Cycling is a healthy, environmentally friendly and affordable way of moving around. It is an easy and fast form of transport especially on shorter journeys. Cycling is suitable for practically all ages, and is an easy, fun and fitness-building activity.
Cyclists must be in control of their bicycle and know the traffic rules for cyclists. A proactive riding style and a positive attitude towards other road users increase safety and contribute to a pleasant traffic environment. You will also need a good helmet, which protects your head in case of an accident.
Cyclists as drivers
Cyclists are also drivers in charge of a vehicle and subject to almost all the same rules as drivers of other vehicles. The bicycle is usually two-wheeled and requires good balance control. For example, you need to be able to steer with one hand when indicating that you are about to turn.
Cyclists should know where they can ride and where to position themselves on various types of roads. It is important to know the priority rules so that you can navigate intersections safely. Safe cycling requires riding skills and the ability to consider other road users and spot potential hazards. Being proactive means observing other road users and adjusting to their manoeuvres in a safe manner. Alertness and focusing on cycling are important. You should not use a phone while cycling if it affects your ability to focus on riding and other road users. If you need to use your phone, it is a good habit to stop somewhere where you don’t disrupt other traffic.
According to the Road Traffic Act, all road users have a duty to exercise caution and anticipation. Combined bicycle and pedestrian ways are common. When cycling, pay special attention to pedestrians and give them safe space. When overtaking a pedestrian or another cyclist, keep a safe distance. Motorists must also keep a safe distance when overtaking a cyclist riding on the edge of the road.
Cyclists are responsible for ensuring that they have the necessary ability and fitness to cycle safely. Illnesses, medication, fatigue and intoxication can affect cyclists’ ability to drive. The use of alcohol or drugs increases the risk of a cycling accident.
Cycling drunk on a non-motorised vehicle is an offence, if the cyclist causes danger to other road users. A drunk cycling offence is punishable by fine or up to three months of imprisonment. There is no alcohol limit for cyclists in Finnish law. Some European countries have such limits in place.
Keep your bicycle and accessories in good condition
A well-maintained bicycle is safe and comfortable to ride. It requires good brakes and the recommended air pressure in the tyres. The recommendation is printed on the side of tyres. Choose the right bicycle for your needs and local conditions. If you frequently ride on poor surfaces or in winter conditions, consider purchasing a bicycle with wide tyres. Studded tyres improve safety and comfort in winter. It is a good idea to use studded tyres on a bicycle when the night temperature drops below freezing and when lawns are frosty in the morning. At least the front tyre should be studded, as it improves control. A studded rear tyre improves grip during braking. Coarsely patterned or deep-grooved tyres are also suitable for winter conditions, but they only provide improved grip on snow.
Pay attention to your visibility especially during dusk and night time, and check that your reflectors and lights work. Lights and front, back and side reflectors are required after dark. The front light should be white or light yellow, and the rear light should be red. Instead of a fixed lamp mounted on the bicycle, other equivalent lights such as headlamps can also be used.
Regular maintenance keeps the bicycle in good condition. In winter, the best storage for bicycles is a dry and cold storeroom. If a bicycle is left in a warm garage in sub-zero weather, it will develop condensation. Condensation in the brake cables can freeze and create a safety risk once back on the road. In bicycles with chain gears, it is a good idea to rotate the pedals by hand before riding in sub-zero temperature following rain, to avoid breaking the gears. Regular oiling of chains is also recommended.
Keep your equipment in order
. It protects the cyclist’s head in the event of an accident. Make sure that your helmet is in good condition and attached correctly. The helmet is particularly important in winter when the risk of sliding and falling is higher. A hood under the helmet keeps the head and forehead warm.
Cyclists can improve their visibility with reflectors attached to their clothing and helmet, or by using a high-visibility vest. Brightly coloured clothing or helmet also improves visibility.
Clothing appropriate for the weather improves comfort and safety. In cold weather, warm wind- and rainproof clothing prevents discomfort. Make sure you have appropriate gloves that keep your fingers warm for the whole journey. Winter cyclists also need good, warm shoes.
Learn traffic rules for cyclists
A bicycle is a vehicle and the cyclist is its driver. It is important that cyclists know and observe the traffic rules for cyclists. Key traffic rules for cyclists and pedestrians are summarised in our (Opens in a new window)
Practise anticipation when cycling
You can improve your safety and comfort by choosing the safest routes. Pay special attention to road crossings, as the majority of collisions between cyclists and cars happen at intersections. In winter, road markings may be covered under snow and ice, and you need to pay more attention to traffic signs. Use cycleways or combined cycle and pedestrian paths where possible. If your local cycleways are not maintained during winter, you can ride on the edge of the road.
Adjust your speed and distance from other road users according to the situation and conditions. The most common type of cycling accident is falling on a slippery or uneven surface. By reducing your own speed, you can give yourself more time to spot and react to unexpected situations.
In Finland, roads are slippery from October until April, and they can take cyclists by surprise. The most common type of accident is falling on a slippery road. Surfaces can be especially treacherous when the temperature hovers around zero and there is ice under a layer of snow. Sudden moves should be avoided while cycling on slippery roads, as they can easily make the bicycle uncontrollable. Bear in mind that roads can be especially slippery at intersections and crossings, where braking cars create a smooth surface. Wet fallen leaves can also make cycleways slippery in autumn. In spring, winter grit left on road surfaces after snow has melted can cause bicycles to skid.
Proper observation of other traffic requires concentration. Listening to music or handling a mobile phone can distract you when cycling. Technical devices should not be used while cycling, if it makes driving difficult or dangerous.
Proactive cyclists take other road users into account and signal their intentions. Cyclists have a duty to indicate when turning and give audible warnings (by e.g. ringing the bell), which also improves the cyclist’s own safety.
The bicycle must have a working bell or similar to warn other road users. There are road users of all ages and skill levels. Cyclists must remain particularly alert in the vicinity of kindergartens and schools, where there are small children who are inexperienced road users.
A good bicycle is the right size for the user. An appropriately sized bicycle is comfortable to pedal and easy to steer. The right bicycle can be found by testing and adjusting for a comfortable riding position and good control.
- At least one effective braking device. Bicycles that are designed for transporting cargo or passengers must have two separate braking devices. Two devices are also required if towing a bicycle trailer and in bicycles with more than two gears.
- A white front reflector, a red back reflector, and white or brown-yellow side reflectors (or reflective tyres/stickers)
- Lights when cycling at dusk or night time: a white or light yellow front light and a red rear light. The lights can also be mounted on your helmet or body.
- An audible warning device, such as a bell.
Source: Traficom Regulation 2021, Vehicles Act 2021
At night time, cyclists can be seen better by other road users if they wear reflectors, a reflective vest or other reflective clothing.
A secure basket or bike bags are useful for carrying e.g. shopping. If you carry cargo on your bicycle, pay attention to your balance. When the load is distributed evenly on both sides of the bicycle, the bicycle rides more stably and safely.
Transporting passengers by bicycle
Passengers can be transported by a bicycle that is designed for that purpose. Suitable seating must be available. Passengers can also be transported in a bicycle trailer. Children can be transported in an appropriate child seat. If you transport a passenger, your bicycle must be fitted with two separate braking devices.