Friday, December 21, 2012

Left Or Right? Not In the Middle, please!

In the latest post in Thinking About Cycling's series Cycling Struggles the subject was pavement cycling. There was one quote which immediately struck a chord. He interviewed Sheila, who said

“Now, when you get bicycles coming down there, it’s such a wide area and they’re going anywhere and you’ve no idea where they’re going. Even if you can see them coming towards you, you don’t know whether they’re going to the left of you, the right of you."

That last part sounds very familiar: I've read it on the local newspaper's internet forum several times. Even if the forum has moderation to cut the spamming and trolling, plenty of those messages get through. Often they refer to Rotuaari (the pedestrian street downtown Oulu) or just to the pavement MUPs that are common in Finland.

Just a few days ago I uploaded a youtube video of a ride through the Rotuaari. I uploaded just to show what it'd looked like before christmas on a quiet afternoon. And to show the taxi revving like it was escaping a crime scene.

On the later part of the video, beginning at about 0:40, you'll see a woman carrying a bag coming towards me, drifting slightly right to left. So it looks like there will be a gap where I will be able to pass. Then she changes her mind and three steps later is going 90 degrees to the previous direction, straight into the gap that was there. Suddenly I had to change my direction. My camera couldn't keep up with my quick movements and skipped a few frames.

So to mis-quote: “Now, when you get pedestrians coming down there, it’s such a wide area and they’re going anywhere and you’ve no idea where they’re going. Even if you can see them coming towards you, you don’t know whether they’re going to the left of you, the right of you."

That video shows the other side of the coin: pedestrians are even more difficult to predict than cyclists. In just three steps they might have stopped or be going in the opposite direction. And the woman in the video saw me coming. What about those who I approach from behind?

My strategy for cycling in crowds is kind of same as if I was a faster downhill skier. The faster skier is uphill and behind the slower skier who can't see him. So it's the faster skier's duty to avoid collision. So even if there was a blind or deaf person among the crowd, in theory, he would be just another person and I should be able to avoid crashing into him, if he moved in a predictable way.

But it's the "you don’t know whether they’re going to the left of you, the right of you" part that gets mentioned most often in the local newspaper. If you think that through, if we are talking about pedestrians and cyclists on sidewalk MUPs, there is a clear admission of wrongdoing by the pedestrian.

The Finnish law says the pedestrian should use either side of the MUP. If you're walking your dog or pushing the pram with a baby, you'll probably want to walk on the side away from the traffic, so you're allowed to walk on both sides. It doesn't matter which side you walk on, the cyclists should have plenty of room to pass you safely.
Two bad options vs one good?
If you say you don't know which side they are going to pass you, that means you are "in the middle of the road!" The cyclist has two options: left or right of you. And approaching from behind, he doesn't knows which way you might move to make more room when he rings the bell. This is not the place to "take the road". Walk clearly on one side, and he has only one option to choose from. And he has more room to pass, too.

Of course, this doesn't help in cases where the paths cross and you'll be in the middle of the path anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crazy World: No Cycling In Snow!

I usually check the 'crazy world' section on the tabloid papers to see what crazy things has happened around the world. Like a town banning dying, because the cemetery is full. Or the Norwegian fox who stole a phone and sent a text message to the owner. Or the nest of unicorns found in North Korea.

I just read that according to cyclists in Bologna, Italy will be fined for cycling after snowfall during the winter. The same rule also applies to other two wheelers like scooters. The fine is the same size as for car drivers don't have snow chains or winter tyres during the winter. (I wonder if they'd fine cyclists with studded tyres?)

Now, winter tyres are mandatory for cars also here in Finland. Either studded tyres or 'friction tyres' without studs. But there is no reason for us to ban cycling in the winter. After all, snow and "unpolished" ice is not too slippery to ride on, and with a little maintenance the bikeways can be kept rideable nearly all year around even with regular summer tyres, let alone with studded tyres. Just get some lights and ride. Simple as that.

We have  a lot of winter cycling. The Italian blogger says it's 12% of all trips during the winter, which may be true. I've seen some published research which gives the all year share 21% and it is lower in the winter. It's only on very slippery days or on very cold days when the rates really plummet.

And that post also tells me that apparently there's going to be some winter cycling congress here in Oulu. I read about that from a foreign blog... does that mean I'm out of touch of local cycle events? :-P

Friday, December 07, 2012

Today I saw a car in the ditch. How it got there? Maybe the driver was speeding and lost control in the curve and the car ended 15 meters away from the street. Or he was taking an illegal shortcut driving on the bikeway, lost control of the vehicle and ended in the ditch. Makes me think if this was drunk driving or a stolen vehicle? Lousy driving, anyway.
Later in the ride I went downtown to the Rotuaari (a pedestrian street) to see the new lights, and then I rode downhill to see the construction site. There was so much traffic that at one intersection I got to filter! The right turning lane was full and some cars were stuck in the middle of the intersection. And there were queues of cars around the Rotuaari, too. Lots of people shopping for Christmas and/or Friday afternoon rush hour?

