Advocacy Manual (4): Designing roads in the Czech Republic

Publikováno: 17. srpna. 2023, 27 min. čtení
Úvodní foto: Marek Lahoda
Publikováno: 17. srpna. 2023, 27 min. čtení
Úvodní foto: Marek Lahoda

Another installment of the Advocacy Manual by Michal Šindelář, this time focusing on designing roads in the Czech Republic.

Below, you can see two street profiles of Merhautova Street in Brno with a width of 18.4 meters. The first profile represents the actual condition after a recent reconstruction of the street, while the second profile illustrates a safe solution for cycling transportation according to Czech standards.

You can play with the street profile in this way using the Streetmix application, which was created specifically to demonstrate how it is possible to transform a street profile from motor traffic and parking into a street that offers a dignified and safe space for pedestrians and cyclists. To use this application correctly, it is necessary to first familiarize yourself with two Czech technical documents that govern the design of local and cycling roads in the Czech Republic. These are the standard ČSN 73 6110 Designing Local Roads and the technical conditions TP 179 Designing Roads for Cyclists. You can download both standards here.

An Advocacy Manual

In our online magazine „Městem na kole“ (City on Bike), we are publishing a series of articles called „Advocacy Manual.“ These guides, written by Michal Šindelář and the AutoMat association, describe how to support the development of cycling transportation and infrastructure from the perspective of an active citizen.

The manual provides know-how on how to navigate the entire process of public administration and the legal possibilities for influencing one’s immediate surroundings.

This article was made possible thanks to the support of the Open Society Foundations as part of the AutoMat’s National Outreach Via Social Base Management project.

These standards serve as a guideline for cities and designers in creating traffic solutions and street layouts. Thanks to these standards, streets are largely standardized and predictable for users. The development of these standards is entrusted to experts by the ministries, and their existence allows the designing entity to avoid reinventing the wheel. It is expected that the design of the way to organize traffic will adhere to these standards, and in case of doubts about the proposed traffic solution, it is examined to see if it complies with the standards.

Out of these standards, only the part of the ČSN relating to parking within the boundaries of a building plot is legally binding based on a ministerial decree. Otherwise, these standards are not legally binding. The binding ministerial decree No. 104/1997 Coll., which implements the Road Act, refers to ČSN 73 6110 as a recommended standard a total of eleven times. However, in the overwhelming majority of cases, these standards are followed because they allow for agreement among different stakeholders on street parameters.

The standard ČSN 73 6110 Designing Local Roads provides a comprehensive guide, including examples and illustrations, on how to proceed with road design. ČSN is a standard from 2006, with the latest update in 2010, and it also addresses cycling to a limited extent in nine pages. ČSN is further developed by the technical conditions TP 179 Designing Roads for Cyclists, which the standard refers to in Article 10.4.2.1 with the sentence „Designing roads for cyclists is governed by a special regulation.25)“ with a footnote referring to „TP179,“ as stated in the update of ČSN from February 2010. The technical requirements are newer, more detailed, and reflect the real progress in knowledge in the field. The ČSN takes this into account and refers to them. The relationship between ČSN 73 6110 and TP179 was described by Vratislav Filler using the example of contraflow traffic in one way streets.

The ČSN 73 6110 standard anticipates the existence of other standards in the following manner:

„In this standard, there are references to other standards or regulations at relevant parts of the text. Through these references, the provisions of the cited standards (regulations) become part of this standard.“ (p. 9).

The TP179, by the update of ČSN 73 6110 from February 2010, is explicitly included among the related regulations. Therefore, from the perspective of the ČSN standard, TP179 is part of this standard. We have described the relationship between ČSN and TP at this point because some officials or the police hold the belief that ČSN is somehow superior to TP, or even that ministerial technical conditions are not binding while ČSN is. However, neither of these beliefs can be supported by citations from the law or decree because such legal provisions do not exist.

ČSN 73 6110 Design of Local Roads

A basic understanding of this standard is essential for correctly understanding how the spatial transportation regime of a street is composed. You often hear that something doesn’t fit somewhere, that there is no space left for a cycle lane, and so on. However, there are almost always various options for arranging the street space, and it is necessary to rely on this standard when defining these options. In this chapter, we will look at how local roads are divided according to their function, and how the width of traffic lanes, parking, and safety clearances are determined.

