City bikes are here to stay!
The City of Helsinki is constantly investing in increasing the share of cycling in urban traffic. In the summer of 2020, there will be as many as 241 city bike stations and 2,410 city bikes available in Helsinki.
Sweco has been responsible for planning and coordinating the city bike system in Helsinki, and it is also involved in planning the continuous improvement of the system.
In the wake of the Helsinki metropolitan area, the renaissance of city bikes has also spread to many other Finnish cities. Currently Sweco is carrying out the procurement of city bikes in Tampere and a city bike implementation study in Lahti.
Together with the public transport system, the city bikes in Helsinki are an attractive competitor to passenger cars; after all, nearly every third user has said that city bikes replace at least one car trip per week. The city bikes are in shared use among the residents and visitors of Helsinki. The popularity of the bikes has exceeded all expectations, and their utilisation rate is very high even on a global level. More than 60,000 people registered as users of the city bike systems in Helsinki and Espoo for the 2019 season, and the bikes were used on an impressive 3.7 million trips!
City bikes have become an integral part of Finnish urban life. The bikes have won people’s hearts in Helsinki. They have received positive attention and – most importantly – people use them a lot.
Their popularity has also made it possible to expand the system. In the summer of 2020, the Helsinki system alone will have 241 stations and 2,410 city bikes. The compatible system in Espoo as well as the city bike system in Vantaa that opened in 2019 extend the coverage of the service in the metropolitan area.
In addition to the city centre, bikes are available from Lauttasaari to Pitäjänmäki, Oulunkylä, Viikki and Itäkeskus, all the way through Laajasalo to Kruunuvuorenranta. The bikes have been the most popular in the city centre and in the vicinity of metro and train stations.
The system’s success is determined by both internal and external factors. Internal factors include the planning of stations and capacities, as well as technical features. External factors, on the other hand, involve the urban structure, terrain and bicycle culture.
Cycling has not really been a popular means of transportation in Helsinki among the residents due to the city’s poor bicycle lane network and lack of safe parking places. But now the situation has suddenly changed.
The network of stations is maintained to meet the needs of residents
Designing the bike network is an amazing job, but it is also challenging, as Sweco’s bicycle traffic planner Mikko Raninen knows. “There is limited space in urban areas and the stations have a relatively large footprint. In this equation, it’s really interesting to see how the changing urban environment affects the way people move and their possibilities of using bikes as a part of their travel chain,” Raninen describes his work.
In the season of 2019, the number of trips increased the most in the edge areas of the previous season’s network, as the expansion stations opened up new trip pairs. “In contrast, the number of trips decreased in southern Helsinki compared to the previous year, especially close to recreational areas. This may have been affected by the summer weather not being as good or the arrival of electric scooters in the city,” Raninen says.
Raninen also wants to emphasise the importance of comfort and a built environment of high quality. “For example, the use of the city bike station at the Kalasatama metro station tripled compared to the 2018 season. Factors like the improved location of the station when the roadworks moved out of the area, the new bike stations on the street along the shore towards Arabia and naturally also the opening of the REDI shopping centre have had a direct impact on this.”
When the city bike season is over, the past season will be reviewed one station at a time together with bicycle traffic experts from the City of Helsinki. Sweco has leveraged its own expertise, geospatial data, local knowledge and international studies to find optimal locations for the stations.
Bringing bicycles near users
The stations must be located near each other in order to make the system functional. The maximum distance between two stations is 600 metres, which means that wherever you are, the nearest station is always within 300 metres.
Public transportation hubs and the needs of users were important elements of the planning process. The purpose of the stations is to facilitate public transportation. There are stations near metro entrances and other public transportation hubs.
The number of trips in 2019 increased the fastest in the edge areas of the previous season’s network, as the expansion stations opened up new trip pairs.
Sweco is closely involved in designing the bike stations and expansion of the project in cooperation with various city agencies and the city bike operator.
For further information please visit: https://www.hsl.fi/kaupunkipyorat
Pictures: HSL/Lauri Eriksson