The camera kept crashing and making empty files so I didn't get them on the video, but that's not so interesting anyway.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Winter photo 5th Dec

After the days of -20°C or below the -11°C we had felt balmy. And the warmer weather brought a little of fresh snow with it.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Winter pictures

I guess this qualifies as a proper winter. Sunset at 14:20 (2:20PM). Snow on the ground...

and ice on the river. That thing in the front is a sheet of ice left ashore when the winds changed direction. In long and narrow seas like the Gulf of Bothnia the wind can drive the water up into the bay or out. Here the sea level dropped by a meter in a week.

A bunch of bikes at one of the entrances. Only two rows of bike parking today. Monday and -18°C temperatures might have something to do with it. Even long johns and jeans are a bit chilly for long rides as they are not windproof.

Monkey business

Someone was saved from going ape shit by a simple A4.

"I think a monkey has been given a driver's license."  :-D

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Latest on anti-slip tyres

When I tried to start riding today my bike started to make horrible grinding sounds (in addition to the normal sounds :-) and I had to stop and see what was going on. The bike seemed fine, but every time I pushed the bike forward the noise was there. It didn't take me long to figure out where the sound came from: the rear tyre.

Take a bike from a warm bike garage and ride on some snow and gritting sand. The warm tyre melts some of the snow, and the cold gritting sand re-freezes it, in effect glueing the sand to the tyre. Now I got gritted rear tyre for free! :-) The only problem is that the fender is so close fit that the gritting sand granules are grinding it to pieces. I'll have to unscrew the fender and do some "precision mechanics" with a hammer to make the gap a bit bigger.

And there is something wrong with the chain/rear sprocket, too. I changed a new chain last week and now it makes a sound. I guess the rear sprocket is too worn and the new chain is not properly seated in the teeth. But I can't ride to the bike shop to buy a new one if I take the old out...
Yesterday the snow storm hit southern Finland. According to the meteorological institute, the spot with most deep layer of snow (47cm) is now in Hanko, as far south as you can get in Finland. Helsinki has 37 cm is fourth on the list. But due to the storm the results are not reliable, as the wind makes "dunes" which are much higher than the average. I'm guessing 20 cm from the pictures.

But still, there were problems. The hard wind fell some trees on power lines, trams were derailed when the tracks (or rather the grooves in the tracks?) were filled with snow. The ferries (to/from Estonia and Sweden) and trains were running late and car traffic was chaotic. To top of that, the (over/underground train) Metro was installing new control systems as scheduled this weekend and some trains were replaced with buses. But today everything should be back to normal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two years of VNFC

A few weeks ago I checked when was the very first post on the Very Northern Florida Cycling Blog: 28th of November, two years ago. I thought I might also be able to spam some posts to get the 200th post to coincide. I didn't spam enough, so this is only post 193 including the drafts that were not published.

The blog has some 5000 page views . Top countries on the list are USA, Russia and Finland. Ukraine, UK, Canada, Germany, Latvia and Estonia also are on three digits. Nowhere on the list is the Netherlands- obviously they don't read cycling blogs. :-)

Most popular post has been the pileups in southern Finland last year. (Oh, by the way: there's a blizzard on Friday so there might be a re-run.) After that there are several Autumn Posts (browse the sidebar to find them, I'm not adding them all here), Car Centric Toys, the image manipulations for shared space  and of course the EST safety system for winter cycling. EST seemed to work fine today, even though it was only -10°C.

The most popular search term to reach the site (beside the name) has been "aura-auto" (with both correct and incorrect spellings) aka "snow plow truck", "green scenery" and "shared space". With google referring  to this site I guess I'm an authority on the shared space now, so: dear traffic planners and architects, shared space only works if there are only very few cars! Not on streets with through traffic! :-)

What's on the future? Will there be a third year of VNFC? Maybe. At least with the KiviSydän (StoneHeart), the underground parking garage also known as the Big Dig will be providing me material for photos and videos as the construction goes on. Only it'll be underground so what's there to see?

Happy Cycling!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Bridge Too Far

I'd read on the local newspaper that a new bridge has been opened for traffic. The bridge was built connect one of the islands at the mouth of the river to the mainland.The bridge is where the green smudge is on the map below.
Oh, wait! What's that thing on the right? It's the old bridge, and it's pretty much on the desire line of people going east towards downtown or pretty much anywhere in Oulu. So why was the new bridge built? The distance between the old bridge and the new one is about 500 meters, so the savings in time and vehicle kilometers are minimal. For pedestrians, saving a kilometer or two is huge. But for a 20km/h cyclist that 2 km is a only 6 minutes saved. They should have built a bike/ped bridge and let the motorists drive.

Well, people north of the water wanted a shorter trip to Nallikari (camping and swimming area etc) and people on the south wanted a shorter route to shops north of the river. Lots of new housing has been built on the island lately, and construction on the north side is going on.

And when there is some big event with loads of car traffic on the island the only bridge will get jammed. Now the car drivers have a new rat run. There has already been complaints that the bridge is too narrow for HGV's and that the pedestrian/cycle space is too wide. :-)

So, I got curious and decided to go and see the bridge for myself. Rather than looking at the map or reading the newspapers more carefully to see where exactly this new bridge was, I decided to just hop on the bike and try to find it by guessing. The maps at the beginning of the post were made after the ride, when I started writing this.

