Poor biking conditions in Espoo

The local free newspaper Länsiväylä runs a story about how bad the bike roads are here.

The story is written by a group of people in senior high. They compare the local bike roads to Amsterdam, and find that riding a bike in the Netherlands is much more fluent than in Espoo; there are much more bikes, and automobiles respect bicyclists much better.

Agreed. But I think the most fundamental difference is that the urban planners in Amsterdam have had the good sense to build their bike roads on former seabed, which is flat land, while the stupid designers in Espoo have laid the roads on uneven country where small hills of solid rock force the road to wind up and down and round the bend all the time. It is so frustrating to ride a bike when it's uphill and against the wind most of the time!

As a remedy, I propose that the city of Espoo should purchase a piece of land in a suitable geographic area, let's say a neighbourhood of Oulu (where everyone agrees that bike roads are excellent!) and build all Espoo's new bike roads there. The existing ones are so bad that they should be rolled in, packed and sent to North Korea as a weapon of mass destruction (which the Kim dynasty seems to want so hard).


OK, let's get serious. Where I agree with the authors is that the marking of bike roads should be improved. There are many places where the roadsigns are destroyed, or twisted around to point to the wrong direction. Alas, this is usually the result of not-so-bright adolescents who want to exercise their creative talent by twisting the signs to point to random directions - or to any direction except the correct one, to be precise.

The city employees are also guilty of some very careless traffic sign laying. For instance, it is very common that at one point, the sidewalk is equipped with traffic sign No. 421 (Pedestrian road) and in the next block, it is marked with sign No. 423 (Combined bike and pedestrian road),
and in the next block, there is no sign at all, and then it's No. 423 again. Every change means that the bicyclist is supposed to switch between the actual road and the pedestrian/bike road, and cross the road (dangerous), and also cross a carefully engineered, sharp curb stone which is specifically designed to break a bike tire. The people who design and install the traffic signs apparently never experience the traffic as a bicyclist, and are thus completely blind to the bad design they create.

You also meet these sharp curb stones if you just ride straight ahead. We're told they are necessary in order to help visually impaired people notice when they reach a crossing, although I have a hard time believing that this is real. I tend to think that someone has just found a nice business where they can a) harass ordinary people, and b) juice out some taxpayer money to contractors who are, by convention, exclusive providers of these stone slabs.

Given this bad design, it's not a wonder that bicyclists generally treat any traffic rules with great contempt. If you see a bicycle stop at the red light, you could actually build a national monument on the spot. It's so rare.

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