In his Master’s thesis in Geography, Tero Niemi has studied student housing and how the amount of exercise students get on their daily journeys to and from Oulu campuses could be increased. The simplest way to achieve the recommended level of exercise is to travel to and from studies using muscle power. The fact that Finns are currently not meeting their physical exercise recommendations has effects on both the individual and national health levels.
Apartment building areas suitable for students should be located at a proper distance from the campuses to increase daily exercise.
“The longer the distance, the higher the threshold to use muscle power. If the journey is considered too laborious, public transport is preferred,” Niemi says.
In Finland, 75% of journeys under one kilometre are travelled on foot or by bicycle. Almost 50% will still choose to walk or cycle if the journey is between 1 and 2 kilometres, but the percentage drops to just over 20% if the trip is between 3 and 5 kilometres.
Students want to live near the city centre and campus
Based on studies made in Finland, students prefer to live near the campus, the city centre and good public transport. According to Niemi’s study, students tend to live in the centre area or near their respective campuses, or the area between the two.
“The location of the apartment should allow for easy travel to the campus, city centre and grocery shops. Not many students own or have access to a car, so distance and public transport do matter,” Niemi says.
Students seek suitable housing from as near their respective campuses or city centre as possible. The residential apartment building areas closest to the campuses have the highest student population density.
“Depending on one’s life situation, small one- or two-room apartments are the most sought-after. An overwhelming majority of the students want to live in the immediate vicinity of the campus, or the city centre,” confirms Juha Aitamurto, Managing Director of the student housing foundation PSOAS.
The city centre has everything close by
Community planning has a crucial role to play in promoting exercise through commuting to studies. Housing affordable on a student budget near Raksila could increase the amount of exercise among students when the new Oulu city campus is established.
“Raksila’s advantage is that it would allow the students to live in the centre. It is much easier for students living in the centre to travel by bike or on foot to Raksila than it is to Linnanmaa,” Niemi says.
An affordable rent level is important for students. Niemi highlights the role of PSOAS in making it possible for students to live in the centre area.
“If the move is carried out considering the students’ housing preferences, Raksila is ideally located for students. From the students’ point of view, everything would be close by so that you would not need a car of your own or even use public transport save for special need or occasion. All daily journeys could take place using human power,” says Niemi.
From some Linnanmaa student apartments, the journey to the current campus is too short for adequate daily exercise, even if using muscle power. The distance between the city campus and the students’ apartments would likely be somewhat longer.
“Paradoxically, the campus should be close enough to motivate the use of human power but far enough to require an adequate amount of exercise,” Niemi says.
PSOAS has time to prepare for the city campus
PSOAS already offers student accommodation in Välkkylä and Peltola, close to the Kontinkangas campus and the planned Oulu city campus. The quality of Välkkylä apartments is to be improved by, for example, building lifts and enhancing accessibility. There are also plans for new student apartments in Välkkylä.
“PSOAS hopes to get to build new sites right next to the campus, as in Linnanmaa. PSOAS is well-able to ensure housing during the transitional period and then build new affordable, high-quality apartments for students, also in the centre,” Aitamurto says.
Most of the Linnanmaa student housing rental agreements will terminate within the same 20-year period during which the move to Raksila is expected to take place. The possibility of repurposing real estate in the vicinity of Linnanmaa is being discussed with Senaatti and the City of Oulu.
“The family sites that PSOAS has in the immediate vicinity of the current campus area will also serve us well in future after renovation,” Aitamurto says.
Cycleway maintenance and shared bicycles promote everyday exercise
Maintaining the pedestrian and bicycle paths in a good, comfortable and safe condition is important in promoting everyday exercise. Winter maintenance is crucial for cycling in particular.
“Oulu has a strong tradition in cycling and is known for its extensive network of pedestrian and bicycle ways. I have heard a lot of positive things said about the ‘Pyöräbaana’ cycleway; it has been a welcome improvement,” Niemi says.
PSOAS also strives to promote cycling and the mobility of students at its sites.
“We are just launching a bike-sharing scheme with the first bikes located at exchange student sites. We are also planning to provide bicycle maintenance facilities in future and acquire cargo bicycles for some sites. Many sites also include small gyms that the residents can use freely,” Aitamurto explains.
Young people value sustainability
According to a study by the Pellervo Economic Research PTT, good public transport is one of the most important factors for people under 40 years of age when choosing a place to live. The same age group is generally more inclined to use public transport than older Finns. According to Statistics Finland, students spend much more money on public transport than households on average.
A campus located near the city centre is favourably situated for access by public transport from different parts of the city.
According to the Finnish Transport Agency’s study on sustainable modes of transport, walking, cycling and public transport account for 19% of all transport in the Oulu region. There is a strong link between increasing sustainable mobility and climate targets.
“In future, people will want services to be close, making sustainable housing solutions even more prominent. Bicycles, public transport and car-sharing will further increase their share of overall transport,” Aitamurto says.
Text Iia Paloheimo
Extra wide ‘Pyöräbaana’ cycleways in Oulu 2031 (plan of the City of Oulu):
Last updated: 2.6.2020