My first guess where the  bridge was that it would be somewhere behind the power station. It seemed logical: the route would continue straight across the bay, without any turns.

 But what the heck, they've blocked the street and built a fence.

Looks like that was not the route to the new bridge. As I knew there already was one bridge to the island, I thought it might be further to the west, closer to the sea. It wouldn't make any sense to build them too close to each other, would it? After riding on soggy gravel paths through thickets I finally came to a clearing where I could see where I was.
 Now, that tiny thing in the middle of the picture looks like the sightseeing tower on the beach of Nallikari, also seen before on this blog and on my YT videos. It's on the west coast and the island ends there, so I must have gone a bit too far west. As there was nothing but bushes between this spot and and the power plant, the bridge must be on the other side of the power plant.

After retracing my steps and trying another route I finally found myself behind that big red building.

Here's a video of the ride from there to here and then back over the bridge. I'd say a lot more people than normally would see on a bridge, so they were sightseeing too.

The bridge from the side. Not very spectacular. Just across the harbor canal.

At one end of the bridge there is this nasty gap, a movement seam I guess.

For some reason they couldn't make it smooth. Both sides of the seam are level, but the seam is in a depression. It is definitely notable while riding and you can see it on the video too. Well, I guess it is better than having the edges of the seam protruding out of the asphalt. (Maybe the snow plow will not catch it now?)

The new bridge looks good, and I'll be monitoring the newspaper to see how long it'll take until there will be complaints of increased traffic on the new rat runs. As both motorist bridges are on the same end of the island it is kind of a dead end for motorists. But more of the traffic shifts to new streets with the new bridge.

The only through traffic they get is a few bicycles and maybe some people on foot too. The island has a bike/ped bridge in the east, and before the new bridge the island has not been the shortest route anywhere. Now there will be new routes available. Even I will be using it on my trips to the Nallikari beach. Now that I have found it!

Nice, Ice!

There was some black ice on the bikeways. The ruts look so shiny. All the snow has once again melted due to the warmer days and rain.
And here's a video from Saturday. I was trying to go to the bridge, but my video equipment had problems again. So this was about the only footage I got from my ride.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Freezing rain,

It was really fun to ride today. The temperature was about 0C, gentle drizzle and cloudy skies. On the first one hundred meters I had the read wheel slip twice. After that I knew there was black ice everywhere, and rode on the gritting rather than on the grit free 'paths' (made by bike wheels ) on the bikeways. The local newspaper already has reports of people (pedestrians and cyclists, people stepping out of bus) falling. Looks like it'll be a busy weekend for the emergency rooms. :-/

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Big Dig and The Improvement

The Big Dig entrance in the street has now a fence made of steel posts:

In the "Improvement or not" roundabout I noticed that three of the legs had crossings over them, even though they seemed useless. See, the path ends after 10 meters. What was the point? Erm, maybe the bus stop? Just on the other side of the street. And they might continue the path another 200 meters, as this could provide an alternate route with less steep uphills. But I don't think they will, it's just a spaceholder.

I must say I really like the lighting of this new roundabout. Somehow it's very well lit without glaring lights. And it just looks good. Well done! If only I could take good pictures of it. (How fast was the cyclist going? Exposure time was 2 seconds.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

They know it's a busy street

Today I read an interesting-ish article in the local newspaper. The article was about how one street south of the river was getting congested and dangerous when the rush hour hits. The street is marked with the black dots below, and that's where I tried to get video. My crappy camera kept being crappy and kept shutting down so I only got two short clips before I called it quits and just rode home.

Anyway, bottom left is the downtown of Oulu, as you can see by the grid streets. The yellow roads are bigger streets and the green road in the middle is the former Europa 4 highway going all the way to Spain. Now it's just Highway 4. Visible in the picture are the 4 bridges crossing the river.

Someone coming downtown from the suburbs in the east or northeast is very likely to use the yellow roads. And on this problematic road or nearby there are also a lot of destinations  for pedestrians and cyclists: a couple of schools ranging from primary to vocational schools. And I'd guess about half of them are on the wrong side of the street so people will be crossing the road. And as the road goes west-east it's also a barrier for anyone cycling to school or work in the north-south or south-north direction. So there's also a lot of cycle traffic. Just above the black dots you'll see a thin line crossing the river: that is the dam bridge. A lot of people use it to get across the river instead of the yellow roads. And there is also a lot of other thin white lines: they're bikeways. You could actually avoid the problematic spot by riding on the bikeways next to the river, but that would make the journey longer.

In the article they wrote about how there was a lot of car traffic just going through, and to the schools in the area. They wrote about jaywalking and pedestrians and cyclists not having reflectors and/or lights. They wrote how parents bring the smaller kids to school as the traffic is so heavy, but did they mention that the school run is part of the problem? I don't think so.

To make things worse, there's also construction going on in the area. Even one of the schools is actually closed for repairs. The kids come to the school in the morning, but they're taken to another school by buses. So there's a few school buses waiting on the street. And HGVs and lorries might be bringing deliveries to the construction sites or they just had to park some big machines in the street. And so they had to block the sidewalk.

