New study on cyclists’ environmental exposure in Helsinki

Title: Cyclists’ exposure to air pollution, noise, and greenery: a population-level spatial analysis approach

Published in International Journal of Health Geographics

Authors: Elias Willberg, Age Poom, Joose Helle, Tuuli Toivonen

photo by Christoph Fink

New study assesses the healthiness and pleasantness of cycling in Helsinki.

[press release]

Exposure to environmental pollutants, such as particulate matter and noise, can significantly contribute to the prevalence of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. At the same time, pleasant and green environments have shown to reduce the harm of negative exposures and support health through various pathways. Reducing negative exposures and increasing positive ones is recognized as effective ways to promote public health and people’s well-being.

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New study on 15-minute cities and walking accessibility

Title: The 15-minute city for all? – Measuring individual and temporal variations in walking accessibility

Published in Journal of Transport Geography

Authors: Elias Willberg, Christoph Fink, Tuuli Toivonen

© Christoph Fink

The share of walking in cities should increase, but challenges remain. A recent study by the Digital Geography Lab group reveals what effect age, winter conditions and the service network have on the 15-minute city.

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New study on cyclists’ behaviour in Finland

(C) Christoph Fink

Authors: Steve O’Hern (Tampere University), Elias Willberg (University of Helsinki), Christoph Fink (University of Helsinki), Sergio Useche (University of Valencia)


    • We have published a new study on cyclists’ behaviour in Finland in the journal Safety together with researchers from Tampere University and the University of Valencia
    • Using a survey, we aimed at understanding the behaviour and attitudes of bicycle riders in Finland.
    • Our results show that Finnish bicycle riders report low errors and violations, and high levels of knowledge regarding traffic rules, which is consistent with previous similar studies from other countries.
    • Most participants also report low levels of aggression, which is generally dealt with in constructive ways,
    • Anger was most commonly reported a result of interactions with motor vehicles and less with other road users such as pedestrians,
    • The results point to a need for further separation between bicycle riders and motorised vehicles. Furthermore, we recommend to encourage positive behaviour and train risk perception among those engaging in risky behaviors.

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Geography of sustainable and healthy lifestyles: Highlights from the Annual Meeting of Finnish Geographers 2021

Authors: Vuokko Heikinheimo, Elias Willberg, Petteri Muukkonen

The Annual Meeting of Finnish Geographers organized by the University of Oulu took place (remotely) on 4.-5.11.2021.The “Geography days 2021” provided an opportunity to learn what others are doing and hopefully also to find new contacts and future collaborators despite the remote setting. Here are some highlights from the meeting!

There are several ongoing research projects related to sustainable and healthy lifestyles at various universities and research institutes in Finland. So, we decided to call together a session regarding the topic. As a good basis for the discussions, prof. Tuuli Toivonen gave an insightful keynote on the role of mobile Big Data in geographical research and showcased findings from ongoing and past projects at the Digital Geography Lab, University of Helsinki. 

Photo: Christoph Fink

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New open access book out! Transport in Human Scale Cities

We have published a new open access book Transport in Human Scale Cities, which deals with sustainable urban transport

Sustainable urban transport is one of the biggest challenges facing cities worldwide. This means carbon neutrality, but also taking better into account the needs of people and their preferences and needs.  The new book deals exactly with that.

The new book offers fresh perspectives for both practitioners and researchers how to make cities and the transport in them more human-scale in order to meet the demands of the current sustainability crisis and the COVID19 pandemic.

The book provides multidisciplinary perspectives for the development of urban and transport planning processes with a human-scale approach, considering new data and methods and recognizing the diversity of needs of people. We hope that it brings new perspectives to all interested in urban transport. Continue reading “New open access book out! Transport in Human Scale Cities”

Two new papers out on cycling!

We have published two new articles on cycling! 

What do trip data reveal about bike-sharing system users‘ was published in Journal of Transport Geography.


    • As cities strive to foster cycling, bike-sharing systems (BSS) have become increasingly common.
    • We used bike-sharing trip data from Helsinki and looked at user profiles and usage patterns. We also focused on the possibilities of BSS trip data.
    • The bike-sharing system in Helsinki has been actively used even in international comparison, but our results point toward challenges in BSS inclusivity in Helsinki in 2017. Most use was contributed by a limited group of ‘super-users’.
    • BSS trip data provides opportunities to understanding BSS user profiles & patterns. By being well available, unlike many other cycling data sources, and automatically collected, trip data can save resources, facilitates longitudinal research and reveals observed behaviour.

