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.




How to Reign in Health Costs—Build Sidewalks and Bike Lanes

If I promised to give you two dollars five years from today, for one dollar right now, would you give me the dollar? What if I promised to give you twice as much of a much larger sum right now? Could you scrape together the funds and muster up the self-discipline to wait for your return? What about your family and friends?

Great article by Mike Maciag in “Governing the State’s and Localities”. Thanks to “Dan Dan the Transpo Man” for forwarding the link.

In short, cities with more walkers and cyclists are less obese. Key excerpts:

• An estimated 35 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and another third still maintain weights exceeding those deemed healthy. This doesn’t bode well for governments and individuals paying insurance premiums, especially with the country’s aging population.

• Historically, studies have linked trails, sidewalks and bike lanes with an increase in walking or cycling. As medical costs continue to rise and evidence mounts that such infrastructure also improves well-being, more officials might look to give health consideration greater standing in transportation planning.

• While only a fraction of workers in an area may opt to bike or walk to work, having the necessary infrastructure in place compels others to use it more regularly.

• . . . the correlation between commuting and residents not considered obese nor overweight was strong–16 percent greater than the relationship with median household income.

• When cutting expenses, health costs are an easy target. A recent study by two Lehigh University researchers reported obesity-related costs accounted for $190 billion annually in U.S. health expenditures, nearly 21 percent of the country’s total bill.

• Those looking to move can use the popular website to measure how accessible an apartment or home’s various neighborhood amenities are on foot.

The problem is we’re not financially savvy enough to tax ourselves—say in terms of raising the federal gas tax by a $1/gallon—in the short-term to fund the necessary walking and cycling infrastructure in the medium-term that would lead to health cost savings in the long-term. Collectively, we’re unwilling to pay a little more for a hybrid when the “buy back” is somewhere down the road.

In our Southeast Olympia corner of the world, the Byrnes family’s walkabililty score is a pathetic 18 out of 100. On the other hand, we’re blessed with wonderful sidewalks and bike lanes almost everywhere. Maybe I should start using them. Maybe I should walk more. Or run. Or cycle.

Just one of many nice bike lanes in the State capitol.

Despite the blue, cars still pass cyclists then turn right. Too often, out of sight, out of mind. Ride defensively my friends (said the most interesting man in the world).