Some "road safety organization" expert is moaning that many cyclists do not cross the road to ride on the MUP on the other side of the road as the signs suggest they do. Instead they opt to riding on the street. The law says they "usually" should use the MUP, but when it's on the wrong side of the street I don't think you'll get a ticket very easily for riding on the street. Especially for a short stretch like this.

What makes me laugh at his comments is the earlier part of the article, where they talk about pedestrians trying to get across the road at zebras and waiting and waiting for a gap in the traffic. In busy rush hour traffic, that wait might be a long one.

At first they write about how hard it is to get across the road, and then they want cyclists to cross the street twice (if their destination is on the same side as they were originally). Well, I suppose the safety expert guy didn't know what was going to be written just above his comments.

Does the road at the end of the video look wide enough to have a protected on-street bikeway? It certainly looks like it to me. So why did they do this "cross the street twice" nonsense?

Maybe they want to park the HGVs right next to the construction site. Maybe they need huge machines to blow holes in to the wall of the building so they need access every day and it's just not possible. Maybe they didn't know better.

But I'm feeling charitable today so I say I think the real reason is they know winter is coming. Making an on-street bikeway around the site is easy, but how do you it gritted and plowed? After all, this isn't Amsterdam!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The motorist-pedestrian

The construction of the underground parking garage have continued. One street has been cut from motor traffic, as they're digging up the sewers and water pipes and what not to make room for another entrance to the garage. This street is blocked for through traffic except for pedestrians and cyclists.

Obviously blocking streets will cause chaos and confusion among the drivers, as they have to change their routes. I never expected them to be so confused they would think themselves as pedestrians, though.

The situation starts as the dark car reverses back out of the dead-end. Maybe it was parked there, or had tried to find a space for parking on the central reserve but lucked out. There should be parking restrictions on a spot or two so cars could drive over the reserve to the other side of the street but apparently parking is more important than convenience and safety.
Well, the blue car blocks the way out so the dark car goes pedestrian and uses the pedestrian crossing as the route to get away.
Now the blue car wants to try it's luck finding a parking place.
And what do you know, this seems familiar. Now the blue car is blocked...
As amusing as watching drivers do stupid things is, I decided to carry on. The construction site blocked the street,
but the sidewalks (not a MUP, this time, so ride on the street, please) were open. I'm not sure if they're  going to close them when they start digging the entrance. If they're using explosives I would think so. :-)

Scenes after warmer days

After a few colder days on the weekend we had some warmer weather. On Tuesday we had temperatures around zero Celsius and some rain and sleet. The snow on the trees melted. Picture from Tuesday 30th Oct.

Yesterday the day had highs a few degrees above freezing but in the evening it colder and the bikeways were nice and crispy and crunchy, as the slosh refrose. Today it was another warm day so the bikeways had rutted ice and slosh.

Interestingly, one fork of the river below the dam was partially frozen already. A bit further out the waves keep the ice from forming. It's warmer under the bikeway bridge so the cut off point seems to be there.

The forecast for the next few days has above freezing temperatures and rain, so the snow will be gone, but there will probably be black ice if it gets cold enough during the nights.

Monday, October 29, 2012

From Very Northern Florida, With Love

To all tree huggers:

First Snow Videos

Here they are. The first one shows the skateboarding ramps are empty. Those tiny wheels do not work well in two inches of snow! <evil grin:->

The other is shows a real life braking test on a snowy bikeway. Not really icy yet because the snow hasn't been trampled on enough, but there was some ice on it anyway. The big trucks do not have studded tyres so they're  pushing the limit a bit by stopping at a steep hill. I'd say they couldn't have fit trough the underpass, so they would been stuck if they couldn't get up. They could have turned left or right but came up straight, and afterwards I was wondering if they turned back or drove through the no entry signs to the pedestrian crossing to get to the street at the very beginning of the video.

Note the mail van, it's a special, expensive vehicle designed for mail delivery ie. right hand drive so the mailman can reach the boxes :-)

The last of the videos I uploaded is sort of a video response to  bicycledutch's cycling past red lights blog post. The Dutch with their bikeways segregated from the road  often get to ignore the traffic lights. In T-junctions and when doing right turns there often is no conflict with other road users so why should a cyclist be penalized by a red light. This (cycling past red lights) is common in Very Northern Florida too.

Some commenter talked about the aversion to two-phase left turns: having to first cross one street and then wait at another red light certainly is a pain. Even if you don't have dutch intersections, if you have paths on both sides of the street you can cross the street when ever it's best for you and then make the left turn at will.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My world is bright today

When I looked outside in the morning I saw it had snowed last night. Maybe two inches, so the snow plows had been at work. My neighbours were scraping the windshields of their cars, while I was still having my breakfast. Riding a bike in the winter sometimes saves time! At least when it's only a few degrees below freezing so one doesn't have to put too many clothes on.

On the other hand any time I had saved was lost when the rear tyre started to leak. It was empty after the night so I inflated it and I thought nothing about it, but then I could feel the rim making contact while riding. Well the leak is slow so I could get a kilometer for each re-inflation.

