Monday, May 11, 2009

Dumb Helsinki cycle paths #1

Hopefully the first in an irregular series.

The photo is of the cycle path down the west side of Elielinaukio - for non-Helsinkians it the square right between to the central railway station and the central post office in the very centre of Helsinki. It is also one of the major bus termini for the downtown area. As you can see in the photo, the buses pull up at this point and all the passenger disgorge. It is virtually impossible to get off with lots of other people and not end up on the cycle path. I wonder how many pedestrian-bike crashes there are each year that never end up in hospital or police reports? A colleague at work told me today he hit a woman on his bike last week after she stepped out blind onto the cycle path from behind a kiosk, giving him basically no time to do anything. I noted this a few weeks back, but it is a good quote to repeat - the problem, as summed up perfectly by a visiting American cycle expert, is:
"in the US, cyclists are accomodated on the road and are treated as slow cars, whereas in Europe (and certainly in Helsinki) cyclists are accomodated on the sidewalks with cycle tracks and are treated as fast pedestrians."
Helsinki, and Finland in general, should not rest on its laurels when it comes to cycle path provision. Things aren't bad, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

1 comment:

Hugo said...

And just behind this spot is particularly bad.

Three bike paths -- this one, the one from Lasipalatsi, and the other from the front of the railway station -- almost join together but instead the bike paths just disappear into general pavement and a mass of pedestrians.

It's bad enough that the pedestrians are often in the bike paths, the fact that the paths suddenly disappear doesn't help either.