Walking and cycling are modes of transport which are in line with a sustainable and environmentally friendly transport policy. The promotion of bicycle and pedestrian traffic also contribute to making the transport system fair for its users. Not everyone has their own car or access to an efficient public transport link, and these people must be ensured the opportunity to reach their destination by walking or cycling.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications is making efforts to increase the modal share of bicycle and pedestrian traffic, particularly in urban regions. The street network in towns and cities, the walking and cycling routes and, in the Helsinki metropolitan Area, rail traffic should be planned so that they enable a safe environment for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The Government Programme encourages the authorities to take determined efforts to develop cycle and pedestrian routes and promote measures which increase non-motorised traffic.
Provisions on non-motorised traffic are laid down in the Road traffic act (267/1981) and decree (182/1982) and in the Ministry's decision on traffic control (203/1982). In addition, the Finnish Transport Agency and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities have joint planning instructions for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The issue is also included in the instructions for the maintenance of streets and pedestrian and cycle routes.
A Strategy for Walking and Cycling, together with the associated
implementation plan, were completed in 2011-2012. The Strategy aims
to increase the share of journeys made on foot or by bicycle by 20
per cent, or 300 million trips. A corresponding decrease should
take place in short passenger car trips. The implementation of
these policy lines requires that different kinds of organisations
and various levels of administration are committed to the project
and engage in close cooperation.
According to the Strategy, walking and cycling are healthy modes of travel, which people should be encouraged to use. Walking and cycling should be fully recognised in the transport system alongside other modes of transport, and this should be reflected in the allocation of resources. Non-motorised traffic should also be given attention in urban, traffic and land use planning. When the trip to work, school or everyday services is short, pleasant and safe, people are likelier to see walking and cycling as attractive options for making the journey. The measures needed to achieve this are goal-driven cooperation among all the actors involved, reallocation of resources, changes in legislation and follow-up of development.
In its Transport Policy Report of 2012, the Government stated that the promotion of walking and cycling in an appropriate way should be taken into account in transport policy, in the procurement of transport services, and in the development of transport environments. In the Climate Policy Programme for the Ministry of Transport and Communications' administrative branch (2009), quantitative targets were set for non-motorised traffic with a view to reducing emissions.
The Finnish Transport Agency has drafted a national action plan, released in 2012, which implements the Walking and Cycling Strategy.
Safe walking and cycling can be promoted by building pedestrian and cycle routes, which at the moment comprise some 5,000 km, and by building over- and under-passes along roads. On roads that have no separate paths for pedestrians or cyclists, it is important that the verges are properly maintained. Action to improve lighting and traffic control will also contribute to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
The transport and infrastructure division of ELY Centres for economic development, transport and the environment is responsible implementing the tasks of state regional administration. The Finnish Transport Agency is in charge of the operational control of the ELY Centres in the field of road management. The Finnish Transport Safety Agency and Liikenneturva (the central organisation for traffic safety in Finland) monitor and participate in the marketing of traffic safety measures.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications cooperates with the Ministries of the Environment, Social Affairs and Health, and Education and Culture in developing pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The Ministry is represented on the TELI committee for health-promoting physical activity, whose areas of interest include walking and cycling.
There is also unofficial cooperation on developing non-motorised traffic, particularly with other Nordic and EU countries.