I also rigged up the camera again, and even edited the video and put them to an usb stick but then forgot the stick at the computer table before I left for weekend. So you won't see the white scenery until Monday, and by that time the snow might be gone again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Riding on the needles

I was asked in the youtube comments if all the leaves had fallen yet. Not quite all, but most of them. And a lot of needles by these weird spruces.

Here's a clip I put together from my rides yesterday and today. As you can see, it is very much like autumn: ice on the ground and falling leaves and so on. It gets below freezing during the night but usually thaws during the day, so there isn't any snow or ice. Except I did find some for the video yesterday because the day was so cold it hadn't all melted away.

And today was windy, and the Oulu River had waves on it. Usually the river is almost as smooth as glass but today I certainly wouldn't want to go out there in a row boat!

Oh, I haven't heard by old bike so I got a single speed bike for cheap. Seems that Oulu isn't quite that flat as I thought when I had gears in my bike. Maybe I should get hub gears for it.

It's a sit-up bike, with a rack which I like. On the other hand it had flat tyres, the rear axle needed tightening (the ball bearings were about to fall off, typical of some discount stores which don't know how to assemble the bikes properly) and it has no lights which are needed this time of the year. And mandatory, too. So it's taken me a few days of fixing and tuning to get it up.

For the lights I've had to hold a lamp in my hand but I got the 'see me' led light system ready, now I've just got to install it. I took an old bike light, sawed it a bit and put a bunch of leds inside. With a bulb it took 250 mA, with leds I can run it less than 20mA and it's still visible. As it has a reflector in the middle of the lens and light goes everywhere it's not really good light for seeing in the dark.

The other light project, modifying a head lamp with a 3w led to work as a 'see far' bike light is still in the works. At least now I got the solder and other gear on the table so I might actually work on it a bit.

I was going to take some photos of the rear axle while I was cleaning it and stuff, but after I took the first photo and did some work on the bike my hands got dirty and I couldn't take more photos. You'd' have to  see the bike as it was to see what I mean. Even the chain was so gunky it was doubled in size. And I didn't have any bensin or diesel to soak the chain so I had to scrub it by hand. Any soaps I had didn't work on the gunk and I didn't have the mechanics hand scrub soap like some other blogger used recently (who was it?). So in the end I used veggie oil and it seemed to work almost fine. And it's environmentally friendly. :-P

Now I just have to get these black grease stains out of tables, door handles, floors...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Picture of the day

This is what it looked like in the morning. First snow of the winter. It was still snowing so it looked very promising when I took the photo. A little snow on the ground would make the world a lighter place.

Isn't it pretty? Green grass, white snow and orange trees?

And then, fifteen minutes later the rain changed to sleet and then into water and the snow was gone.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Darned Thieves!

Today there was news about a thief snagging a handbag from a lady. This time it wasn't  the perp on the bike or a scooter. No, it was the lady. The lady thought the thief was going to push her off the bike but she dodged. It wasn't until later she noticed the bag wasn't on the rear basket. Oh, she was 87 years old and riding a bike.

I'm not quite that old and at the moment I'm not riding a bike either. Some darned thief stole my bike! It's an old clunker (a red MTB) but it was my main mode of transport for local trips. Now I have to walk or drive. Blah.

Walking is so slow and driving and parking is a hassle. By the way, I was in rush hour traffic congestion the other day. It really exists, it's just that I don't see it while riding a bike. Now I had to drive and I saw it. Amazing.

The chances of getting the bike back soon are slim. Many stolen bikes get thrown in to the river and will not be found for years. Some will be taken in use or sold. Some will fill the bike parking in front of the apartments, but as everyone knows only their own bike they can't know some of the bikes do not belong there. And every few years they donate the abandoned bikes to charities. If the bike is abandoned in a public place in a way that it looks like it is abandoned, it will go to lost and found - unless someone decides to re-steal it again.

Now I'm left with a 26" studded tyre (will my next bike have 26" wheels?), a  speedometer which is useless without the sensors and the lights which I can't mount on the next bike without the mounting brackets. Blah.

Well, at least I can use the lights while walking. It's getting dark in the evenings.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Summer photos: swamp

Here's some photos I took during the summer. They were all taken even further north, a few hundred kilometers northeast from Oulu. I spent some time there, and these were taken when I was out on a cloudberry hunting trip. The cloudberries grow on swamp, as you'll see.

You might notice the spruces in the background have branches pointing down and the whole tree is narrower than what you might see here in Oulu. It's because there's more snowfall during the winter and wide branches would collect too much snow on them and break. A few hundred kilometers can make a noticeable difference in the shape of the trees.

Here's what one swamp looked like. Not bike-friendly, I tell you!

I also saw reindeers in their natural habitat, not tied to a tree in a park in the middle of Oulu. This one was maybe 15 meters away. They aren't very afraid of vehicles so one can get photos of them.

There's about three times as many reindeer crashes as there are elk crashes, even though the elk population is mostly in southern Finland where there is lots more people and more traffic.

Reindeers live in northern Finland where there's less people. But as they're not afraid of cars they spend more time on the roads. They like to eat grass on the shoulders of the roads (maybe they lick salt, too) and they use roads as places to walk and even sleep. Being gray they're actually pretty hard to see until you're close to them, and then they might get scared by the car and run wildly in front of the car.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Improvement Or Not: Yes!

