Tuesday, March 13, 2012


You know what's wrong with the law? I don't mean any specific law, but the law in general. Yes, just like any specification, it's never precise enough (even though it's written in legalese), but I wasn't thinking about that. What I was thinking about is that there's not enough pictures. Like, for example, I hear that they've got a law that says you can't ride your bike on the road, if there's a cycle path adjacent to it. (You look it up, I can't be bothered.) And furthermore, they tell me (on the forums) that you're only allowed to ride on the road with a cycle path adjacent to it if the cycle path in question is not rideable. The law doesn't say exactly what "not rideable" means though.

They could make the legislation clearer (not to mention more interesting) if they put some pictures and examples in it. Luckily, there's the internet, so bicycling authorities (disclaimer: actual authority not verified) such as myself can easily publish some examples for the public, and courts, to judge things by (disclaimer: actual applicability in a court of law not verified)

We'll start with an easy one:

Verdict: rideable. 

What about this one, is this rideable or not rideable? 

Verdict: not rideable. However, that was a trick question: there's not a cycle path underneath the snow there, it's just a sidewalk.

How about this one? Yes, there's a cycle path in there somewhere.

Verdict: rideable, you wuss. 

Ok. What about the next one?

This one is pretty typical in wintery Helsinki: the cycle path is in a hideous condition, and the road adjacent to it has been licked clean. It might be possible to ride this, if you have enormous thighs, and an enduro bike. It would seem pretty stupid to try it on a city bike, such as the one pictured, though. 

And yes, 10 metres up the road it seems evident that the cycle path is totally gone: 

Verdict: Not rideable. Please proceed to ride on the road.  

When confronted by conditions such as these, year in year out, one begins to form the idea that the rideability of a cycle path is relative: it depends on your choice of bicycle, state of mind and general obedience to the letter of the law.

Take a look at the same site a couple of weeks later, for instance:

They've taken the huge bank of snow away, so yes, basically, it is possible to advance on a bicycle on this cycle path. However, they've left a 10 cm cake of bumpy, uneven ice and snow on the cycle path, while the adjacent road remains licked clean. Riding on the road, it's possible to keep up a decent average speed comfortably. Riding on the ice, some parts of the bicycle and your teeth begin to fall off from all the rattling and bouncing. It's slow, uncomfortable and hazardous. The level of maintenance for this cycle path doesn't even begin to address the requirements for fluent bicycling. They've just, narrowly, fulfilled the minimum obligation. The road adjacent remains free of snow. There's very few cars going there. There's only a 40 kph speed limit. Verdict: the cycle path is not rideable for a sane person.   

More ambiguity:

There's not a question of moving to an adjacent road here, because there isn't one. I'm just complaining. If it is below zero, this cycle path is horribly slippery, bumpy and uneven. If it is above zero, this cycle path is horribly slippery, soft and treacherous. Both ways, the weather is fine for bicycling. It's the level of maintenance that sucks. It would be possible to maintain this cycle path so it would be good for bicycling. They just don't do it, for whatever reason.

Here's an example of a cycle path left care of Mother Nature since the latest blizzard (a couple of weeks ago) with the temperature a couple of degrees above zero:  

Verdict: rideable (but horrible, profane cursing while riding is allowed). Optimistically thinking, riding a bike in conditions like these improves one's balance a lot. 

Then again, there's not only snow, but other kinds of obstacles as well, that can render a cycle path not rideable. Like, for instance, the vehicles of Rakennus Tapsa and his four colleagues, parked directly on the public cycle path, while Tapsa and co. are embiggening the Hartwall Areena:

Verdict: not rideable. I believe that even Danny McAskill himself can't bunny hop on top of this van from the ground. Possibly, if that bank of snow is hard enough, it could be used as a ramp for hopping on the windscreen, and then to the roof, but it does seem awfully difficult, even for Danny. But what do I know about trials.  

But if Danny McAskill, Chris Akrigg or some other skilled trials rider were advancing the cycle path from the other direction, they could rather easily bunny hop on top of the first sedan, and then keep on hopping from the roof of one car to another, provided that the gaps between cars aren't too wide.  

Verdict: rideable (for Danny McAskill or equivalent), not rideable for regular people.

BTW, when confronted with obstacles of the automobile-y kind parked on the cycle path, I believe that the correct way to get rid of them is to call the parking surveillance hotline (in Helsinki, 09 - 310 39000) and leave a request for parking surveillance, not to destroy the obstacles yourself.