Functional Groups of Roads – A, B, C, and D

Chapter 5, Functional Groups of Local Roads (pp. 18-20), divides roads into four groups based on their basic characteristics.

A – Express Roads
These typically include highways, first-class roads, and urban ring roads where access to and direct contact with the surrounding area is excluded.

B – Collector Roads
These are roads with a primary traffic function, often serving public transportation routes. These roads allow for limited direct access. The term „collector road“ is derived from the word „collect,“ as these roads collect traffic and facilitate movement between urban areas and parts of the city. These roads, which form the main traffic axes of municipalities, provide fast connections for both public transportation and motorized/non-motorized traffic.

C – Local Access Roads
Local access roads are typically found within neighborhoods. While collector roads generally facilitate movement between different parts of the city, local access roads serve the transportation needs within specific areas or neighborhoods. Speed is not crucial for local access, and this standard proposes traffic calming measures and a maximum speed limit of 30 km/h for local access roads.

D – Pedestrian and Residential Zones, Pedestrian and Bicycle Paths
Pedestrian zones are often found in historical and commercial city centers, while pedestrian and bicycle paths are often separate routes unless they are part of a collector or local access road. Motor vehicle traffic is usually prohibited or significantly restricted on these types of roads.

For the development of active mobility, collector and local access roads are the most important, as they are typically streets within built-up areas where people commonly move. Express roads are important, for example, during the construction of new sections of urban ring roads, primarily to ensure permeability for pedestrians and cyclists, as express roads create physical barriers. Building cycle paths along rivers or outside existing built-up areas is usually less problematic. The most important aspect of active mobility is the creation of safe space on collector roads and appropriate traffic calming measures to ensure permeability within neighborhoods served by local access roads. The division into functional groups is important regarding the design speed of roads, resulting lane widths, the presence of public transportation, and the anticipated intensity of motorized traffic.

The width of traffic lanes and other road elements

Traffic lanes are designed with a minimum width of 3 meters for collector roads and 2.75 meters for local roads. On two-lane roads, especially in constrained conditions or on roads of lower traffic importance, the width of the traffic lane can be reduced to 2.25 meters. Conversely, in industrial zones, a width of 3.5 meters is recommended for the traffic lane, considering freight vehicles, but in justified cases, it can be reduced to 3 meters.

Traffic lanes used by buses or trolleybuses must have a minimum width of 3.25 meters for collector roads and 3 meters for local roads.

The width of an unraised tram track is at least 6 meters for existing tracks within the current urban development. However, transport companies usually require a greater spacing between tram tracks, with a width of approximately 7 meters. If it is a raised tram track, then the width is at least 7 meters, and if traction poles are located in the middle of the tram track, the width is 8 meters.

The width of a cycle lane, whether protected or dedicated, is always at least 1 meter, to which safety clearances must be added, typically resulting in a total width of 1.5 meters. Alongside parked cars, the minimum width is 1.75 meters. More information about cycle lanes can be found in the relevant chapter of Technical Standard 179.

The width of a sidewalk is at least 1.5 meters.

For parallel parking, a lane with a width of 2 meters is established, which can be reduced to 1.8 meters in constrained conditions. For perpendicular parking, a parking lane with a width of 5 meters is provided, and for angled parking, a lane with a width of up to 5.3 meters is established. The dimensions of parking spaces are determined by another standard, ČSN 73 6056, in Table 6 on page 14.

The choice of cycling infrastructure in relation to the design speed of the road and motor vehicle intensity

Different methods of organizing bicycle traffic can be ranked based on the degree of segregation from motorized traffic (p. 84-85, Figure 56).

In case of low motor vehicle traffic intensity on roads with a maximum speed limit of up to 30 km/h, including pedestrian and residential zones, the standard recommends integrating bicycle traffic together with motor vehicles in the main traffic space. This means that no specific measures are necessary, except for bicycle markings to ensure permeability and a service area. Typically, this will apply to calmed residential streets. In the accompanying diagram, it corresponds to areas marked with the letter A.

