Friday, December 03, 2010

Underpass galore

The main campus of University of Oulu is located about 5 or 6 kilometers north from the downtown. The Student Housing Foundation has plenty of apartments for rent around the campus and also around other schools in Oulu. So when a student is seeking a place to live, it's likely that you can get it near the school you go to, not on the other side of the city. Being close encourages cycling and walking.

Recently they built a supermarket near the campus. Very convenient for the people working and studying here. This also meant more traffic on the road south of the campus. So they built underpasses for us cyclists so we do not have to wait at traffic lights or follow the same routes as cars take. I decided they might be a good subject for a photo tour.

Cyclists bypass the traffic lights at the intersection above.
 This is one of the busiest underpasses near the campus, as it connects one of the main routes coming from south. There are plenty of students using this route.
No waiting for passing cars.
 This is an underpass to indoor sports arena just south of campus.

You can see this is older design.
The other major cycle route from south.
There is another underpass to the right.
There is a roundabout above the underpasses, but cyclists do not have to worry about them. It was cold (-15C) so I tried to get the cyclist in the photo, to brag about how cold proof we winter cyclists are. But then I missed the other underpass. It looks the same as this one so not big loss. The layout is the same as the last intersection with underpasses in the video at Hembrow's blog.
I did not even know this was there too. Amazing!
As I was finishing my underpass-photo tour I noticed this one bikeway I had not noticed before. It looked like it might lead to yet another underpass. So I followed it and found fifth! underpass.

Ok, what is so important about these underpasses? They are all built on the same strech of road, just south of the campus. That road is only 1,1 km long and has five underpasses. I think that is the highest number of underpasses on any road I've seen anywhere in Finland. Permeability to the max. It's like a sieve.

Why build so many? There are several routes cyclists coming from south can choose depending where they come from and where in the campus they want to go. Making cyclists and pedestrians wait at traffic lights is evil. Forcing them to make a detour to get to an underpass would make their trips longer. Cyclists (and pedestrians) like directness.

A few months ago saw a documentary (I can't remember if it was on TV or youtube, so no source, sorry) about a road in Georgia, USA. The road had something like 4 lanes in each direction. I don't know if it was a highway or just a local road, but cars were going fast. There was a even a hill so car drivers had limited visibility. What was so awful was that pedestrians were supposed to cross this road, on foot. There had been several fatalities when people were trying to get to a bus stop at the other side of the road. They could take a long detour, or try their luck.

Roads like that are a lot like the Berlin Wall. Even more than I thought. They split the town in half. You can get killed when trying to get accross.  Makes me wonder if people realize they are living in the shadow of The Iron Curtain?


  1. Nice bike paths and how wonderful that they built all those underpasses for you. There are many multi-lane streets like that one in Georgia, all over the US. Many don't even have sidewalks because in newer cities the thought that people might not actually drive never crossed any urban planner's mind. Even though Chicago has a long way to go, it is much more bike and pedestrian friendly than say Omaha, Nebraska or many other mid-sized cities that have been built w/o sidewalks, or any allowances for travel other than by car.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Now I know I have at least one visitor on my pages. The statistics page is not working, so it's nice to get feedback.

    I can understand that quiet, dead end streets do not necessarily need sidewalks. There's no sidewalks on my street either. But to build whole cities without sidewalks? What were they thinking?