Last year I blogged about some changes that were made on an intersection on a major cycle route to downtown and I thought they were making the intersection worse for cyclists. So I asked the city council about it and they emailed about the roundabout they were going to build once they got the money for it.

Well, I guess the money was available and they'd almost built it before I noticed it, maybe because I've been out of town :-)  Two weeks ago they were still building it. Here's a clip showing what it looked like then.

The excavator was trying to get out but the cars got in the way.

And here's what it looked like today. Looks quite good, actually. It just isn't smooth as the road is about two inches lower than the bikeway. Even though the kerb stones are tilted to make riding easier it certainly is bumpy.

As for the other construction project, the Big Dig aka the underground parking garage, they've fenced off half the market square. The fences are not that interesting and they block the view of the beginnings of the tunnel pretty effectively so I haven't managed to get good pictures about it yet.

What I've read on the newspaper they're drilling and using explosives already to blast the bedrock. At the moment it looked like there was a hole in the ground but not a tunnel yet. Must be interesting to live on the houses on top of the future parking garage and hear the drills and explosions from below. And there's a hotel right next to it, too. I wonder if they mention the noisy construction site in their brochures. :-P

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Where's mee washboard?


 It's been a long summer without posts, sorry. I did take some photos during the summer, but I've been busy and with limited net access the whole summer so when I had time it was mostly to check my email.

The photo below is a gravel path. It's not part of the official bikeway network, and if I recall correctly it doesn't get plowed in the winter. Still, it's a path and can be used as a shortcut so it gets it's share of people on bikes, not just dog walkers and people taking their evening stroll around the block. If I recall correctly this photo was taken in late July.

The whole summer has been rainy, as in "most rain in 100 years" rainy. Low pressure zones kept coming and it has rained almost every day. Or at leat it feels like it. There were a few cases of heavy rain causing floods in downtown, where the plumbing is old. There was so much water in the underpasses going under the railway track that some cars couldn't get through and stalled when they sucked water inside the engine. And when the whole area is pretty flat rivers flooded too. There's been reports about a dairy farm that was blockaded by water for a week, and others lost all their crops for the year when the fields had two meters of water in them.

So these gravel paths might get some rain damage with the runoff washing away the gravel or the whole path turning muddy. Looking at the path it's obvious there's no damage because it has been maintained.
But I wonder if they did the washboard on purpose to get cyclist off the path to the real bikeways, or did it happen naturally? Because that path was rather nasty to ride on. And I think it would wake up a baby in a pram too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guess what was in the news again?

I couldn't believe my eyes today. At the newspaper stand there was a tabloid with the headline: WAS THIS THE LION?

Just a few days after I blogged about it, the lion sighting from 20 years ago is news again. Unbelievable. Coincidence? Well, it is July.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Man bites... a lion!

I've been following a few blogs from around the world, many of them cycling related. In one of the British ones, there was a post named Man Bites Dog how a cyclist injuring a pedestrian gets big headlines while thousands of pedestrians are injured by motor vehicles every year and they rarely get mentioned. Someone said the newspapers would be full of such articles and there would be no room for anything else!

On the local papers, the scale is smaller and also smaller traffic incidents can be newsworthy. It's more interesting to hear something happened at a place you know or have visited. You might even know the people involved, so unless anyone died it's just good material for gossiping.

On the TV sport news, there was a few reports on some Jamaican sprinter not winning some race. I wasn't paying very much attention because it wasn't the Olympics or a new world record. Maybe it was important for his qualification to the Olympics, but who cares? It happens every day. Much more interesting to me was the news about a local getting a medal in triathlon race. Because she's local!

Even if all incidents were reported on the news, the 'man bites dog' incidents would still get the most attention. The fact that they're rare makes them interesting, makes them stand out. Until they're forgotten.

Like the case of the 'Waving Woman' a few months back. I don't think I wrote about it before. At the time it got some headlines on the tabloids, now it's all but forgotten.

The Waving Woman was a motorist who would stop in front of the pedestrian crossing as if to let the children cross. When they stepped on the street she's accelerate at the kids. And she'd done this several times on different days. I recall reading she'd injured some kids but nobody had been killed. The police was searching for clues. Parents were alarmed. Kids learned to be wary of cars while crossing the street, which might have been her motive.

What ever happened? Did the police catch her? Or was it all a hoax? An April's Fool joke that resurfaced a month later as a rumor, with kids using their imagination to exaggerate the events? I don't recall reading anything more about the case. It was in May, and the news has moved on. In July, most of the country is on holiday and the news are slow, even lion sighting stories can stay alive weeks.

Yes, a lion! And thus I can one-up the headline: Man bites Lion! :-D 

On the other hand, Bear sightings are so common they're rarely mentioned in the news.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Last week a moped car ( a lightweight, fourwheel vehicle that looks like a car but goes only 45 km/h) crashed with an ambulance on an emergency. Two were killed.

Car drivers seem to be annoyed with such imposters and complain about their lack of training, running red lights etc. Pretty much the same complaints they have with mopeds and cyclists ( and pedestrians, too).

