Helsinki "well on its way" at Helsinki Summit
The Helsinki Summit, held from 18-20 August, brought together cycling experts from Finland and beyond to discuss the role of cycling in the sustainable and human-centric cities of the future. The in-person and livestreamed event was hosted by the City of Helsinki and the CIVITAS Handshake project.
Speakers from both Helsinki and Copenhagen reflected on the impacts the Handshake project has had on cycling in their cities. As host, Helsinki was the central topic however, as the city made clear its mission to becoming the third best cycling city in the world. The speakers representing Helsinki, including Deputy Mayor for Urban Environment Anni Sinnemäki, emphasized the value of the conference as an opportunity to inspire and advance the cycling agenda in Helsinki.
Deputy Mayor Sinnemäki explained that the city is still lacking a Cycling Strategy, but does have a new Bicycle Action Plan, which is guided by ambitious goals, like increasing the cycling modal share to 20% by 2035 - which it is on track to reaching. To achieve this, the city is focusing on five action areas, including route efficiency, route maintenance, bicycle parking, cycling promotion and the relation between the workplace and cycling.
One presentation, by Helsinki representives Henna Hovi and Oskari Kaupinmäki, introduced an initiative called 'Safe and Active Mobility for Children', which utilises the co-creation approach to urban design by enlisting the direct insight of children. The vision is that in areas surrounding schools, children will be able to move around in spaces designed for them, rather than for adults. The model initiative at one school in the suburbs of Helsinki is planned to be expanded nation-wide.
A panel discussion was a key feature to the Summit, which featured Klaus Bondam (Danish Cyclists Federation), Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki, Laura Rissanen (Helsinki City Environmental Committee), Pieter Litjens (CROW - Netherlands) and Martti Tulenheimo (Finnish Cyclists’ Federation). When asked about what makes a 'vital' city, the panelists agreed that a holistic approach to city design, which considers the entire public space, is integral. Places that allow for dialogue, but also emphasize the value of differences, are what make these places accessible to all.
It is widely recognized within the European cycling community that there is an ongoing competition between Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands to be the best. Handshake is a special project because it provides a rare opportunity for cycling experts and advocates from these countries to share knowledge towards a common goal. Speaker Klaus Bondam reflected on this when he said, "we have the same goal of having a liveable and healthy city with a good environment".
In addition to a programme of speakers, conference participants had the opportunity to join informative cycling tours, which provided a complementary hands-on perspective to the discussions. Tour participants observed the location where a Bikenomics analysis was performed, as well zones that had recently transitioned to being solely for bicycles. Information was also shared regarding how city planners designed bicycle paths and bus zones so that they did not impede each other.
The resounding message from many speakers throughout the Helsinki Summit is that the city is "well on it's way" to reaching its goal of being the third best cycling city in the world.
Discover recordings from the conference here.