we just happened to go by car wreck... why would you want to "share the road... "

    One guy had visited Seattle, and said he could not believe what goes on up there.

    I plan on renting a bike on Saturday just to see whats it all about. More later.

  2. #2
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Do the bike paths really go between any two arbitrary Points A and B, Gene? How do they handle intersections between bike paths and roads? How far outside the central city are bicycles used as transportation?
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  3. #3
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Do the bike paths really go between any two arbitrary Points A and B, Gene? How do they handle intersections between bike paths and roads? How far outside the central city are bicycles used as transportation?


    The network is a nearly parallel grade separated system. Grade separation means the bike paths for the most part go under the roads, thus avoiding intersections; "mostly parallel," as in the bike paths sometimes take different shorter routes. "Often the path is easier and shorter than the auto route" was what I was told by locals. There are areas closed to cars that are accessible by bike. And the only areas I have seen closed to bike were the freeways, that were paralleled by a bike path. There are a few at grade intersections, and these are treated like sidewalk at a street. Cars stop for you. Speed limits here are quite reasonable on the streets where pedestrians or cyclists may cross.

    Check out the "pedestrian street" at this link: http://www.ouka.fi/panoraamat360/index_j_e.html

    Check out the maps at this URL... http://kartta.ouka.fi/index_us.htm
    select tourist and Oulu. The narrow dashed routes are the bike paths, the thick red lines are the freeways.

    The bike paths do not appear to cover each and every area of the city; sidewalks are also used in a rolling pedestrian mode, but on the other hand, there are areas were cars are not permitted.

    Can one get everywhere? I can't guarantee that any more than I can guarantee that everyone also speaks english... but thus far, everyone has spoken english. There are gas stations for instance off of the major arterials for which I would bet no bike access is available.

    Is it a perfect system... no, in that I think high speed cycling could be a problem in some places... but then I also encounter that situation on the regular streets in the US, where one has to temper one's pace to watch out for potentially crossing motorists. I also did not see any stop signs on the bike paths... so a cyclist will have to watch for potentially crossing another cyclist. (there are road signs and direction signs and in places, a center stripe and directional arrows)

    It is a far more extensive network than I have ever seen, or might have imagined actually existed. (Now I might have imagined such a network, but only in dreams )
    Last edited by genec; 09-13-07 at 11:53 AM.

  4. #4
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Sorry John, your quote keeps ending up in the middle of the reply... it should be at the top and that is where it shows in my previews.

  5. #5
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    those darn finns, tossing Vehicular Cycling out with the bathwater. Curses!
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  6. #6
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    those darn finns, tossing Vehicular Cycling out with the bathwater. Curses!
    Yeah they seem to do it with a near vengeance. I have seen "no biking signs" on the main Freeways... which are roughly what my local arterials look like...

    And I have not yet seen anyone biking on a "car street."

    I have finally seen drop bars, twice now... once with them flipped up to make a comfort bike, and once as a racer/fast rider zooming down the path, helmet and all. No lycra/spandex, but he was wearing a close fitting outfit of a bright color vice the usual dark heavy cordura nylon jackets I see everywhere.

  7. #7
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    I'm willing to bet those paths are well plowed and biking continues unabated through the winter months too

  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    I'm willing to bet those paths are well plowed and biking continues unabated through the winter months too
    I have nothing but the word of the locals... whom I have seen riding in cold rain. "We change the tires and ride in the snow also, and ya they plow like the roads."

    I wondered the same thing.

    I would have to see it to believe it though. But then you'd have to see these paths to believe them.

  9. #9
    Violin guitar mandolin
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    That approach to transportation and a more compact structure to our cities would gradually win people over. I've gradually come to dislike driving cars, but am stuck doing it!

  10. #10
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    How many hills? How steep? What are the population densities? What is the average trip length? What is the cost to drive and park a car?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Nycycle's Avatar
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    genec, thank you for posting all this, I am anxious to see the pics you post.
    I hate cars,

  12. #12
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    so based on your experience there, is the difference between the US and Europe that the US is 'too spread out' to support higher levels of bicycling, as stated by you-know-who you-know-where?

  13. #13
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    How many hills? How steep? What are the population densities? What is the average trip length? What is the cost to drive and park a car?
    Seems fairly flat where I am... yes, an ideal condition, but as I have expressed regarding even San Diego, the local neighborhoods are also fairly flat, it is just leaving the neighborhoods that one encounters the difficulty of hills... and yet we don't see nearly anywhere the daily cycling traffic I see here.

    The trip length info might be somewhat hard to get. I'll try to get into some discussions tomorrow with cyclists on the paths.

    I'll ask about the cost of driving.

    The population density is fairly low, there is a very spread out rural feeling, it is not as if everyone is living in a dense housing block and just cycling seconds away to work or shop.

    I don't see really all that many cars, (which brings up surprise for the poor taksi driving habits I have seen) BTW taksi is how they spell it here.