The police put a comment on their web page about microcars and their accidents. The insurance claims for accidents for microcars are 1 per ten vehicles, cars are 1 per 42 cars and mopeds 1 per 50. So the moped cars are four or five times more often in accidents that cars. Injury rates for microcars are about the same, both are two or three times worse than people in cars. The cars have a better steel cage. :-/

Microcar accidents are often at intersections or rearendings. Both are symptoms of lack of experience on the part of the driver (mostly teenagers). Also because most moped cars are in cities which have intersections and other cars to rear end with.

And more often than not the driver is at fault. Before only a theory test was needed to get a drivers license for a microcar. The regulations have been tightened and now there's also a driving exam which should help a little.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Schedule

You'll find there will be less updates during the summer. I''ve decided to limit my time on the computer in the summer and I'm out there enjoying the sun and warm weather while they last. Including riding a bike at midnight.

The Midsummer Day is a few days and as some people already say the summer is almost over after that and the winter is coming back. Not everyone wants to hear that before they even have had their summer holidays in June. :-) Although it's true!

Right now there's lots of flowers and trees in blossom like the rowan in the photo. Smells nice too!

Enjoy your summer, folks!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Riding in the noise

Another boring video clip to keep you entertained. This one is from a ride from a few weeks back, when the grass was still brown. The chunks of ice in the underpasses had melted though, so it must have been May.

It may look like  it but this is not out of the city, but it certainly is out of the downtown grid streets. Maybe it'd be the suburbs then. Noisy motorway is not a nice thing to live next to, so very often there's a noise wall or some woods to give some protection. Maybe I should've included a clip from the non-short-cut route to see if the noise levels are noticeably lower.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Construction blocks the path

In the last few weeks several blogs have posted videos of construction blocking the bikeways. As expected, in the Netherlands there usually is a good alternate route with clear signage.

A few days ago the path near a supermarket was closed by construction huts. So the next time I took the camera with me to get a video. Starts with a good, wide bikeway...

When there was only the huts, I got around them by going left through the empty parking lot that is hardly ever used. On a later ride, they had put a fence around the work area. Nobody wants people milling about their work space, and especially not when you're working on ladders. So now I had to ride through the car park on the right. Oh, the horror. :-)

How about  the signage? Well, there was the rather useless round red-and-yellow sign saying you can't go through here. Some kind of arrow pointing which way to go would have been nice so I wouldn't have tried going left first. And there was no sign for drivers to look out for people going around the fence, but maybe they expected the drivers to use their brains and do it anyway. There are no temporary paths marked by bollards or fences or any limitations on the parking so the drivers are not inconvenienced by the construction.

Sure, this is only one of the three routes for bikes and pedestrians (not counting going through the parking lot). So maybe there could have been a detour sign earlier, like 50 meters before the beginning of the video where I could have turned right and taken the other route.

And another clip to provide some comic relief for an otherwise gloomy post. Evening sunshine (the video was shot after 7pm yesterday) , green grass, new leaves growing on the trees and...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mopeds out of bikeways: less accidents

The Finnish traffic law says mopeds are allowed on bikeways (MUP's) if there is a sign saying so. Often the sign is there.

For a few years there was loud complaints and public discussion in the local newspaper about youngsters riding noisy mopeds too fast on the bikeways and too close to other users of the paths  giving them a scare. Part of the problem was that moped users rarely seemed to slow down, they liked to ride full throttle everywhere, including underpasses and tight corners with limited visibility. (Car drivers go faster it the road is wide. Maybe the same is true for mopedists: our bikeways are too wide?)

The other part was that the speed differential with other users of the MUPs was too big. A moped has a max. 50 cm3  (or 4 kW if electric) engine and has a maximum speed of 45 km/h. It is rather easy to do some changes to make the moped go faster (60? 80?). And who would be likely to tune up their moped to go faster? Maybe the reckless youngsters. Mopeds going over 45 km/h among pedestrians... not good!

In August 2010, most of those signs were removed in Oulu and mopeds had to ride on the streets (default speed limit in urban areas is 50km/h, could also be 40km/h or 30km/h) and on roads with speed limits of 60km/h or less. If the speed limit was higher and there was no other route, they were allowed on bikeways next to the road. It's the speed differential thing again, only mopeds are the slow vehicle this time.

There was another cry in August 2010: the mopedists would be slaughtered by the cars. Some parents were afraid their kids would get hurt if they had to use the streets. Others said the reckless mopedists don't know traffic rules and shouldn't be allowed on the roads.

A research comparing injuries before and after the change shows safety improved 70%, says the local newspaper. I haven't seen the article in print, but the short web clip says in the year before the change (Aug 2009-Jul 2010) there was 53 injuries involving mopeds. A year later the figure was only 16!

Unfortunately the short version of the article on the web page doesn't give exact figures for pedestrian, cyclists and mopedist injuries in moped related crashes. So I can't tell you how many less grannies were mowed down by the mopedists. Neither can I tell you if there has been a decline in trips taken or kilometers travelled by moped. Fuel prices have gone up, but the mopeds are not exactly gas guzzlers.

