How Finland Gets People Biking Through Winter

This may not be a NEWS ALERT, but I’ve gone super soft.

When I lived in Norway for a few winter months, I commuted to the University everyday on a mountain bike. At times, like skiing in fresh powder, I had a lot of fun making virgin tracks in 10-15cm of snow on a dedicated bike path. Everyone says I have amazing bike handling skills. And they’re right.

Fast forward a decade and I spend the winter spinning easily indoors while watching Frontline documentaries.

I need a kick in the ass or a ticket to Oulu, Finland. Or both. Here’s how Oulu, Finland gets 27% of it’s population to cycle to and from work all brutal winter long.

I think Dan, Dan, Washington State’s Transpo man should accompany me on my trip to Oulu. He has so much to learn.

“Oulu’s bike lanes are the result of decades of municipal leadership. The city’s first cycling plan was developed in 1969. . . . It was understood early that walking and cycling [have] to be treated as equal modes of transportation.

In this context, winter maintenance of bike routes is a natural extension of investments in cycling infrastructure. . . . .Keeping cycling routes open year-round was there from the beginning. Citizens never had to fight for it. . . . It was very much a civil servant-driven process.

The local government continues to prioritize active transportation, especially when the temperatures drop. Starting in October, Oulu is launching a new level of ‘super’ maintenance for cycling infrastructure during the winter months. Essentially, 15 per cent of the network, or about 150 kilometeres, will be maintained 24 hours a day.”

Given his Midwestern mix of charisma and charm, I’m sure Dan, Dan, WaState’s Transpo man can convince MC and everyone else in Washington to pay more in taxes to replicate Oulu’s commitment to cycling infrastructure including a nice cushion for winter maintenance.

At which point I won’t have any excuses for being a full-fledged winter weather wuss.

Bonus vid.




4 thoughts on “How Finland Gets People Biking Through Winter

  1. Since 2015 or 2016, Stockholm City applies a policy that they call “feminist” or “equal” snow/ice maintenance of the city during winter. The policy prioritizes bike and walk lanes/paths for clearing/salting ahead of roads meant primarily for cars. I’m not sure it’s really the greatest idea in practice (yet), since the number of people inclined to take their bike to work (or anywhere) in the dead of dark winter and in temperatures below – 10C (as I write it is -14C and we’ve had incessant snowing for two days) is quite limited. Also, car accidents caused by icy and snowy roads cause a lot more damage to people and property and induce high financial costs for society in general compared to accidents involving individuals walking or biking – and many people do still use cars. But I get the idea. And as I struggle to keep my Volvo on the road and I look over at the absolutely clear and friction-full bike path next to the road I’m on, I am rather jealous of the crazy people braving it on their bikes.

    • Thanks Anna, that’s interesting. I wonder if the Fins also take $ from what might otherwise be dedicated to “car-based winter maintenance” budget columns, or as I suspect, it’s both/and. I keep telling myself spring is coming, but it’s not working too well.

  2. Hello.

    Regards from Oulu, Finland.

    I am senior citizen who has biked during many years in my life year round, but no more in winter. I started my biking when was young boy. My school trip was about eight kilometers one way. I had to bike to school no matter how cold it was. When the temperature was less than -25 Centigrade, I can say that my bike was very heavy to pedal but after a little while, I started to sweat. At those days, bikes were different from nowadays being real exercise bikes. Nowadays bikes have gears and they are not heavy. Okay, this is history. When we lived in Mikkeli, I noticed that people bike there in winter. Now we live in Helsinki, but we have a small place in Oulu, where we enjoy our life in winter, spring, summer and autumn spending few weeks every time when we visit Oulu. I have made already two winter biking posts in Oulu.

    Winter biking1

    Winter biking 2

    If You do not mind, I have one summer biking post showing our biking.

    Summer biking.

    I think, that winter biking is normal, if there are suitable conditions.

    Thank You for this post.

    Happy and safe biking. Matti

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