A deep railway canyon splitting the urban fabric is converted into a pedestrian and bicycle corridor in a resource-saving collaborative process that also respects the memory of an industrial past. In 1894 a railway line was constructed on the edge of the Helsinki city centre, running between the central station and Länsisatama (“West Harbour” in Finnish). This required the excavation of an open-air canyon of seven metres deep and almost a kilometre and a half long. Helsinki subsequently expanded, surrounding the cutting which, although crossed by seven bridges, still constituted a gash in the urban fabric. In 2008, the cargo port was moved to the Vuosaari neighbourhood and work began on a new residential zone in Länsisatama. The railway connection was no longer necessary and questions about the future of the cutting were being asked.
Austere, versatile and resistant, this recycling of the railway track has been embraced by very different kinds of users. It is so successful that widened bike lanes are now being considered, and even the possibility of extending a “Baana network” of similar tracks throughout the city.
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