Saturday, February 27, 2010

My first bike ride with Paula

Those of you who followed my blog already now that I ordered a pigeon blue Retrovelo Paula in December which just arrived a view weeks back. Due to lack of parking facilities in my house, it was parked in my boyfriend's apartment while it was still snowy and icy out there (in such situations I rather stick to my old mountain bike of which I know how it behaves) or I was out of town. Finally, yesterday, I took Paula for a ride around town. Here are some impressions of her first glance at Vienna (more are on my flickr album):

Paula in the corridor

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bikes of my life

My first bike was a little and blue. I think I was around 5 years old then. I was very fond of it. I don't remember much of that time, but there's one memory concerning that bike. The memory is vague, I'm not even sure whether the bike was actually mine or my twin sister's. Anyway, we were living in Eskilstuna, Sweden, in a suburban block of flats in a Finnish district. There were some kids that often bullied us and other girls on the block. The bad boys, as we called them, stole that bike, and I was very upset. I can't remember if we got the bike back or not.

When we moved back to Finland, getting new bike took a while. Most of my life we lived in rather small communities and suburbs that had schools, so there was no need for any other transportation besides your feet. One of my home towns was Outokumpu, a town of less than 10'000 people. The school was 2 kilometers from my home, so I walked. My mother was unemployed and single, we couldn't afford bikes anyway. However, some of my friends had bikes, and I often bummed rides on their rack. In the wintertime we sometimes walked, sometimes skied, but my all-time favorite was the kicksled! We had two of them and the downhill on the way back home was so much fun in a clear winter afternoon. You stand on the skids and kick, and you can give a ride to a friend in the chair. I would still love to use one, but road maintenance is usually too thorough in big cities. However, this winter has been so snowy, that kicksled would be more practical than bike. Imagine parking a kicksled next to the bike racks at the university :D

A kicksled, or a kicker. Much more fun than walking!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

All the crap they sell...

Last August a young man got killed in Salo (40 km from Turku) because of a crappy front fork. He was cycling to work, and the fork gave in. His head hit the pavement and he died. The fork was like this:

Friday, February 19, 2010

The city as playground

I don't see many teenagers around here riding bicycles. Are they (or their parents) too afraid? Is it not necessary to get around because public transport is good enough (or parents drive them around)? Or is it just not cool to do so?

I remember being made fun of by other kids when I cycled to and from the grammar school in the neighboring town. Maybe it was because I didn't attend the extended elementary school in my town as most kids did (Hauptschule in German, a school from 10-14, but without a general qualification for university entrance -- see Wikipedia for an explanation). But actually I believe it was because of that stupid looking bicycle helmet that my mum made me wear. The "bicycle helmet fashion" in my area started in the early 90s, and the first helmets were really really ugly and uncomfortable. It created a very negative image of cycling amongst young people.

Better motivations for kids to cycle are those fancy trial riders, e.g. Danny MacAskill from the Inspired Bicycles Team in Edinburgh:

Cycling is really fun, and can be very challenging and cool if need be :).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cooking and cycling

A few days back I received a lovely gift from Anna, our co-blogger from Catalonia (if you're curious about that place, visit her blog about Catalan language and culture). She's been to Florence, Italy, a while back and bought some bike-related clothes for me -- a T-shirt with the imprint "Free Bicycle Love" and an apron.

The apron has a drawing of the bicycle by Leonardo da Vinci on it. As far as I know it's not sure whether this is a hoax or true. As a matter of fact the first bicycles have only been used almost 400 years later. See my earlier blog post "The bicycle is a great invention!" for some more details. There is certainly some mystery to the invention of the bicycle.

Leonardo's bicycle ...
... and my new apron

If you're interested in the subject (and Leonardo da Vinci's bike) you may want to start your investigations by reading about "The Leonardo da Vinci Bicycle Hoax" (text of a paper presented at the 8th International Conference on Cycling History, Glasgow School of Art, August 1997, by Prof. Dr. Hans-Erhard Lessing).

Anyhow, I'm very thankful for the apron (I'm a rather messy cook) and amused by the mystery that surrounds this drawing.

Having said that I should finally also mention "The Hungry Cyclist" who is pedaling the world for a perfect meal. If you don't know what to cook yet, you might find some inspiration there. I'll probably try some of Anna's potato recipes this weekend. Have a lot of fun cycling and cooking too!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


As some of you already now, I am co-blogging on the Austrian bike culture community This website has developed from the homonymous free bike magazine velosophie, that is enclosed in the Standard newspaper a few times a year. The back issues are also available online.

