Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Improvement or Not?

A month or two ago I met these barricades on the bikeway (a major route to downtown, a real cyclehighway route if any):

A detour, while the bikeway seems to be fine behind it? And all cyclists actually following the detour, rather going around the barrier? Now this could be worth a blog post!

Well, this explains it. A look from the other end of the blocked bikeway. They've cut the old bikeway and left us with sharp edges and gravel. The new route is an easier and a more comfortable route. Otherwise we'd be likely to ignore the barriers. A week after this photo, they had dug up more of the bikeway, all the way to the other barricade.

I decided I'd make a post, or maybe even a series of the street construction project instead. It seemed to me this project was not really as good for the cyclists as it first seemed. Here's a video on youtube so you can see it yourself.

The new houses being built is the excuse for moving the bikeway. The bikeway used to be next to the street. The boring, straight, long street has no protection from the wind, and is even a slight uphill. With the new high houses I think the wind tunnel would be even worse. By moving the bikeway closer to the houses, they can plant some trees to calm down the wind. And the bikeway is not so boring when you've got the chance of being run over by cars coming behind the corner of the building:

The bikeway is pretty close to the corner of the building. It's not really bad from this direction, as the driver has the lanes on the left to see a cyclist coming from the left:
Plenty of reaction time for cyclist from the left. But how about cyclists from the right? I certainly hope they're not going to park vans like this to block the view once the construction is finished. Also note the unpaved area in the middle of the street. I guess theyre going to plant trees on it. Sadly, it's also additional hump on the bikeway.

A very limited view to the right. Also note how the sign post with yield triangle has also the street name sign on it? Who would put the name sign on a post 20 meters from the intersection? Looks to me somebody dragged the yield sign from the intersection here to cover the bikeway.

A look from the right. Can't see the cars until you're almost on the crossing.
Was this an improvement over the previous bikeway? Let's list the pros and cons.


  • New route is not a straight line, not so boring
  • Protection from wind
  • New surface, no potholes
  • On the side of the street the bikeway was covered by the yield signs on the sidestreets. Cyclists had priority over cars on the sidestreets and over cars wanting to turn to the sidestreets. By moving the bikeway 20 meters off the intersection, the street-bikeway crossing is a stand-alone crossing on which bikes must yield to traffic. Cyclist on one of the busiest routes must yield to cars going to and coming from the parking lots of the buildings!
  • The old bikeway crossing was pretty smooth, now there is and extra hump in the center of the crossing.
  • Limited visibility, with no speed humps for the cars. Why not build a raised crossing?
I was all ready to make complaints and initiatives to the city council to improve this inferior bikeway crossing. Oulu is supposed to be a Cycling City, and you're building this crap? When I was writing my drafts, I decided to look what the plans said about the final result. In one of the documents I found this:

 It's a part of the diagram of the construction site. The intersection I've been complaining about is the black bulls-eye. Guess what? That bulls-eye is a roundabout! It makes many of my worries nought. All my ranting and planning was wasted!

A vehicle exiting a roundabout is turning, and must yield to traffic going straight. Cars have to yield to bikes! And the other direction is covered by the yield sign. Cyclists have not lost priority after all.

Now, the raised crossing would still make sense. I'll have to see if I can find out if they're going to build it or not. The crossing has asphalt now, and I think they would have to cut it open to install a raised crossing. That would suggest they're not going to build it. On the other hand, they need all sorts of heavy equipment and lots of gravel and cement and stuff when they're building. So it might make sense to do the humps after the buildings are finished.

Is it going to be better than before? We'll find out when it's finished.

Edit: I got a reply from a city planner, and he said there's no plans for a raised crossing at the moment as it should be fine as it is. The traffic circle will be built next year if they have the money to do it, and it will improve the intersection experience.


  1. I am not a lawyer, but I believe that if the bike path crosses a driveway leading into a parking lot, then cars are required to yield to you regardless of the distance between the street and bike path. This is because the bike path is considered a road, and the cars will be entering that road from a "parking lot" or a "minor road" (see tieliikennelaki, 14 §).

    Of course it's different if the path is crossing a street, but then you'll covered (at least from straight-through traffic) by the yield signs, roundabout or not. Maybe you could ask the city to install a temporary yield sign on the other side of the bike path until the roundabout gets built?

  2. I think you're right about the driveway thing. Unfortunately, this is a residential street, with a name and all, not just a driveway.

    I sent an email asking about the temporary sign, but I'm not holding my breath. To put the sign there would be against the rules of placing traffic signs and it would give cyclists extra priority, and despite all the hype about Oulu being a cycling town I just don't see that happening.

  3. I reckon the situation as it is now isn't exactly in line with the traffic sign manual either!

    Are you sure the bike path is more than 15 meters away from the street? If it's not, putting an extra yield sign on the other side is exactly what the manual calls for. If it is a good 20 meters off as you say, then the city should move the original yield sign back to where it was and probably also install new signs directing cyclists to yield.

    I'm pretty sure this falls under the ambiguous cases as detailed on page 2D-12 of document TIEH 2000006-03. I'd link you to it, but I don't think Blogspot will allow me to. The diagrams are pretty good, though, so you should have a look!

    However, I'm sure you're better aware of the situation over there than I am, so I'll leave liaising with the city council to you. ;)

  4. I guesstimated it, it's exactly 15 meters, +/- 10 meters. Definitely far enough for some motorists to think the bikeway is not adjacent to the street.

    Btw, you are first commenter from Finland! :-)