Sunday, November 28, 2010

Very, very northern Florida

I live in Oulu, Finland. 65 degrees north, 25.4 degrees east, about 200 km south of the Arctic Circle. Luckily the Gulf stream brings warm sea water (from Florida :-) to Scandinavia, so our climate is not quite as cold as one might imagine. Typical monthly average in January in Oulu is slightly below -10C or so. Coldest monthly average is -21C from 1985. Compared to Toronto's record monthly average of -9C, we win!

We get some snow in late October or early November, but usually it melts away because it's not cold enough yet. When the ground has frozen, the snow does not melt away anymore. Usually we get permanent snow in late November and it stays till April.

A 2009 study said 21% (or 22%, depending which page of the report you read) of all trips in Oulu are made by bicycle. I think it was 18% of commuters. That is all year average, including winter. The winter cycling is about 1/4 of summer cycling. Considering how long our winter is, we'd have rather impressive statistics if we did not have winter to ruin our year. Not as good as the dutch, though.

About half of the trips made are 5 km or less. On trips shorter than 2,5 km about two thirds are made by walking or by bike (32%). On trips between  2,5-5 km cycling has 28% share. Kids, teenagers and young adults use the cycle a lot, with boys being a little more active. Cycling is at it's lowest for 30-44 year olds. But it's worth noting that 45-54 year old women cycle almost three times more often than men of the same age, and they keep cycling. The "old women" are not known as risk takers, so that's proof why safe, segregated bikeways work. I'll post later why they are even more important in winter.

Most winter cyclists will cycle if it's not colder than -20C, after that they change to walking, bus or car. There are several reasons why. It's harder to protect face from the windchill effect, and keep your fingers and toes warm. It can be done, but then you get the problem of sweating because you have too much clothes on. Not to mention that tires are made of rubber and they lose their elastic properties in cold, causing lots of rolling friction. It gets so bad I have to keep pedaling to keep the bike moving downhill. You see what I mean when I talk about sweating?

On a good winter day of -10C in January, you can see more cyclists than on a sunny +1C day in March. Does that sound weird? It's not. Cyclists can cope with weather easily, but in slippery, wet ice and slush are harder to deal with. In the spring the snow/ice covering the bikeways starts to melt and freezes during the night. The conditions can get bad. I'll take some photos in March if I remember.


  1. Greetings very very Northern Florida from South Florida! The Toronto quote made me laugh. We do not cycle 12 months a year here. In the summer in 90+ temperatures, we'd rather glue our faces to the inside of a freezer. :p

  2. Welcome! You're reader number 4! :-)

    I took a quick peek at your blog, and the contrast between Southern Florida and Very Northern Florida is striking:

    Palm Beach: palm trees, lush green grass, people in t-shirts and shorts. Weather forecast: +28C. Sea water temperature +27C.

    Oulu: chunks of ice floating by in the river, yesterday it snowed a little, there will be green grass in two or three weeks. Weather forecast: +4C.

    We consider +25C a hot day, and we get maybe 10 days per summer above that. It's APRIL, for god's sake, and you're above that. How can you survive in the summer? :-)

  3. the brilliant invention of air conditioning :) Then again you DO get all that warm gulf stream water from us so, show a little less pity for us. Maybe even come visit to see where all of this warm water comes from! Although I do declare I am Russian and can't really cope with the heat well. I do better in colder climates and where I can afford to wear clothes made from more exotic materials than cotton. I miss the seasons changing. Perhaps someday I will visit Norway as well :p