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A Finnish cyclist’s best friend?

July 23, 2006
Even blogs need holidays… But hey, I am back! I hope that everyone has been enjoying their summer so far. But now it’s time to get down to business…
 
Have a look at the attached pictures: A red traffic light, a pedestrian crossing and a green pedestrian light… Are these the best friends of a Finnish cyclist?
 
CERTAINLY NOT! (Let the rant begin…)
 
I can count with several hands the number of times this biking season I have had a close call with idiots who run red lights (when it is already green for me) or drivers who pull their cars onto a pedestrian crossing when I am hurtling towards it on my bike.
 
Just a couple of weeks ago, I had to swerve wildly and miss a woman who had pulled into the middle of a pedestrian crossing without looking towards the right where I was coming from (she looked left of course). SH*T! In addition to nearly going over the hood of her car, I almost hit a sign post to avoid her. Did she see me? No. She just pulled out and drove along on her merry way. I nearly had a haemorrhage I was so ticked off.
 
This is a normal occurrence for many cyclists in Finland. While most Finnish drivers have their eyes peeled for cyclists – some don’t and they are the ones who will run over and kill someone someday; for the simple fact that they didn’t look both ways before pulling onto a pedestrian crossing.
 
Another problem that I have encountered while cycling with the Mr. is that drivers often look for the first cyclist – but not the second one. I almost met my maker one day when a driver kept rolling through after the Mr. had gone through the intersection… I was about 10 metres behind him. So cyclists beware!
 
I have mentioned before that Finland is a very bike friendly country – much more bike friendly than where I grew up and went to university. In northern Ontario I was left to cycling on the roads and truth be told, I felt safer. At least drivers had the sense to give some room when I had to share the road with them. No such luck with trying to get drivers to share the sidewalks here in Finland. Even riding on bike paths can be hazardous as scooters and small motorcycles are allowed to drive on the sidewalks. Their speed limit is apparently set at 50 km/h… I’ve seen them fly by at much higher speeds than that and they are a hazard to walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers.
 
To add to that the local free paper Länsiväylä recently reported an account of a man who collided with a scooter on the bike path between Nokia House and Lauttasaari in Espoo. He was uninjured… He however, did say that overgrown shrubs and hedges are a real hazard along many bike paths and that reduced visibility is a real problem in the summer time.
 
As a cyclist in Finland I only have this bit of advice: When you’re on the road, trust no one but yourself.
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