Willberg E., Salonen M., Toivonen T. (2021). What do trip data reveal about bike-sharing system users? Journal of Transport Geography.

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Towards summer cottages: Mobility flows amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Finland in March

Olle Järv, Elias Willberg, Tuomas Väisänen, Tuuli Toivonen

According to Statistics Finland (2018), there are more than half a million summer cottages around Finland. They are mostly located in rural areas close to waterbodies – lakes and seaside. In a country with 2.7 million households, such a high number of cottages may change the population patterns drastically once people would move to their cottages in large numbers. This is a potential risk during the epidemic outbreak such as the COVID-19 – health care services are designed mostly based on the permanent population and the cottage dwellers might break the balance in sparsely populated areas. Our preliminary findings already indicated that despite travelling restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Finland many people escaped from big cities to their summer cottage, see here. But was it really the lure of the summer cottages that explain the mobility patterns to more rural countryside?

Method: We used anonymised and aggregated mobile network data from Telia Crowd Insights such as activity location data as in our previous analyses, and further examined trip data between municipalities. Activity location data indicates the presence of people in a municipality – once a person stays at least 20 minutes in one municipality during one day, then his/her presence is counted as one activity location in given municipality. For example, when having a longer lunch break in a gas station during a long-distance travel. Thus, a person can have several activity locations in different municipalities each day. Trip data is calculated between the two consecutive activity locations at municipality level. In trip data, actual long-distance travel is counted as two different trips, if a longer break is taken during travelling. For example, travel from Helsinki to Rovaniemi by train via Jyväskylä is counted as two trips in data, because train stops at Jyväskylä longer than 20 minutes. These nuanced must be taken into account while reasoning findings.

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Kesämökkejä kohti – Liikkumisvirrat Suomessa COVID-19 epidemian aikaan

Olle Järv, Elias Willberg, Tuomas Väisänen, Tuuli Toivonen

Tilastokeskuksen mukaan (2018) Suomessa on yli puoli miljoonaa kesämökkiä. Pääosin ne sijaitsevat harvemmin asutuilla alueilla lähellä vesistöjä. Maassa, jossa on yhteensä 2.7 miljoonaa kotitauloutta, kesämökkien määrä voi vaikuttaa merkittävästi väestön sijoittumiseen, etenkin jos ihmiset siirtyvät kesämökeilleen massoina, kuten tapahtui COVID-19 kriisin alettua. Kun terveyspalvelut ovat pääosin suunniteltu vakituisen väestön pohjalta, kesämökkeilijät voivat merkittävästi lisätä terveyspalveluihin kohdistuvaa taakkaa. Alustavat tuloksemme viittasivat siihen, että moni siirtyi kesämökilleen isoista kaupungeista COVID-19 epidemian seurauksena huolimatta hallituksen matkustusrajoituksista (linkkI). Mutta selittikö kesämökkien houkutus todella löytämämme liikkumisrakenteet?

Menetelmä: Kuten aiemminkin, käytimme Telian Crowd Insights-palvelun anonymisoitua ja yleistettyä mobiiliverkkodataa, kuten aktiviteettisijainteja ja matka-aineistoa. Tilastotasoisista aineistoista ei ole mahdollista tunnistaa yksittäisien ihmisten tai pienten ryhmien liikkeitä. Aktiviteettiaineisto kuvaa väestön oleilua  kunnan alueella, jossa jokainen 20 minuutin oleilu yhden päivän aikana tallennetaan aktiviteetiksi kyseisen kunnan tilastoon. Tällöin esimerkiksi pidempi kahvitauko huoltoasemalla lasketaan aktiivisuussijainniksi ja niitä voi olla useampia päivän aikana eri kuntien alueella. Matka-aineisto puolestaan lasketaan kuntatasolla kahden akvitiviteettisijainnin väliksi. Tällöin matka-aineistossa pitkät matkat voivat tulla lasketuksi kahdeksi tai useammaksi matkaksi riippuen pitkien taukojen määrästä. Esimerkiksi junamatka Helsingistä-Rovaniemellä lasketaan useaksi matkaksi mikäli juna pysähtyy osalla asemista, kuten Tampereella, yli 20 minuutiksi. Nämä tekijät tulee ottaa huomioon tuloksia tulkitessa.

