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Four seasons cycling

Oulu is a leading city for year-round commuting by bike. Laura Paloheimo cycles to work, come sleet or shine.

The city of Oulu has more than 600 kilometres of cycle paths, several metres per inhabitant. The bikeway network covers the whole city and the paths are maintained all year round. Improving and maintaining the bike paths are included in the city transport strategy.

It is not surprising then that more than a fifth of the residents travel around in Oulu by bicycle. In other parts of the country, the average is ten percent. According to Finnish National Transport Survey, 21% of trips in Oulu are made by bicycle in summer and 9% in winter. These figures are impressive, even from a global perspective.

One of the thousands of avid cyclists is Laura Paloheimo. She works for the City of Oulu and commutes to work by bike.

“I have always cycled. Environmental reasons are my main motive. When I look at the snow in the spring, grey with dirt, I feel good knowing that I am not adding to the pollution.”

The 11-kilometre distance from home to workplace takes a bit over half an hour on bicycle. According to Laura Paloheimo, this is “not a long distance”, so it does not require any special gear.

“I dress in my working clothes and then wear an outer layer that protects from weather. I try not to pedal too fast so that I will not break a sweat. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.”

A good bike is not a must, but definitely an asset.

“I rode my husband’s bike for years, but two years ago I bought myself a good bike, and now I understand what a pleasure cycling can be.”

She changes to winter tyres after the first frosty mornings in the autumn, “preferably before falling off for the first time”.

When temperatures plummet below minus 20 degrees Celsius, when bike paths are snow-packed or icy, it can put off many a winter cyclist. Laura Paloheimo maintains that on most days, the weather does not really matter.

“On dark, windy or wet mornings I sometimes need to have a talk with myself. Yet, once I get ready, it is not that bad. And in Oulu, you will never be the only one cycling”, she grins.

Laura Paloheimo finds that riding her bike is a good start for a productive workday.

“Instead of sitting in your car, swearing in the morning rush hour, you breathe fresh air and get your circulation going.”

Riding a bike, you can also get your daily dose of nature. This winter, Laura Paloheimo has seen both hares and foxes. For weeks now, spring birds have greeted her with their song.

“Cycling is wonderful now, when it is light both in the morning and in the afternoon, but I feel that I need the regular dose of oxygen especially during the darkest months of winter. The best seasons for commuting by bike is summer, though. After you get rid of your winter tyres, you can pedal fast! 

Top of page: For Laura Paloheimo, bike is the most practical form of transport. Photo (c) Pirjo Lempeä.

End of page: In Oulu, winter is as good a season for cycling as any other. Photo (c) Jaani Föhr.

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