The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) has reviewed the new traffic plan for Hämeentie (in Finnish) and commented it through the City of Helsinki electronic commenting service Kerro kantasi. The City of Helsinki City Planning Committee decides in November how to proceed with the Hämeentie traffic plan.
The Student Union's long-term goal has been to facilitate cycling in Helsinki. The Student Union supports the plan, in which Hämeentie would have decent bicycle lanes and the drive-through traffic of vehicles would be discontinued. The implementation of the plan would not only bring annual savings of up to millions of euros for public transport in the area due to shorter bus and tram journey times. The plan would also lower the noise level in the area, make daily life easier for entrepreneurs in the area and encourage cycling and walking.
HYY is a member of the World Student Capital network of student unions, which represents approximately 100,000 students in the metropolitan area. Opiskelijan kaupunki research (OTUS) comprehensively clarified the opinions of students in the metropolitan area on urban planning themes.
In many respects, responses brought up the need for improved cycling and public transport on Hämeentie. When students marked their wishes for cycle routes on the map, for example, Hämeentie was a very popular option. In the survey, students were also asked to assess their opinion on the claim ”There is an adequate number of cycle paths and lanes in the metropolitan area” on the scale of 1-10 (1 strongly disagree – 10 strongly agree). The majority, 18% of the respondents chose 1-4 options on the scale. Thus, one might conclude that the majority of the respondents does not agree with the claim and considers that there are not enough cycle paths and lanes in the capital city.
Clearly the vast majority of the respondents had the opinion that the city should build more pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. 32% of the respondents strongly agreed. 88% of the respondents somewhat agreed with the claim ”The city should build more pathways for pedestrians and cyclists.”
An enormous number of responses were submitted to the open question ”What in particular makes cycling in the metropolitan area difficult?” More than half of all the respondents replied to the additional open-ended question. The difficulties mainly concerned shortcomings in cycling routes and the poor cycling network, the attitude of drivers and pedestrians towards cyclists and the insecurity of cycling. In particular, the cyclists' experiences on the dangers of cycling are worrying. Many considered cycling in the metropolitan area downright dangerous. This opinion presumably concerned cycling in the city center of Helsinki, in particular, since many comments brought up the heavy traffic among the trams, cars and other forms of transport.
The topic is highlighted in the following responses to the open-end survey, for example:
Cycle paths are not available everywhere, for example on Hämeentie. It is dangerous to cycle among the cars, which means that you cannot or do not dare to cycle everywhere.
The section between Sörnäinen-Hakaniemi on Hämeentie is very dangerous. Cyclists have to drive dangerously among the cars and buses also on other parts of the street. Cycle routes are neither fast, we need more pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, so that cyclists do not have to take detours.
I go to my school along Mäkelänkatu. There is no bicycle lane and there is heavy traffic on the road and therefore I do not dare to cycle among the cars. Cycling on bus lanes is particularly difficult as drivers are sometimes unpredictable and it may be difficult to detect a bicycle from the bus. In addition, pedestrians do not prefer to have cyclists on the pedestrian walk.
The lack of cycle paths decreases the willingness to cycle. Cycling in the city centre among the cars (in a traffic jam) seems too scary.
The Student Union wishes that the plan will proceed without compromising the level of cycle lanes and the removal of drive-through traffic. In the long run, it may be necessary to consider new ways to speed up and facilitate traffic on Hämeentie. One of the means could be to significantly reduce the bus traffic or completely remove the bus traffic from Hämeentie by guiding traffic to Pasila or Kalasatama, from where transport to the centre of Helsinki would be implemented by rail transport in connection with the bus terminal. In the short term, the plan implemented as such would significantly facilitate the daily life of the metropolitan area and students.
Alviina Alametsä, Member of the HYY Board in charge of city affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org, 050 595 0318
Sofia Lindqvist, HYY’s specialist (housing, health, city), email@example.com, 050 543 9605