19 June 2012

Helsinki's Baana Bicycle Corridor

Helsinki Bicycle Life_Rail to Trail2
Last time I was in Helsinki I took this photo of this century old railway corridor that was used for freight trains. I can heard that it was being converted to a pedestrian and bicycle path and it turns out that it has opened recently.

Photo via HBL.fi by Tor Wennström. Martti Tulenheimo from the European Cyclist’s Federation and designer and bicycle user, Arto Sivonen
Helsinki's new "Low Line" (as opposed to NYC's High Line) opened on June 12, 2012, providing pedestrians and cyclists with a 1.3 km long connector between the Western Harbour area to Kamppi and Töölö Bay. It's called the Baana.

It runs through the city centre, providing a safe bicycle route to many points in the city. There four ramps along the way to get back to surface level, as well as entry points at each end. On average, the Baana is 15 m wide, with 34 m the widest point. There are also facilities along the way like basketball, table tennis and petanque and lights and benches have also been placed there.

So... a nice addition to the city. There was a gorge carving through the centre so why not put it to good use? Cheaper than filling it in I suppose. Not much light in this gorge in such a northern city for outdoor activities 8 months out of the year, but hey. The Finns will figure it out.

It's an impressive project, costing between €4 and €5 million, although calling it a "superhighway" may be a slight exaggeration. It's no cycling tunnel like in San Sebastian, but it ain't all that bad.

Let's hope, however, that it is a one-off. Cyclists in Helsinki in the 1930s had safe, separated, Copenhagen-style cycle tracks and there were daily cyclist counts of 10,000 on some of the main arteries, like we can see on these maps from 1937.

The Baana is cool, but it's time for the city to get back on track with separated, roadside cycle tracks in order to meet the goal of the Charter of Brussels, signed by the city in 2009 at Velo-City in Brussels, of 15% modal share for bicycles by 2020.

Will the Baana help reach that goal? Sure. A bit. But it's all about well-designed, Best Practice infrastructure now, if the city - any city - wishes to make a serious effort to return the bicycle to the urban landscape.


John said...

If the Baana is 15m wide on average, why is the cycle path so narrow?

Anonymous said...

Because its 15m wide ON AVERAGE. Narrowest places are maybe max 8 m wide, and there are room for pedestrians etc as well. But yes, it is a little bit narrow for two way traffic. No passing by if there is a lot traffic.
Been there now twice, and it is huge improvement if traveling through Helsinki City center. Great!

John said...

I understand it is an average, but from the picture the current path doesn't seem to be much wider than 3m. It could easily have been half again as wide while still leaving plenty of room for pedestrians.

Hugo said...

Here's a video I shot of the grand opening.


Baana will certainly be great for getting from the railway station in the centre across to Ruoholahti in the west, and the new houses being build in the former harbour at Jatkasaari. But if you want go to Kamppi, the bit of town the corridor runs through it's not so great: you have to get off and push your bike up "ski-track" ramps on the three staircases.

Better than nothing, but you expect more from a € 4-5 million "new era in Helsinki city centre bicycling".

For much of it there's plenty of space for pedestrians, but the fixed-width bike path is a bit narrow.

Here's someone else's video, and see my comment below it for a somewhat dismissive reply from the Public Works Department in 2010:


Daniel said...

I don't get how you call 8m narrow?

Aussie bike paths are about 2m wide...for the duration...

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Vratislav Filler said...

Hugo, dit the path cost between € 4-5 million, or was it all year Helsinki investments into bicycle infrastrutcure?

I'd like to compare this path with Prague "golden" cyclepath Rokytka on former railway (3,5 km, €6mio, several photos here: http://prahounakole.cz/2010/02/cks-rokytka-unor/ ). Prague path is considered by public to be extermly overpriced. Showing an example of similar urban cyclepath (and its costs) may help to show that such cyclepaths are worth to build.

Mountain Bikes Road Bikes said...

Thanks to share the century old railway corridor photo.

trolley castors said...

Improvements for pedestrians and bicycle paths is a good project for the safety of them.

Anonymous said...

Vratislav: 4-5 m€ was the cost of Baana. But, it is not only cycle path. There was a lot of other works included. They made a lot of work to support the structures of old railway corridor, old stone walls etc. 180 trees were plated, as well as 4000 other plants. Baana includes also basketball field(s), other "playgrounds", lightning etc. It is 1.3 km long, and widest part is 34m . bicycle path is c. 2.5-3 m wide. So it is not only bicycle way, but actually new "park" in the middle of Helsinki city centre, and old structures were restored. Great improvement for the city centre. I think that the cost was not bad at all.

To compare the costs, a new parking facility (for cars) at same area (töölö) costs 25m€.

Bike Rental NYC said...

The road of Baana is so wide and clean. And thanks to share the century old photo of the Helsinki's Baana Bicycle Corridor. It is a old photograph.

Vratislav Filler said...

Anonymous: Thanks for information!

Hannu Makarainen said...

It's has been opened

Otso Kivekäs said...

To best of my understanding, the actual cycle path + walking corridor cost only one million. The rest of the estimated cost was for all kind of related work such as the sport places, plants, art and whatnot.

The width is indeed 8m at the narrowest point. Unfortunately the cycle path itself is only 2,5m, which is nowadays the minimum width for 2-way cycle path in Helsinki. Baana will obviously need a wider path.

Mikko said...

Otso K can comment on the building of "best practices" bicycle infrastructure in Helsinki, but the short version is that things are improving. Copenhagen-style bike lanes are currently under construction on one major thoroughfare and more are on the way. The cyclists organization has managed to influence the city planners and constructors to fix various problems with new facilities, and the civil servants have taken notice and improved their practices. It's a long, gradual slog of course, but it is moving in the right direction.

Frits B said...

Looks wonderful but apart from the lack of light in the darker months, what happens in case of heavy rain or snowfall? Water can be pumped away but where do you shove the excess snow?