Finland improving integration through cycling

Photo: Wagrati_photo on Pixabay

Thiking of the Nordics one might picture girls in floral dresses with baskets and men with hats who ride around on their bicycles while laughing and cheeringly ringing their bells to greet people.

If you have ever been to the cold North, you will know, that reality is quite far from this idylic image.

Apart from adapting to the weather, when tourists and immigrants arrive in Scandinavia they are more likely to come across people on bicycles who yell at them for not taking care or being aware of the cyclists.

In Finland they have decided to do something about this by offering free cycling lessons for immigrants. A project run by the Finnish Cyclists’ Federation and funded by Finland’s state lottery and gambling monopoly.

According to authorities, more than half of the Finns bike once a week or more and 10 percent defy the weather and cycle all year round, AFP writes.

So, the idea is that biking will help people integrate when they can transport themselves like the natives.

“Many people who come to Finland, mostly women, they don’t have this bicycle skill and it’s a very important part of Finnish society,” Federico Ferrara of the Finnish Cyclists’ Federation told AFP.

“Many of our clients have some kind of taboo with these biking skills, maybe they’ve fallen down when they were kids and they have this trauma in their head for 20 years, or maybe it’s not socially or culturally accepted for them to bike,” Federico Ferrara continues.

Baby steps

At first, the cylists-to-be will learn to be comfortable with the bike before they are guided to the road and taught how to navigate in traffic.

The Finnish Cyclists’ Federation have so far taught 320 beginners to ride a bicycle over the past 18 months.

Federico Ferrara adds that 90 percent of his clients can drive safely in a car park after three hours of bike-school.

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