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COVID-19 changed the distribution of people in Finland in March – snapshots from aggregated and anonymized mobile network data

Olle Järv, Elias Willberg, Tuomas Väisänen, Tuuli Toivonen

Finland, like all other countries in Europe, was hit by the emergence of the covid-19 in March 2020. On Thursday 12th of March, the government gave the first serious recommendations of cancelling big public gatherings and encouraging distant working.  On Monday 16th March the government presented a state of emergency. The schools and public services like museums and libraries were closed and visits to elderly care homes were prohibited. Travel was to be limited to minimum. Historically, the border between Sweden and Finland was closed on the 19th March, restricting the workforce to move across the border in the northern areas and Åland islands. As the glittering snow of Lapland was still attracting tourists from the south, the ski resorts were closed on the 23rd March. As the strongest and an unprecedented measure, the border of the Helsinki-Uusimaa region was closed for personal traffic on the 28th March.  

We at Digital Geography Lab received data from mobile phone operator Telia to analyse how these recommendations and restrictions were followed. Below are some first views on the results, showing how the presence of people changed in the 310 municipalities of Finland during February – March 2020. We concentrate on March and compare the presence of people in different municipalities to the first week of February (1.-7.2.2020) – a baseline week before the start of the school winter holidays and the emergence of Covid 19.  The analysis is based on anonymised and aggregated mobile network data (Telia Crowd Insights activity data). A single activity is recorded of every 20 minute stay in one location. Some February days (12.2., 13.2, 25.2.) are missing in the dataset.

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Missä ja milloin COVID-19 mullisti liikkumisen? Analyysiä anonymisoidusta ja aggregoidusta mobiiliverkkodatasta

Olle Järv, Elias Willberg, Tuomas, Väisänen, Tuuli Toivonen

Koronavirus mullisti elämämme maaliskuussa 2020. Vapaa liikkuminen loppui ja ihmiset linnoittautuivat koteihinsa mahdollisuuksien mukaan. Torstaina 12.3. hallitus antoi ensimmäiset konkreettiset suositukset liikkumiseen liittyen: etätöitä suositaan ja isot tapahtumat perutaan. Jo seuraavan viikon alussa julistettiin poikkeustila, jonka turvin suljettiin koulut, kirjastot, museot ja vierailut vanhainkoteihin keskeytettiin. Matkailu kehotettiin rajaamaan minimiin yleisesti ja rajantarkistukset otettiin käyttöön kaikilla Suomen rajoilla, myös Ruotsin suuntaan. Tämä rajoitti myös monien työmatkoja Tornionjokilaaksossa ja Ahvenanmaalla.  Pohjoisen hohtavat hanget houkuttelivat vielä väkeä, joten hiihtokeskusten sulkemisesta pikavauhdilla ilmoitettiin 22.3. Merkittävimpänä toimena vapaan liikkumisen Suomessa nähtiin Uudenmaan maakunnan rajan sulkeminen. Tieto sulusta annettiin maaliskuun viimeisellä viikolla ja varsinainen sulku astui voimaan keskiyöllä 28.3. Mitä liikkumiselle oikeastaan tapahtui näiden viikkojen aikana? Jäivätkö suomalaiset kotiin ja missä niin tapahtui ja koska?

Digital Geography Lab tutkimusryhmämme sai käyttöönsä matkapuhelinoperaattori Telian anonymisoitua ja yleistettyä mobiiliverkkodataan perustuvaa kuntatasoista tilastotietoa helmi-maaliskuulta 2020. Data on poiminta Telian Crowd Insights datapalvelusta, ja se kuvaa väkijoukkojen oleskelua tietyssä kunnassa aina yhden päivän aikana vähintään 20 minuuttia kerrallaan. Alla näet joitakin nostoja vertailuistamme eri alueiden ja ajanjaksojen välillä. Vertailuajankohtana käytämme helmikuun ensimmäistä viikkoa, jolloin korona oli vasta kaukomaiden uutinen eivätkä koulujen lomat vielä vaikuttaneet ihmisten liikkumiseen.

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