Off topic & daily rant: cycling in Helsinki

This post does not relate to my PhD (although interesting touch points could be found…), but I thought to write it anyway for two reasons. One, it’s a damn important issue and two, since the municipal elections are just behind the corner here in Finland I’d like to discuss one of the criteria I’m choosing my candidate.

So, this is my main message: cycling infrastructure in Helsinki is horrible. In fact, even with the current improvements, it’s almost nonexistent. But what does Helsingin Sanomat, our main newspaper, do? They start to demonize cycling and cyclists!

Check it out. (unfortunately in Finnish)

The main message of the article above is that cyclists in Helsinki recklessly drive on the pavement although this is punishable by law. Furthermore, since it is punishable by law, in the Finnish context it naturally follows that this is also morally wrong! As if this wasn’t enough, the article seems to represent rather poor journalistic standards – also quite typical for our newspapers.

This is the kind of design-driven city I’m currently living in (don’t get me wrong, I love Helsinki, but the discussion around cycling is just far out). Although we have some cool think tanks such as Demos or EVA, what have they done to improve our cycling infrastructure? Well, maybe this doesn’t concern EVA directly, but nonetheless, the main contribution seems to be that “we should turn to Copenhagen and Amsterdam for inspiration”. Well, duh!

One of the best contributions so far comes from an organization promoting cycling mainly in Helsinki: cycling manifesto 2012. Again in Finnish, but basically it is about challenging candidates in the municipal elections to commit to improving cycling possibilities in Helsinki. And, to offer my humble contribution, I’m also giving two ideas for free:

1. Colour the cycle lanes teal or neon blue

2. Put the pedestrians underground

For all of you who can vote in the upcoming municipal elections, I hope you choose your candidate – at least partly – based on their stance towards cycling.

Have a nice week!

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