In the autumn of last year, a new cycle lane turn was added at the busy intersection of Gymnasijní, Velvarská, Glinkova, Pevnostní, and Generála Píka streets in Prague 6. This significantly improved the safety of left turns onto the Velvarská contraflow bicycle lane.
The Velvarská contraflow bicycle lane has been in existence for many years, with its markings dating back to the mid-1990s, making it a true pioneer of Prague’s cycling infrastructure. Today, the Velvarská contraflow bicycle lane serves as a local connection along Evropská Street and acts as a peaceful route to the university campuses in Dejvice.
However, since its establishment, making a left turn onto the Velvarská contraflow bicycle lane when traveling from Střešovice along the Pevnostní – Gymnasijní – Velvarská route has posed a significant challenge. While left turns onto Velvarská were allowed by vertical traffic signs, the horizontal markings not only failed to provide a safe waiting space for turning cyclists but also did not sufficiently alert other road users to the possibility of left turns by cyclists in that direction.
A person turning from Gymnasijní Street to Velvarská Street could easily find themselves in a risky position on the center line between two streams of traffic, especially during heavy car traffic. They would try not to delay other drivers behind them while avoiding crossing into the oncoming traffic. However, that is now a thing of the past. „We support cycling transportation on the Prague 6 roads. The new cycle lanes for safer turns from Gymnasijní Street have further improved the use of the Velvarská cycle track,“ commented Ondřej Matěj Hrubeš (ODS), the council member for transportation in Prague 6, on the changes for the Dopravní 6 website.
The new modification consists of a short cycle lane turn complemented by two highlighting bollards. The new cycle lane occupies the narrow tip of the turning lane into Generála Píka Street, and there has been no significant shortening of that turning lane in reality.
As mentioned earlier, the Velvarská contraflow bicycle lane is part of the historical cycle route number 201, which was built sometime between 1995 and 1996. It is one of the oldest still-functioning elements of Prague’s cycling infrastructure.
The design of the contraflow bicycle lane was done in 1995 by the Institute of Transportation Engineering of the City of Prague (ÚDI) as part of the project „Císařský mlýn – Vypich Cycle Path.“ Interestingly, it was not part of the planned city-wide cycling route system at that time (the Proposal for the Basic Cycling Route System in Prague, prepared by the Cycling Development Commission of the City of Prague in 1992, building upon earlier cycling plans from the 1980s). Instead, it was a local cycling connection ordered by Prague 6 in 1994 based on a resolution of the Prague 6 City Council, No. 151, dated September 20, 1994. The actual implementation took place in the following years. The estimated cost of constructing the entire Císařský mlýn – Vypich cycle route at the time was 266 thousand Czech crowns. The investor was the municipal district of Prague 6.
Despite its local origin, the cycle route subsequently became part of the city’s cycling route system, as evidenced by the cycling route plan from 2003, which depicts it as a permanent component of the cycling route system in Prague.
However, the cycle route number 201 didn’t remain prominent in the city’s cycling plans for long. The subsequent concept of the „A-system“ of cycling routes, first introduced in 2006, no longer includes this route in any of its updates. The new system places much greater emphasis on speed of passage and comprehensive coverage of the entire network of cycling routes, rather than solely focusing on creating „quieter“ sections at the expense of detours or excessive elevation changes.
Although the route number 201 has been in „cycling retirement“ for about 17 years, it is worth noting that improvements continue to be made on this route (as evidenced by the current implementation), and according to the heatmap of passage, its various sections remain popular among cyclists.
Since 2013, there has been a request for improving the turn from Gymnasijní Street to Velvarská Street on the Cyklisté sobě platform. This request was subsequently submitted to the municipal district in 2016 (the author of the article is one of the co-authors of the request, note by the editor). In 2022, the request was finally implemented.
With the gradual implementation of the current cycling route system, the importance of route number 201 is gradually diminishing. For example, the addition of new cycle lanes and the legalization of sidewalks along Evropská Street have significantly reduced the significance of the Velvarská contraflow bicycle lane.
However, recent implementations show that Prague is not abandoning existing and functioning infrastructure simply because the concept from the time of its establishment has been overtaken by new ideas.
In fact, the city and its districts are gradually improving this older infrastructure. This is evident not only in the newly implemented protected turn onto the Velvarská cycle track but also in the previously constructed cycle crossing over Evropská Street, the marking of cycle tracks in Salabova and Slunná Streets, and the legalization of pathways between Evropská and Velvarská Streets. Many of these improvements were demanded and supported by the cycling community.
All of this primarily contributes to the gradual improvement of urban accessibility for cycling. It provides the opportunity to choose from multiple possible routes, with their safety for cyclists gradually being enhanced. Unfortunately, the process of implementing these improvements and the time required for them can often be very long and challenging.
At the same time, it is a credit to the city, its organizations, and the municipal districts that they do not allow older investments to be completely left to the ravages of time and continue to maintain them.