Cycling gives a freedom of choice

16.1.2023 14.01
A man with his bicycle on the street.
For Palash Sarkar cycling is an exercise form, and he also takes part in cycling events.

In this article, two Indian expat cyclists living in Espoo talk about their experiences with cycling. Espoo has a large Indian community of more than 2,700 residents. Economic reasons, the autonomy of one’s timetables and healthy habits motivate these two cyclists to choose cycling as their primary mode of transport.

Cycling is a sustainable mode of transport and a meaningful way for many residents of Espoo to move from one place to another. Our series of stories is about cycling in Espoo. Check out the previous parts in the series: Active cyclists in everyday lifeThe whole family cycles, E-biking made pedalling the primary mode of transport and Cycling opens up new routes and opportunities

Discovering new places inspires one to jump on a bike 

For Palash Sarkar from Matinkylä, cycling is an important way to commute from one place to another. The Indian-born ex-Calcutta resident compares cycling in Finland and in Espoo to his homeland. “Here, there are separate lanes for cyclists, which improves cycling safety. Here cycling is also for sports. In India, it is for commuting,” he explains.  

Sarkar cycles his 7–8-kilometre journey to Otaniemi and appreciates the good conditions for cyclists at his workplace. The workplace meets the cyclists’ needs by providing showers and good bicycle parking facilities.  

The changing scenery is a motivation that makes Sarkar cycle: “I enjoy experiencing new places such as restaurants and cafés and the surrounding nature in, for example, Espoo Central Park”. He also appreciates cycling for the health benefits it brings and for saving money. 

Sarkar takes part in a couple of cycling events a year. In 2022 he took part in the Luukki mountain bike competition with 24 kilometres of cycling in Espoo. 

He looks for information on cycling, such as new routes and events, on websites and applications. For Sarkar, cycling is also a social activity, as he likes to join group rides with his mountain bike. He cycles with his friends, too.  

What would then discourage Sarkar from cycling? “Weather, if it’s raining heavily,” Sarkar describes. He also dislikes riding along other vehicles and worries about his bicycle getting stolen while doing his groceries at a supermarket. In terms of improving cycling conditions, he hopes for better bicycle parking facilities. “Oftentimes, the parking space is too narrow for a mountain bike,” he says. 

In general, he describes the conditions for cycling in Espoo as “fine, good”. He especially thinks the routes along motorways and gravel routes are good.  

Cycling as the best choice for less than five-kilometre rides 

For Somnath Paul, cycling is a daily habit.

Niittykumpu resident Somnath Paul is also originally from Calcutta. For him, cycling is a daily habit. “I preferably go by bike all up to five-kilometre transits. In the summertime, even longer,” Paul says. He describes his average amount of cycling as around five to six kilometres daily, 30 kilometres per week and 2,000 kilometres a year. 

Many reasons may affect the choice of a mode of transport, as we see in Paul’s case. “I now mostly commute by bike, but also sometimes take the metro and car once a week,” he says, summarising his mobility habits. He previously lived in Joensuu and used to cycle more while living there. Now he cycles less – thanks to better local public transport options.  

One reason that encourages Paul to cycle is that it is an economical choice. “It’s cheap to cycle,” he says. “Also, I don’t have to wait for a bus. The timetable is in my control.” 

In regard to Paul’s wishes to the City of Espoo regarding improving cycling, he hopes for more public bicycle repair stands, for example in his neighbouring Niittykumpu area. He has used the stands located in other parts of the city, such as those close to his workplace in Otaniemi, to maintain and repair his bicycle. 

In Paul's opinion, Espoo's bicycle paths and tracks are in good condition. There are also good city bike options in the area where he lives.  

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