Meet the City Where Cycling Doesn’t Stop for Snow

Neither cold or snow stops these cyclists.


Bicycling to work in Oulu, Finland.


Neither cold nor snow keep people from cycling to school and work in Oulu, Finland throughout the long winter. That’s because the people in the city are made of far stronger stuff, reported Euro News.

“The colder the weather, the more beautiful nature gets,” urban wellbeing engineer Timo Perälä told Euro News. He is one of Oulu’s many year-round cyclists.

One-in-five trips are made by bike in thiscycling city, but that does dip a bit during the winter. While his doesn’t compare to  the cycling numbers in Utrecht or Amsterdam – the cycling capitals of the world – it does beat Finland’s capital city of Helsinki.

How does Oulu keep people riding in the winter?
For a city that is only 160 kilometers (100 miles0 from the Arctic Circle, its hard to imagine anyone bicycle riding in the winter. But they do. Despite the 20 20 degrees Celsius weather, the bike racks are full, according to the French news site RFI.

What makes winter riding possible is because the city prioritizes keeping its bike lanes free of snow. In fact, these lanes get plowed before regular roads.

 When the city sought contractors for winter maintenance, one of the requirements was that the snowplow drivers and their supervisors were required to cycle the routes they were going to maintain. The city also employs cycling reports that send weekly reports on well maintained the bike lanes are.

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There is also a digital map that shows the route conditions for bicycles, cars, and pedestrians in real time reported Euro News.

But cycling is easier in Oulu any time of the year. There is a cycling network of 800 kilometers are separate bike lanes and the city’s infrastructure was built prioritizing riders and walkers.

Why cycling is easier in Oulu than other cities
While cycling in extreme cold conditions is daunting for most people, it’s actually easier to ride a bike than in the slush and rain of other warmer cities. “Sure, it is easier here than in the south," Harri Vaarala, a traffic engineer at the City told Euro News. "-15℃ is much better to cycle in than sleet.”

Another benefit of the cold weather is that road salt cannot be used on the roads and the plough leave a thin layer of snow that gets packed when people ride on it. This makes the road surface even more comfortable than riding on asphalt.

Since the roads are not slippery people can use their bikes as is or some people use wider tires with better grips just to be on the safe side.

Added benefits of cycling
When more people use bicycles, road congestion goes down, emissions decrease and the residents become healthier, Vaarala said. This leads to economic savings too, which is why so many European cities are promoting cycling as a form of transportation all year long.

“It is desirable to make people bicycle all year round,” said Angela Francke from the University of Dresden “I am super positive that most cities want to create a bike culture. Cycling is just such a great mode of transportation; it’s independent, mobile, and cost-effective.”

She stressed that if you build bike routes, people will use it, and that any city who thinks its’s not possible to ride in the winter only has to look at Oulu for inspiration. “As you can see in Oulu, cycling throughout the year is a mindset.”

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