Walking and cycling are modes of transport which are in line with a sustainable and environmentally-friendly transport policy. Their promotion also contributes to the establishment of a fair transport system. As not everyone has their own car or access to an efficient public transport link, it must also be possible to get from place to place by walking or cycling.
It is the aim of the Ministry of Transport and Communications to increase the modal share of pedestrian and bicycle traffic, particularly in urban regions. The street network and walking and cycling routes in towns and cities should be planned in such a way as to ensure safe movement throughout.
In its Transport Policy Report for 2012, the Government stated that the promotion of walking and cycling in an appropriate manner will be taken into account in transport policy, the procurement of transport services and the development of transport conditions.
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. These aims remained unchanged in the 2013 update to the Programme.
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). A comprehensive revision of the Road Traffic Act was begun in the autumn of 2013.
The Finnish Transport Agency has joint planning instructions for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
A Strategy for Walking and Cycling 2020 and the associated implementation plan were completed in 2011. The Strategy aims to increase the share of journeys made by foot or bicycle by 20 per cent, or 300 million trips. A corresponding decrease should occur in short passenger car trips.
Implementation of the policy lines set out in this strategy 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 reasonably short, pleasant and safe, people are more likely to see walking and cycling as attractive options for making the journey. Goal-oriented co-operation among all the actors involved, a reallocation of resources, changes in legislation and follow-up of development are needed to realise this.
Together with relevant stakeholders, in 2012 the Finnish Transport Agency drafted a national action plan for implementing the Strategy for Walking and Cycling by 2020. The plan will be jointly implemented and an interim evaluation will be conducted in 2016.
Walking and cycling safety is 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. Measures to improve lighting and traffic control will also contribute to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
The transport and infrastructure division of Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) is responsible for implementing the tasks of the state regional administration. The Finnish Transport Agency is responsible for the operational control of 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 develop traffic safety measures.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications cooperates with its administrative branch, local and regional authorities, the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and Ministry of Education and Culture in developing pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The Ministry is represented on the Committee for Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (TELI Committee), whose focus includes the promotion of walking and cycling.
There is also unofficial co-operation on developing non-motorised traffic, particularly with other Nordic and EU countries.