    Not to diss the Fins, but they also seem to have problems queuing up in lines, perhaps it is an expectation that with such a low population, why should one "wait their turn." I noticed this on both the flights I have taken in country (there was no order while boarding, in spite of the orderly callout for seating). And I have seen the same disorder around food lines, where jumping the line happened regularly. I can't help wonder if this social impatience is part of the driving habits I have seen.

    Of course in all of this I am getting a tiny picture... "the blind men describing the elephant" sort of thing.

    I did manage to pick up a great map... a printed version of the online map I posted earlier. Just looking at the paths available for treking is enough to make me drool. I hope the weather holds. It cleared yesterday and became quite cold... the sky is filled with red clouds this morning... red in morning, sailor take warning. It is 6:35am local, 8:35pm San Diego time. My laptop is still on San Diego time.
    Last edited by genec; 09-13-07 at 09:48 PM.

  14. #14
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    so based on your experience there, is the difference between the US and Europe that the US is 'too spread out' to support higher levels of bicycling, as stated by you-know-who you-know-where?
    Well the distances between cities may be too huge anywhere, but in the US, in San Diego, there are neighborhoods where the local radius of a couple miles is fairly flat, where bikes could be easily used for local errands. (I do this now, and have done it in other areas of town), but one has to "brave" the traffic which is quite heavy anywhere you might go (everyone is driving... one to a car, one huge car space to a person). So in spite of a difference in density... I have heard arguments that cycling in places in Europe succeeds due to their density (people in small villages) yet the US has a similar "village system" we call neighborhoods (within the cities, country areas are another story altogether**), and our populations in these neighborhoods is high enough to support local merchants, but "everyone" simply drives, thus crowding the streets and making cycling "uncomfortable" for many. There is also this uncanny pursuit for speed, both shared by motorists and by the vehicular cycling set (JF himself mentions the pursuit for speed and equates it to cycling pleasure).

    I don't see a similar pursuit for speed by cyclists here... the mode seems to be rolling pedestrian in the core of the city, and a bit faster out between destinations... but no one is working to go 17-18MPH, as I typically pursue in the city.

    **Aside: I was really reminded of the vast distances "in the country" while in a holding pattern over central Ohio... outside of Columbus... the checkerboard arrangement of the farmland and the individual house set on a huge chunk of land does somewhat bring to mind that distances to convenient services may not be all that convenient to everyone. Some of those lonely roads looked like they might be quite nice to bike upon... but that is the vision of someone who has toured and has enjoyed long distance cycling... something that is hardly practical for that section of the population that might live 20+ miles to the nearest food store.

    But certainly this distance issue doesn't apply to our densest cities, where there are food stores and all sorts of services within just a mile or two. The cities should be filled with cyclists short hopping from one place to another, but instead we chose to go that mile or two in car, while complaining about traffic.

  15. #15
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    so if people in the US arranged their circumstances so that they lived within 5 miles or so of their employment and other destinations, we could do it. I thought so.

    btw, 50% of the US population now lives in urban areas....

  16. #16
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    so if people in the US arranged their circumstances so that they lived within 5 miles or so of their employment and other destinations, we could do it. I thought so.

    btw, 50% of the US population now lives in urban areas....
    I have read that the average errand trip is around 2 miles, while the average commute is around 12 miles... so certainly some of that could be modified for cycling.

  17. #17
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    I have nothing but the word of the locals... whom I have seen riding in cold rain. "We change the tires and ride in the snow also, and ya they plow like the roads."

    I wondered the same thing.

    I would have to see it to believe it though. But then you'd have to see these paths to believe them.
    With the exception of the second huge snowstorm last winter, the bike paths here in Denver are plowed. Usually at the same time as the major roads, if not SOONER.

    The only reason they weren't plowed then is because after the fiasco with the first snowstorm, they stole our plows and used them on the roads. By the time they DID get around to plowing, the paths were a huge mess from the partially melted and refrozen mess. It took about a month before they were really usable again. Other than that, I never had a problem using the bike paths in the two winters I've cycled here in Denver.
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  18. #18
    Just me
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    It's almost same everywhere in Finland. I love this country. I live 20km from center of Helsinki and I don't need car for anything. I can ride almost everywhere or take the public transportation. To get to Helsinki I don't have to go to "car road" at all. This morning when I was riding to work before 6am, I realised how much I love this place. Outside the rush hours even capital area is still really quiet place.

    If someone wants to see capital area by bike, just drop me private message and let's try to arrange something cool for daily ride. Oh well.. winter is coming and here winter is usually really nasty time. Cold wind, around 0C, and something between snow and water coming down from the sky. I'd prefer nothern parts of Finland - there the winter looks like winter with snow.

    Teme <3 Helsinki and Espoo

  19. #19
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    This reminds me of rural Costa Rica. Lots of people going to work on bikes. Our office worker shows up on a bike everyday - she lives about 5 kilometers from the office. One day a week she picks up all the fruits and vegetables for us from the farmers market - and pays a cab to take her to our house. (we pay the cab)

    The speed on the bikes is kept pretty low - usually between 10 and 14 KPH it seems. No special clothes.

