With temperatures rising and the snow and ice disappearing, we’ve started thinking about using bicycles as an alternative to public transport in Helsinki. The city is pretty accommodating for cyclists, with biking lanes on many of the major roads (check out the city’s bike lane map). So, as the thought of getting to work faster (especially for Brigitte) and of being able to explore new parts of the city, we became more and more active in searching for suitable bikes. As a new bike will set you back €350+ (although, admittedly, you can find cheaper), we’ve been exploring the second-hand option.
Our first stop was the Kierrätyskeskus (they were having a bike sale), then the local second-hand sports shop (Sportti-Divari – who do have bike helmets available cheaply), and quickly checking our closest bike shop (but nothing second-hand). However, we had success when we ventured down to the city centre to Greenbike – we found a great value bike for Brigitte. They had a fairly good selection of second-hand bikes, all of which had been serviced. We just grabbed a bell from Clas Ohlson (which is just around the corner) and one of us had a bike… And returing to Greenbike one month later, we found a really good selection of men’s bikes too, so I also have a bike now! You can find a list of other places to check out for cheap bikes at this site (Erasmus students network – including a link to the Helsinki police, since they auction off confiscated bikes).
Helsinki’s transportation office now offers an online route finder to cyclists (and pedestrians), so you can figure out how to get from A to B with the least effort (or with the least time off bike paths) – you can check it out here. Helsinki has a few special tourist bike routes too (see the Biking in Helsinki brochure and the city’s tourist bike routes). There’s a useful report available online detailing cycling accidents in Helsinki – worth reading to know what to avoid. Helsinki’s cycling community seems to be quite an active one, often campaigning for improvements to city infrastructure for cyclists – for example, protesting about the lack of a bike lane in Hämeentie (which runs past our apartment) – see this article about their clever protest action.
If you have the cash and want to invest in a seriously cool bike, I’d suggest checking out Pelago bicycles in Vallila (they aim to make bikes that will still ride in 2050) or the Brompton folding bike (available from Greenbike in Punavouri). Alternatively, if you’re just visiting the city for a few days, there are a couple of places you can rent a bike (for example, Greenbike, Bicyclean or RentABike) – and hopefully Helsinki will be (re-)launching its city bike program then (see this article from the Helsingin Sanomat). And finally, since the rules of the road for cyclists and pedestrians are not exactly what I’m used to from South Africa, I had to track down something to explain them to me – check out this document from the Finnish traffic authority (in English).