No, it’s not too cold to bike all year round
Is it too cold in Tallinn for children who attend school from autumn through spring each year? Do the elderly who don’t travel by car and instead wait for the bus at bus stops think it’s too cold outside?
What does the cycling situation currently look like in other Nordic countries? Seven percent of Oslo residents cycle on a daily basis, as do 15 percent of Stockholm residents and 11 percent of Helsinki residents. In Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, more than 60 percent of people cycle to work or school each day. 600 kilometers north of Tallinn, in the Finnish city of Oulu, one in five people cycles on a daily basis; one in ten continues to ride their bike through winter. Winter cycling saw an increase of nearly 67 percent between 2015 and 2020 in Oslo, and 70 percent between 2016 and 2020 in Stockholm. Daily cycling remains on the rise across all Nordic capitals.
An exhaustive overview of weather and the modern urban space was provided in an article published in Sirp in July 2020 titled “Võimatu vaid Tallinnas” (“Impossible Only in Tallinn,” link in Estonian).
A closer look at the Nordics:
Fifteen percent of Stockholmers cycle on a daily basis.
One in three Swedish people cycles at least once a week throughout the entire year. According to its bicycle strategy, which has been in place since 2012, the goal of Stockholm Public Transport (SL) is to increase bike traffic in the city from 5 percent in 2010 to 20 percent by 2030. The effects are already tangible: in 2019, it was determined that daily bike use for travel into Stockholm’s city centre had increased 8 percent. In 2019, Stockholm Regional Council published a study according to which 70 percent of Stockholm residents could commute to work by bike in 30 minutes or less. Daily winter biking likewise increased by 70 percent from 2016-2020. Swedes are a practical people, and wintry weather is no deterrent — cycle tracks are cleared of snow in winter. In 2018, vehicular traffic fell somewhat throughout Stockholm, and the number of people to get around the city centre by bike increased by 55 percent. Stockholm could do more, however: the Swedish capital city hasn’t ranked in the Copenhagenize Index altogether since 2011.
Ten percent of Helsinkians cycle on a daily basis.
Helsinki is a prime example among many that a car-centric development is nothing “natural” or inevitable as Tallinn’s city government continues to claim. Helsinki is growing, and by 2027 is expected to boast a population of more than 700,000. Famously, the Finnish capital is also working toward reducing the number of cars in the city as well. Daily Helsingin Sanomat wrote about the issue of halting motorization in 2016 already. While motorization in Tallinn has been on the rise at a rate of 5 percent a year for some time already, the number of vehicles in Helsinki increased by 5 percent from 2010-2018. In 2018, the city averaged 274 cars per 1,000 residents. The closer people lived to the city center, the less they owned cars. Helsinki residents have the lowest car ownership numbers in Finland. The reduction in vehicular traffic is connected to the city’s goal of reducing transport-related carbon emissions by 69 percent compared with 2005 figures by 2035. In two years, Helsinki jumped from 18th to 10th place in the 2019 Copenhagenize Index.
More than 60 percent of Copenhageners cycle to work and school.
There is little need to write extensively about the Danish capital; practically all of Denmark and the Netherlands bike. It is worth noting, however, that nearly 70 percent of Copenhagen residents report cycling because they find it is a cheaper and faster form of transport; just seven percent opt to bike because it is the more environmentally friendly option. In other words, high degrees of bike traffic do not just happen. When Strøget, one of the city’s main shopping streets, was first closed to car traffic in 1962, the decision was met with criticism: detractors cited that Copenhagen “wasn’t Italy”, that it was cold, that businesses would go under because they couldn’t be accessed by car. The result? Within the span of just one year, sales along the street were up 30 percent, and the number of pedestrians along Strøget had increased by 35 percent.
In 2018, the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) published a major study regarding cycling, traffic, economic growth and public health, the key takeaway of which was that more safe cycle tracks lead to clear economic benefits, improved traffic flows as well as healthier residents.
Copenhagen has topped its own namesake bike-friendliness index since 2015, when it reclaimed the top spot from two-time chart-topper Amsterdam.