Municipalities in Finland are being provided with funding to encourage residents to walk and cycle more. So far the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom, has granted a total of 3.5 million euros to local governments to develop routes for these activities.
The funding programme is part of a comprehensive 41-million-euro "green scheme" introduced by the Juha Sipilä government in 2018 to increase time spent walking and cycling. The current government programme aims to take the initiative forward.
Altogether 12 municipalities have received financial assistance for the programme. Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Mikkeli and Lappeenranta all received support during the second funding round this year.
The goal is to boost the number of trips conducted on foot and by bicycle by 30 percent in 10 years – that would mean 450 million new walking and cycle journeys during that time.
"People often use cars for short trips so there is some potential to get new pedestrians and cyclists," said Tuire Valkonen, a specialist with Traficom’s climate and environment unit.
According to Valkonen, it would be realistic and possible to rapidly achieve the goal of increasing journeys on foot and by bike, as long as all players involved are fully committed to it.
"The most important measures include adding bike paths, earmarking funding for the promotion of riding and walking, and influencing attitudes to travel habits," Valkonen added.
New bike routes in Lappeenranta
The city of Lappeenranta in southeast Finland will use the funding provided to construct a dedicated 4.5-kilometre biking path from the city centre to the Lappeenranta-Lahti technical college in Skinnarila. The first part of the route was completed in 2018.
Last year the city drew down on an additional sum that will be used to plan the next stage of the route. It will cover half of the cost of the second stage of the project, with the municipality bankrolling the other half.
"We aim to begin construction this summer," said city engineer Olli Hirvonen.
City officials also want to build additional paths so children can cycle to school during the winter. A separate project focusing on sustainable ways for children to get to school involves planning routes that would allow kids to use their bikes in all weather. In Lappeenranta, around 900 students live within three kilometres of their schools.
According to Hirvonen, a report on increasing the range of winter cycling routes will provide important information for the ongoing project.