One might make an educated guess that there might be less mopeds in the winter than the previous year. The moped riders had to move from well gritted and snowplowed bikeways to icy, rutted streets and roads, which are not gritted or plowed well enough for two-wheeled vehicles. On the other hand, riding a moped in the winter is very cold. You're just sitting there and you're not getting heat by using your muscles like when biking. And what I recall, there weren't that many moped users in the winter anyway.

Anybody who has been reading Hembrow's blog knows he has written how in the NL the different modes (or speeds) of traffic are often kept separate to reduce conflict and damages done by a collision. Their bike paths for bikes only are world famous.

Unfortunately, in Finland many politicians and traffic planners think streets are for cars and they use 'light traffic roads' (also known as MUP, multi-use paths )for everything else. Looking from the windshield perspective it seems dangerous to have unarmored mopeds on the streets, they might get hurt! Not to mention they are slowing down the traffic! This is why allowing mopeds on MUPs has been widespread even if it puts fast moving mopeds among dogwalkers and kids and grannies.

On the other hand mixing pedestrians and cyclists does work, sort of, if the MUP is wide enough and there isn't too many of them. If the traffic is heavy, the modes should be split, to reduce conflict and smooth the bicycle traffic flow, just like they do in the Netherlands! :-)

Now that Oulu has shown the example and has statistics to show it works and is safe, some other cities are doing the same. It certainly has calmed down our bikeways when the noisy contraptions are gone!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Day Ride

It's 1st of May again. Besides students getting drunk, parades, annual May Day motorcycle ride and the concert there was the market. I was getting bored and it was a sunny day outside so went so see what they had for sale. I uploaded some videos: on the way , parked at market and leaving , Crowd at Concert and Red Nose.

Crossing the river I saw the ice is breaking apart. I hope any of the students who decided to go swimming (read: was thrown in by his friends) didn't catch a cold.
 A nice day for a riverside picnic. It was +2C and windy, but at least the sun was shining warmly. It wasn't cloudy, it just looks like that on the photo.
Bikes parked all around the market square, and also on the pedestrian streets I visited later. There was no sign of the construction of the car park yet. IIRC they'll start to dig the tunnel here at the market square somewhere.
 Unfortunately the selection at the market was the usual: cheap jewelry and other trinkets, candy, some food, even t-shirts. The only thing that caught my eye this time was these baskets made of thin strips of wood (don't know the word in english) and some tin pots. The baskets looked very nice.
And then I went to listen the concert at the pedestrian street but I didn't take any photos. Even the video clip caught just the end of one song.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Meteorological spring

According to the meteorological institute the local "meteorological spring" started on 11th April, when the average daily temperatures climbed above zero degrees Celsius. The summer will start on late May.

Even though the snow has been melting fast and I've even seen some motorcyclists on the streets, if a cold spell comes it can get below freezing even during the day and the snow stays on the ground for a moment. Like it did last week.
The sea outside Oulu seems to  be still frozen. I tried to go to the old docks to get a closer look, but there was too much snow to ride through. Here used to be a sawmill and tar barrel storage area, but it burned down and now the lot is empty. Good area for walking the dogs. I'd have thought this wide open area would be clear of snow pretty fast, but the snow was still knee deep.

No sign of anything green on the bushes around the lot either.
Until yesterday I thought all streets and bikeways would be ice free already, but I was wrong. 10 cm of ice! I rode between the ruts, it was easier than trying to balance in them. I have been thinking about switching to a summer tyre. Maybe it's time as it seems the ice is gone. 

Oh, I bought a studded tyre on the 'end of winter season' sale a month ago. Even though it was almost too late as the bikeways were clearing fast I did get to ride on ice with them. Having one on the front wheel helps a lot and I don't think one on the rear wheel is necessary with my riding style. The rear wheel tends to follow the front wheel. In fact it was a bit funny to have the front wheel go straight over icy ruts and bumps and the rear wheel would slip left and right. :-)
One more iceberg photo. This one was so high you can barely see the cyclist behind it! Inspired by all the documentaries and movies about Titanic shown these last weeks.

I noticed one funny thing about the documentaries. There was two of them one after the other on a certain tv channel. Each claimed to tell the truth about the sinking, but they disagreed. One claimed the steel and rivets used were of good quality. The other found substandard iron rivets had been used near the bow because the machine used to punch the steel rivets was too clumsy and couldn't work there. The steel rivets couldn't be installed manually, so they had to used iron rivets. Did the first show even know iron rivets had been used? Well, it's fun to watch them and nitpick!

A shiny bikeway. This time it's not ice, just wet asphalt. Notice it has been cleaned, and all mud and gritting sand has been swept to the sides. They made the snow dirty. :-/ The wall you see is a noise barrier between the bikeway and the street.
This one shows the brown grass and a too narrow (maybe 2 meters) paving on the footpath to a bus stop. The snow plow machine has been so wide only one wheel was on the asphalt, the other was on the shoulder. Heavy machines will disfigure the shoulder (how do you say it in english?) and crack the edge of asphalt requiring repairs in a few years.
Another example of things found under the snow. The snow plow has been plowing more on the grass than on the bikeway. There isn't any snow plow sticks to mark the edges, so when everything is under the snow and ice even 3 meter wide bikeways can get lost.