  20. #20
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teme View Post
    It's almost same everywhere in Finland. I love this country. I live 20km from center of Helsinki and I don't need car for anything. I can ride almost everywhere or take the public transportation. To get to Helsinki I don't have to go to "car road" at all. This morning when I was riding to work before 6am, I realised how much I love this place. Outside the rush hours even capital area is still really quiet place.

    If someone wants to see capital area by bike, just drop me private message and let's try to arrange something cool for daily ride. Oh well.. winter is coming and here winter is usually really nasty time. Cold wind, around 0C, and something between snow and water coming down from the sky. I'd prefer nothern parts of Finland - there the winter looks like winter with snow.

    Teme <3 Helsinki and Espoo
    Good to hear... I am up in Oulu... I am finding it quite interesting. Gonna try to rent a bike tomorrow and get a good look around.

    The taksi drivers around here are quite nuts though. I thought it was just one or two of them, but so far every taksi I have been in has had a very aggressive driver. Watch out for taksi.

  21. #21
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    Oh, but we don't have bike paths - cars, bikes, horses, etc. all mingle on the road together

  22. #22
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Well I rented a bike. 12 euros, for essentially a single speed "huffy-like" bike. The bike values at 259 euros. I saw some nice multi speed bikes... 3, 7, and 12 speeds, the first two with internal hubs, the latter a deraileur system, the last one was a top of the line bike running 459 euros, nice basket, the "spiderweb-like" protector around the rear wheel, fenders and a rack and halogen light that works off a front hub generator. No nonsense, very utilitarian.

    Talked to the guys at the shop for a bit and some cyclists out on the road... the figure 10km comes up a lot for typical commutes. Riders indicated that the most used paths are plowed in the winter... and this was somewhat evident by plow like scratches in the pavement on some main paths. The outlying paths such as the one near the beach are not plowed... "no one goes in winter."

    I have seen young and quite old out cycling... I hit it at rush hour today... and the bike traffic is pretty steady. I also saw my first drop bar roadie... on the road and pushing hard. The guys at the bike shop mentioned that they do sell road bikes, for long tours and longer rides, but the shop was heavily stocked with "everyday bikes." The even sell "trek with campagnolo." The shop was full of everyday ordinary stuff... not racer stuff. Lots of utilitarian day to day gear.

    BTW I mentioned a parallel network of paths... I don't want that to be misconstrued as a bunch of sidepaths, that is not the case. These are paths that reach the same destinations, but by an alternative route. Often you cannot see the paths from the main roads, nor can you see the "car roads" from the paths. Makes for quiet cycling. This breaks down in the city core however, and cyclists use the wide sidewalks in the "downtown area." However the very heart of the downtown core is pedestrian only, and cars cannot go there... bikes can.

    Cars do stop for you. I made the mistake of stopping for an approaching car on one of the places where the path and road cross at grade. The motorist stopped and gave me a look that said, "get on with it." I did and then they went on. In the city core, you follow ped rules and go with the traffic lights.

    I have to admit for a long time road cyclist, it feels a bit odd, especially where I ride on the sidewalks... I have a strong urge to simply jump onto the road. Where the paths are well isolated, it is fantastic... very quiet and very smooth. There are numerous bridges built for bikes... and it is not like this is some ancient European city; for instance one very nice long bridge I crossed had a date of 1995 on it. The bridges I have used give a short cut access to a resort area near the sea. Motorists had to drive quite a bit further to gain the same access. Don't get me wrong there either, it isn't like the paths only go to park areas... I just happened to want to go to a restaurant in that area, and see the Atlantic from this side. (looks cold)

    In other areas, the paths offer very complete coverage of the city, but by alternative routes than the roads. Where a road might approach from say the north, the paths are routed to approach (by being below grade) from the south. Imagine your fingers on your left hand as "car streets," now imagine the fingers on your right hand as bike paths (which are about 8 feet wide BTW). Now interlock your fingers in a prayer like configuration... this is how the paths and streets work to meet the same locations.

  23. #23
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    I don't see why it has to be an "either/or." Either the bike path, or the road.

    If a bike path is there, that's great for those who prefer them. It gets some people started in their love of bicycling. I use them sometimes, when it suits me, for example, to get past gridlock to my advantage.

    As long as my right to the road remains uninfringed, I welcome as many options as are provided.
    No worries

  24. #24
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleBigMan View Post
    I don't see why it has to be an "either/or." Either the bike path, or the road.

    If a bike path is there, that's great for those who prefer them. It gets some people started in their love of bicycling. I use them sometimes, when it suits me, for example, to get past gridlock to my advantage.

    As long as my right to the road remains uninfringed, I welcome as many options as are provided.
    You have not seen a network such as this... this is not like any bike path/system of bike routes I have ever seen in the US.

    What if you never needed to use road to get to where you wanted to go?

  25. #25
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    What if you never needed to use road to get to where you wanted to go?
    On my route, the bike path would take me alongside the roads, crossing the existing roads and driveways, creating more stops and yields. It would make my hour-plus commute very frustrating.

    I have 44 stop lights or signs on my route as it is. I don't need another 66.

    That's my honest feeling about it.

    But I don't live in Finland, so I can't speak about that.
    No worries

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