What does a good, bicycle-friendly route to school mean?

This spring’s school route orienteering event is an urban adventure taking place in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The event encourages people to cycle more and it is suitable for anyone interested in learning what a good, bicycle-friendly school route is.  Anyone can complete the orienteering route at their own pace during spring and summer 2024. You can participate with your own bicycle or even a city bike. The aim of the orienteering event is to get schools, traffic planners and parents to think about what is needed to support children’s independent mobility in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. 

The school route orienteering event is part of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Cycling Week, which is held from 3 to 12 May 2024. The cycling week is made possible by the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa as well as HSL.

Increasing the use of sustainable modes of transport is part of the strategies of all municipalities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. When Helsinki Region Cyclists asked its members for information on safe, smooth and comfortable school routes for children in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, they learned about a few good examples but also a lot more about the problems that the traffic environment causes for children’s independent movement. This school route orienteering event is a way for us to highlight good practices that we hope will be utilised around every school. Every road is also a school road.

What is a high-quality and bicycle-friendly route to school?

A very high-quality and bicycle-friendly school route runs along a comfortable route away from the noise and dust of motor traffic. The intersections with motor traffic are clear and have great visibility. This means that children know where to wait for their turn and adults can easily see the children. The drop-off and pick-up car traffic on streets near the school is clearly separated from the routes used by children coming to school on foot or by bicycle. In practice, children driven to school by their parents are dropped off about 200 metres away from the school. The school yard has frame-locking bike racks, which are cleared of snow in the winter. A good and bicycle-friendly school route can increase children’s daily physical activity, which is why it is worth investing in. 

What is a poor and not bicycle-friendly route to school?

According to the people who answered the Helsinki Region Cyclists’ survey, the most common shortcomings in the school routes of the respondents’ children include dangerous and busy intersections where it is difficult to understand where cyclists should be. Children cycle to school along unclear routes that are also sometimes interrupted by construction sites that do not have any signs directing children to the correct detours. When children get closer to the school, they must cycle among cars as the drop-off and pick-up traffic is busy near the school. Many school yards do not have bike racks or the existing ones are insufficient. Routes are often noisy and have poor winter maintenance. Such an environment does not encourage children to be physically active. 

How were the sites for the school route orienteering event chosen? 

Members of the Helsinki Region Cyclists (Hepo) community, as well as representatives of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area municipalities, proposed high-quality cycling school routes for children. 

Who is responsible for safe school routes for children?

Urban traffic planning plays a part, but the responsibility for safe traffic conditions for children is shared by parents and other actors and requires cooperation. In addition to permanent solutions, it is crucial that the detour route arrangements of any construction sites and events are managed so that children can safely and independently use these detour routes without getting lost. 

Cycle along a school route

You can read the introductions to the best bicycle-friendly school routes in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa here: hepo.fi/koulureittisuunnistus (in Finnish)

Destinations of school route orienteering:

Arabian peruskoulu primary school

Jousenkaaren koulu primary school

Hämeenkylä koulu primary school

School route orienteering is part of the Cycling Week in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area coordinated by Helsinki Region Cyclists association(Hepo). The week’s events are organised in cooperation with the cities of Helsinki, Vantaa and Espoo, Helsinki Region Transport (HSL), and other operators in the cycling sector. Hepo volunteers also contribute to the events. 

More information:

Taija Timonen
Producer, Helsinki Region Cyclists
+358 50 0877 877

Henni Ahvenlampi
Executive Director, Helsinki Region Cyclists
041 3191002