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Lahti talvipyöräilykuva Kuva Lahden-kaupunki

City bike project works towards Lahti’s ambitious climate goals

At the start of the year, Lahti started planning a city bike system. It is part of the City’s efforts to reach its sustainable and low-carbon mobility goals. The future European Green Capital is already making headway in tangible climate measures.

The City started looking into the benefits of city bike systems a few years ago. “However, we chose to stand back and see how similar projects developed in other cities and how the trend would catch on,” says City of Lahti’s Sustainable Mobility Project Manager Anna Huttunen. The sustainable urban mobility programme brought the issue to the forefront again. “One of the programme measures was to launch a city bike system.”

The first European Green Capital in Finland

City bikes are part of Lahti’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2025 and increase the share of sustainable modes of transport to more than 50 per cent by 2030. The city stopped using coal one year ago. The fact that Lahti is going to be the first European Green Capital in Finland in 2021 speaks of the trailblazing nature of the City.

“I don’t think we would have been awarded this title, if we did not have a vision in place to develop sustainable mobility,” says City of Lahti’s Land Use Director Petri Honkanen. According to him, promoting bicycling, walking and public transport can also be seen in city planning in Lahti. “Our continuous master plan process enables the quick drawing of political outlines, which is what the development of mobility really needs in practice.”

Lahti’s target bicycle map was updated last year. It ensures that the city centre has functional bicycle routes and room enough for all modes of transport. “It is clear that a functional infrastructure, the increase in bicycling and the city bike system support each other,” Anna Huttunen says. Low-carbon mobility is also promoted by the CitiCAP project, which is the first in the world to introduce emissions trading for residents. “The emissions trading application rewards residents for sustainable mobility choices. Thanks to city bikes, those choices will be even easier to make going forward.”

City bikes to join other trip chains

City bikes are always designed as part of a functional public transport network and trip chains. This is true for Lahti, too – city bikes are used to promote the accessibility of campus and workplace areas. After all, approximately 75 per cent of the residents of Lahti live within five kilometres of the city centre.

“City bikes improve the accessibility of the fringes of the city from the point of view of locals and work and holiday travellers alike. The increased use of the service outside the city centre is excellent news for businesses,” Honkanen says.

Because city bikes are no one’s private property, the threshold to hop on a bike on the way to work is considerably lower. “City bikes remove the issue of the last mile in Lahti, as well, where many people commute to Helsinki. Biking can be combined with travelling on the train at both ends,” says Project Manager Mikko Raninen from Sweco, who is in charge of the city bike project. You don’t have to worry about your bike being stolen, either, and one-way trips aren’t a hassle. “You can take the bus to work on a rainy morning and ride a city bike back in the afternoon sunshine.”

How can we ensure the success of city bikes?

The first step in the Lahti city bike project will be to conduct a feasibility study. Residents are asked to provide information on what types of journeys they would make with city bikes, where and why.

“A similar survey was conducted in Tampere last year, and we are now assisting in the procurement phase,” Raninen says. Kuopio, Helsinki and Espoo have already had great success with city bikes. Kuopio, for example, employs electric bikes and Turku has adopted a year-round model. “Finding the right fit for each city is key. That is when the residents will embrace the system.”

Work will not be finished after the system has been acquired. “Helsinki is a good example of a city where the city bike system is maintained and developed continuously. Indeed, city bikes should have an established presence in the city, much like public transport and bus stops.”

Biking the entire city

After listening to different interest groups, Sweco experts will draft a report and propose a few alternative implementation models to the City of Lahti. Lahti plans on launching the city bike system in 2021. “We want to create an easy, affordable, functional and regionally comprehensive system. We only have one chance to make a good first impression!” Petri Honkanen stresses.

Raninen from Sweco has lived in Lahti himself, and he has faith in the success of the future city bike system. “When I lived in Lahti, I used to bike everywhere! All the important locations in Lahti can be reached by bicycling just a few kilometres.”

The designer’s affinity for his former hometown is an important added value for the residents of Lahti. “We benefit from the consultant being familiar with our town,” Huttunen says. The cooperation has gotten off to a positive start. “The designers know, understand and have a good concept of the entire city bike scene in Finland.

Read more about the city bike projects in Helsinki and Tampere.

Image: city of Lahti