The velosophie blog on the very same homepage exists since May 2009 and so far different people wrote about bike related topics: Alec, Thomas, Bea, Inga, Eva, Karo, Günne and me. As you can propably guess, so many people create a fair mixture of opinions and topics . On Sunday a few of us met for dinner and the exchange of ideas. Was a lot of fun, and hopefully also fruitful.

We're there to entertain YOU (at least the German speaking part). So keep an eye on, watch our progress, and -- most importantly -- let us know what you think!
Velosophie Blog Team: Thomas, Bea, me and Alec

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Paula has arrived!

Last week, actually on my birthday, I received a call from the Citybiker bike shop. They let me know that my Retrovelo Paula has arrived and that I could pick it up in the next few days after they had built it together.

So finally, after a few weeks of impatient waiting, I could embosom my new steed :). Unfortunately it is rather big and does not fit in the bike room in my house (see some pictures in an earlier post). So currently it's parked in my boyfriend's apartment (on the 3rd floor, no elevator). I hope that I will find a better solution soon.

More pictures of the bike in action will follow :).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Media image of cycling

Last Saturday anna wrote about the image of cycling in Austrian media. Today I'm writing about the same subject in Finland.

I reviewed about 30 articles that were published on January 2010 on 5 newspapers' websites. Cycling was by far the best represented in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, which had a half of the articles.

Many of the stories were about accidents and sports. I couldn't be bothered with the sports stories, but there were a few stories of cyclists being hit by cars. Anna mentioned that there are more and more cyclists being killed and injured in the traffic accidents these days in Austria. Well, I don't know about the how it is in Finland altogether, but Turku the numbers have gone down as the cycling infrastructure has improved. I don't think that the cyclists are blamed for the accidents even implicitly.

The rest of the articles were about varying subjects. There were a couple of articles about bike thefts. One theft story was a funny thing from Denmark: a thief had stolen a bike, but he didn't notice that there were 3 kids on the back of the 3-wheeled bike, and so he stole the kids too :) Fortunately he was a good-hearted thief and took the kids back home following the eldest one's instructions.

There were also a couple of articles related to the health benefits of utility cycling, and an article that appealed to the motorists to consider cyclists while driving. All 3 of the cycling accidents on the news were caused by irresponsible motorists, so this plead was not made for no reason.

One article was about cycling infrastructure in Joensuu, eastern Finland. The writer was pleased with the city infrastructure, but hoped that bike lanes were better maintained in the wintertime and that people wouldn't cycle on the sidewalks. Riding on the sidewalks is a common problem in Finland. You are not supposed to do that, but sometimes you've got no choice. For example, there is a busy road (uncrossable without traffic lights) on the way to the supermarket where I do my shopping. For about a 50 meters, the bike lane just disappears on that side of the road (see the pic). It seems unreasonable to take the long way round and wait and cross roads to get back to the place where the lane starts again. Besides, all the bike racks and university buildings are positioned on that side of the road that has no bike lane. A bit stupid, eh? Solutions like that are driving us on the sidewalks. Also, in the winter it is very dangerous to ride on carved icy car tracks among cars. If you are not willing to risk your neck, you sometimes have to choose the illegal sidewalk.

There were also a couple of really nice pieces of news. One of them was an article about a man, who is cycling all the way from Finland to Greece. Other one was a webportage about pimping bikes. It seems to be in fashion nowadays. I've seen some fancy paintwork like zebra bike and a flower bikes in the neighborhood.

However, the piece of news which made me really happy, was the one about proposed changes in the traffic law :D A working group is pondering on the issue of cycling on sidewalks and they also hope to make cycling otherwise as convenient as possible. You see, promoting cycling is a part of many local and sectoral Agenda21 plans (e.g. Turku plan) in Finland, and it is also an essential part of the national sustainable development strategy. Here's some of the things that the working group had thought of:

  • the right to ride a bike the wrong way on one-way streets

  • giving up the compulsory use of bike lanes (I didn't know that it was compulsory :)

  • allowing cycling on sidewalks

  • introducing bike pocket, which is a space in traffic lights in front of the cars that is reserved for bikes . This would mainly benefit those, who like to ride really fast among the cars (not me with my single-geared!)

Nice plans, eh? :D

To compare the image of cycling in Finnish media with the Austrian one, it seems that the image in Finland is much more positive than the image in Austria. It is recognized that cycling among cars can sometimes be dangerous and that it is not the cyclist's fault. There were also some positive articles on cycling infrastructure and legislation. The nation and municipalities are clearly trying to improve the situation of cyclists in the traffic. Also, the press, especially Helsingin Sanomat, brings forward the health benefits of cycling, and also the fun part of it. I'd like to think that the press reports about cycling in a positive way in part because Finnish media is supporting the national sustainability strategy.