It was a good time spent in Helsinki this past week. I was fortunate enough to be able to take my bike, my Surly Travelers Check, which breaks down and fits into a checked bag which I am not charged extra airline fees. This allowed me to become an “everyday commuter” for the four days that I attended the conference. Each day I commuted 34 kms to the conference and back (some days it was more because I would get lost at some point). On this commute I would be on bike paths for 98% of the commute, it was great but not without issues.
Helsinki and surrounding communities have an abundance of bike paths, cycling commuters spend almost no time on roads with cars doing most of there riding on separated bike paths.
There are some bike lanes that share the road, but most are “dedicated” bike lanes that are adjacent to the road. I say “dedicated” because they not really dedicated as they are shared paths with pedestrians.
The problem with these bike paths is that they are shared with pedestrians and are narrow (the pedestrian and bike paths are often the same width) and when it gets crowed with both the commute can be somewhat stressful as you need to constantly watching for pedestrians wandering into your lane and other cyclists passing or needing to be passed on paths that are two way and at best single lane – inattention and sloppy riding can lead to collisions. The most refreshing part of the commute is that cyclists have the right-of-way and most drivers respect that right.
The other thing I noticed is that many commuters do not wear spandex for the commute which is refreshing, those that do are often those ride faster on the paths. I really don’t get the need to wear spandex for commuting; my view is that people should “chill” a bit on their commute, take their time and enjoy the fact that they are riding their bike; if you take your time there is no need to shower (if you are lucky enough to have one) so the slower ride does not really take any longer because you do not need to change etc.
The IFLA conference was good, not great, but good. I learned a couple of good things that I can take with me to work which is great but I wonder if the time and money spent on this warrants what I took away.
On of the added bonuses of going to another city/country for the conference is exploring the city, culture, and tasting the local cuisine. I love Nordic design and went to the Finnish Design Museum one afternoon. On Friday I went to Provoo with my friend Sebastian. Along with exploring this wonderful coastal town I had a great meal, a Finnish fish buffet, at Timbaali.
If you are heading to Northern Europe make sure you take the time to visit Finland, you will love it.