DISCLAIMER: This site is a mirror of original one that was once available at http://iki.fi/~tuomov/b/
Every now and then, the local politicians and other authorities claim to be trying to get more people on bicycles. And yet as a bicyclist, I find that I'm not really welcome anywhere in this car-worshipping city and state (Finland, which in many senses seems to have been dislocated on the wrong continent) that I presently have to live in. Such pro-bicycling claims are, of course, just greenwash, them and the society at large being more interested in worshipping Economic Growth – an icon of whom cars are as a wasteful and expensive means of transport – with the policies in practise being the building new ring roads and parking garages, so that more cars can be packed into the city centre and other locations, and more people can and must move to faraway suburbia – especially from the areas consumed and destroyed by the new roads.
1. In the city centre, there are very few pavements on which bicycles are allowed, called “light traffic lanes” or perhaps more appropriately in English, “multi-use paths”. Aside from the paths leading to the small central pedestrian area, these are on streets with almost no attractions (and few pedestrians), and not on all of them even: especially towards the hillside on the tsarist grid plan of the city centre, the paths are few and sparse. Primarily the paths seem intended for getting past the city centre, not for travelling to destinations within it. For that you're supposed to ride and kill yourself among the petrol fascists (i.e. urban motorists, motor-terrorists).
Some claim that vehicular cycling, i.e. riding in the centre of the lane like any other vehicle – which a judge could interpret to be illegal here, as you're supposed to ride as close to the side as it is “safe” – is the way to earn the petrol fascists' respect. Maybe it has a minor effect on a few motorists, but not all, and some in a fit of road rage have intentionally tried to bumb onto me many times, staying behind to try again, after getting their side windows banged to make them pay attention to where they're driving. A bicycle is to a road rager, what a red cape is to a bull.
On the taxi drivers it also has no effect. They are the worst of all the petrol fascists. They have absolute no regard at all for bicyclists. To them, bicyclists are something to be bowled. No taxi driver ever has passed me from more than a hand's reach away, and that is not a passing distance, but a killing distance – and a “I wish I had a screwdriver handy now to do some redecorating for you've earned it, asshole people-, city- and planet-killer” -distance. They even cut in without notice from the right (from less than a hand's reach away), partially through the parking spaces – space that would far better serve as a bicycle path or a strip of plantation (with the street for bicycles and pedestrians, not cars).
Well, it will be winter soon, and I'll be back riding on the pavement, no matter what the pigs and flower-hat ladies say, for it is absolute madness to ride among the secred metal fortresses when the streets are icy. Infact, even in the iceless times I only ride on a few select “slow streets” – which really aren't that slow, for cars and slow do not match – with very narrow pavements and at least a bit of other bicycle traffic, just to annoy the motorists, who'd rather see bicycles disappear completely from traffic, and are working towards that end with their greater armaments. It's a war out there, and as is customary of wars, you have to live in a constant fear of taking the bullet – the one tonne bullet.
2. In the newer areas outside the old city centre, with densities too low for decent public transport, there are multi-use paths quite frequently, but the car lanes are also wider and the speeds are greater, so that you're in danger of being killed in any of the abundant intersections of roads/streets and multi-use paths. And if you get killed, it's your fault in the eyes of the law, for the motorists are not even supposed to let bicyclists cross an intersection without traffic lights, unless multi-use path is alongside a bigger road, or they are turning. Not that your executioners not considering it your fault would be any consolation.
Bicyclists are also not all that welcome on the multi-use paths themselves either, because the pedestrians have no manners, and can't use the right side of the path, and instead bounce hand-in-hand from side to side as they please. That is quite understandable, though: it is difficult to walk in a straight line on one side of a relatively narrow path. While it is no problem riding slowly and bouncing to the pedestrians' pace for short distances on pavements and other pedestrian areas, for longer distances it should be possible to ride bicycles faster and free of obstructions – including cars. Therefore bicycles should have their own paths without other traffic, close to (a few hundred metres) every destination. (So that on these paths pedestrians should not venture at all, but elsewhere they're the kings, and bicyclists match their speeds to the pedestrians', but are allowed everywhere.) But presently, even in the very rare places where there's a separate bicycle lane painted on the path, pedestrians have very little regard for the separation.
Furthermore, this city has close to no maintenance for the multi-use paths. Every weekend, drunken idiots break countless beer bottles onto the paths, and they can be mined with the shards for days, if anything is even ever done about them. And as the shards spread all around, it becomes practically impossible to avoid them, and the result is a punctured tyre. I've had three this year already. The kerbs are also too high and in many places dangerously broken.
But even more importantly, in the wintertime, road maintenance always takes precedence – motorists are, after all, first-class citizens, and the rest second-class – and after heavy snowfall and in the spring as the snow starts to melt, all the snow and slush from the car lanes gets pushed on to the pavements and multi-use paths, making it very difficult to ride or even walk, and it may take days for anything to be done about the situation.
3. Yes, I ride the bicycle even when it's -30°C – which is just as common as +30°C over where I live – for the (privatised and expensive) public transport (the bus) is absolutely useless in this city designed for cars, and I don't like driving a car or wasting tonnes of money on one, killing the planet and the city in the process. It's not as awful as you might think, really; after having got used to the generally cold weather over the months, aside from having to avoid losing the breath, for it gets difficult to breathe in those temperatures, the cars are the worst of it, as they are on any weather. (And the metal cages themselves are even more troublesome and a chore to drive at those extreme temperatures than usually.)
Infact, in the wintertime, it would be fun to ski everywhere instead of bicycling. But cars have reduced skiing from an utility sport to a mere entertainment sport, to be practised on tracks leading nowhere, in the forests and on the lakes. On the streets, there isn't enough space for skiing tracks after cars have devoured all the space, and pedestrians, and occasionally bicyclists, have been crammed into the remaining space, that needs to be gritted. The roads and streets would far better serve as skiing tracks, and the cars as campfires to warm up at on longer journeys.