Do you know that kids in Finland are bicycling to school even if it is winter? Isn´t it cold and slippery? How do they do that?
Winter bicycling in Finland is common. Before the Christmas holiday, the temperature had already dropped to at least -20 but the number of bicycles in front of the school parked was still so much. That’s pretty cold already right? Soon is the winter holiday and roads are still covered with snow and sometimes having a snowstorm. Are these students some kind of experts when it comes to bicycling?
When do kids in Finland learn to use bicycles?
Based on my observation after having kids of my own, at least at age of three years old, kids in Finland learn to drive bicycles. At age of four, they learned to drive without the supporting or training wheels.
As an expat mom, I give all the credit to my husband for teaching my kids to use bicycles at a young age. I remember when we had just the eldest and he started to remove the training wheel, I can´t explain my feelings. Excited, nervous, and afraid were what I felt. I keep on asking him, is he sure that she can already try it? He said we can try.
We went to a space near the school, that time schools are on summer vacation. It was empty. She was so used to having the support wheel but to have it removed, I am afraid she will fall and get scared after that. I was wrong! She just rode the bicycle like a pro. She managed to go but to turn was a challenge for her. I was almost crying with excitement. She did it!
She practiced and practiced every day until she learned to turn in other directions. Summer is so short in Finland but that doesn’t stop them from bicycling. When it comes to keeping them learning to use without the support wheel, it’s my husband who always introduced them to when to try. Our youngest was then just three and he also knows how to drive with the support wheels. Last summer we had it removed too.
Do I know how to drive a bicycle?
This is one thing I am ashamed of in the beginning. I came to Finland without knowing how to ride a bicycle. Isn’t it I came from a tropical country? How come I don’t know how to ride a bicycle? Truth is, when I was then a child, we had a bicycle but without the support wheel and it was too difficult to drive. I tried many times but the fear conquered me. Besides, there is no need to use the bicycle, why would I learn it? Public transportation is everywhere anyway and there is no such need for bicycles. Also, there wasn´t any separate bicycling road and with the heavy traffic, it is dangerous for cyclists.
Unfortunately, I just learned it when I arrived in Finland for my studies. I lived in the city at that time and in the center, there are buses. However, if I use the bus to go to school, it will take me longer to wait and ride a bus than to ride a bicycle. I have freedom when I will go home and where do I want to go using a bicycle instead. So my aunt and her husband thought me to use it. I learned!
How to use the bicycle during winter?
I understand, when the temperature dropped to +11 during my first year, that time, for me I was already freezing. It felt so cold that I thought I can’t ride a bicycle. As I do it every day, my body just got used to it and even learned to know what is black ice and how dangerous it is when bicycling. I ride a bicycle the whole year round a minimum of 10 km a day.
Winter bicycling in general in Finland is so common. Finns ride bicycles the whole year round. Winter tires are common for bicycles here. Proper outdoor clothing keeps warm. Besides, in Finland there is the saying that there is never bad weather but bad clothing, meaning if you feel cold that is just improper clothes you have. There are plenty of activities during winter, especially with children.
“In Finland there is the saying that there is never bad weather but bad clothing, meaning if you feel cold that is just improper clothes you have.”
We also know that during winter in Finland, there are shorter days. On most days children go to school when it is still dark and some of them come home when it is again dark. It is very important to have the proper reflector of the bicycle itself as well as the rider. There is also a must to have the lights in the bicycle for both headlights (white) and the rear lights (red). Wearing a helmet is very important whenever using the bicycle, whatever the season is especially some days that can be slippery in winter.
Winter bicycling roads in Finland
One struggle only for the winter bicycling in Finland is the freezing temperature that can cause it harder to drive. The speed might be slower than usual. It is a bit difficult to breathe in freezing temperatures too while riding. The good thing is that in Finland there is a separate bicycling road. In bigger cities, that bicycling road is also divided into two, one side is for walking and the other side is solely for bicycles only.
These bicycling roads are also maintained during winter. They also put sand on the road, especially during slippery days. Sometimes though if it’s really heavy snow, the snow removal takes time and some bicycling roads are not yet properly cleaned when some kids go to school already early in the morning.
Free exercise for children
This is also a good way to have free exercise for the children during the day. Bicycling is one of the most common exercises for children other than walking daily. Fresh air is always resulting to have a good sleep in the evenings. Do you know that starting from being a baby, Finnish kids love to be outdoors and even sleep outside in minus degrees?
Soon will be the winter holiday for this year. It is still a common sight to see students driving their bicycles to school. One thing we adults need to remember is to make sure that kids have the proper safety equipment. For the vehicle drivers also a reminder to keep alert when driving, especially near schools when there are a lot of small children. Small kids are always in danger in traffic and vehicle drivers must be always careful and vigilant.
Do I let my children ride bicycles to school every day during winter?
They used to when their school is closer to our house. Now, they have about a 2.2km one-way distance to the new school. My kids don´t go every day during winter, they usually go on walking, or sometimes we pick them up by car. Or in the morning we bring them to school by car, with the bicycle and they ride bicycles going home.
In general, bicycling in Finland during winter is so common for children. Of course, there is transportation offered for most of the kids who live far away from school but some of them still prefer to use the bicycle instead of waiting for the school bus or taxi.
In my personal experience especially when I was a student, riding a bicycle gave me the freedom to go to places on my own timetable. I also get exercise rather than sitting on the bus.
I also use a bicycle to pick up my kids from daycare. My husband’s bike has the bike child seat and I have the bike child carrier that I can put on my bicycle but during very cold days it isn’t very ideal to use it. So I used it only a few times during winter, the rest of the seasons it is heavily used and the kids like it.
Other than these outdoor activities mentioned for kids in this blog, there are also some other winter sports for families that you can check out.