As the motor vehicle traffic intensity and design speed increase to 50 km/h, it is recommended to separate bicycle traffic from motor traffic. This can be achieved either by providing a bicycle lane as part of the roadway when the motor vehicle intensity is below 10,000 vehicles per day, or by physically separated bicycle lanes or cycle tracks in the adjacent space when the motor vehicle intensity ranges from 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles per day (marked as letters B and C in the diagram). In this case, it already pertains to collector roads, where physically separated bicycle facilities in the adjacent space are the most suitable option considering the design speed and traffic volume.

When the design speed of the road exceeds 50 km/h, it is always necessary to physically separate non-motorized traffic from motorized traffic by providing cycle tracks in the adjacent space (D). If the design speed of the road exceeds 80 km/h, indicating a high-speed road, the standard strongly recommends directing bicycle traffic completely outside the space of this road by using a separate cycle track.

How to work with the standard

Above, we summarized the key aspects of the ČSN 73 6110 standard for urban cycling solutions. The method of managing cycling traffic depends on the nature of the specific road. When it comes to routes within the existing street network, it is necessary to calm down side streets. In these calmed streets, besides bicycle markings, no special cycling measures are required. For main streets that serve as collector roads, protective measures are needed, either in the form of bicycle lanes for lower motor vehicle intensities, or physically separated bicycle lanes or cycle tracks in the adjacent traffic space.

By using the standard and the derived width requirements for lanes and other road elements, you can create various layouts for the street space. Further guidance on implementing measures for safe cycling is provided by the Ministry’s technical conditions TP 179 Designing Roads for Cyclists.

TP 179 Designing Roads for Cyclists

Technical conditions are regulations issued by the Ministry of Transport for the area of road transportation. These documents, numbering over 150, cover a wide range of topics. Since 2006, they also include guidelines for designing communication for cyclists, when TP 179 was first published. In response to the dynamic investments in cycling infrastructure across the Czech Republic, updated TP 179 was issued in 2017, incorporating a range of changes and innovations that emerged in the field of cycling infrastructure design over the past decade.

Technical conditions are not generally legally binding regulations. However, their enforceability can be determined by local authorities and various organizations through their inclusion in decisions, permits, procurement processes, documentation assessments, and more. For example, the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure conditions the provision of grants for cycle path construction on compliance with project documentation aligned with TP 179. The Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic issues technical conditions with the aim of disseminating the latest knowledge, technology, and practical insights to achieve optimal solutions for issues encountered in road construction.

The technical conditions TP 179 Designing Roads for Cyclists can be downloaded here. Let’s briefly examine three topics from the document: bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, and bicycle markings.

Bicycle Lanes

Bicycle lanes are discussed in TP 179 in Chapter 4.2 „Integration Measures for Cycling Traffic“ on pages 26 to 41. In the Czech Republic, there are two types of bicycle lanes: dedicated (in other countries called also mandatory) and protected (in other countries called also advisory).

A dedicated bicycle lane, first implemented in Břeclav in 1996, allows only cyclists to ride on it. Motor vehicles are not allowed to enter or park in the lane. Motor vehicles are only permitted to cross the lane when turning or accessing a location off the road (typically for parking). It is separated from the adjacent lane by a guide strip or a thick white line measuring 25 cm in width. Vertical signage is always present.

A protected bicycle lane, also known as a multi-purpose or advisory bicycle lane in other countries, allows cyclists to ride on it, and if necessary, drivers of motor vehicles may also use it if their own lane is not wide enough. However, they must not endanger cyclists using the bicycle lane. The width of the adjacent traffic lane can be reduced to as little as 2.5 meters. Protected bicycle lanes are installed in situations where the protection of cyclists is necessary, but the road width does not allow for a dedicated bicycle lane. Passenger cars that can fit within a width of 2.5 meters (recall the reconstruction of the D1 highway, where drivers traveled for many years in reconstructed sections with lanes 2.25 meters wide) will have no problem passing by the protected bicycle lane. Drivers of trucks, buses, and trolleybuses can also use the legal option to drive on the protected bicycle lane, but they must not endanger cyclists. It is separated from the adjacent lane by a thin white line measuring 12.5 cm in width, and no vertical signage is provided.

Furthermore, the technical conditions also discuss the use of sharrows, locally known as „pikťáky.“ Sharrows, as linear measures, are now being replaced by protected bicycle lanes, and many streets are seeing the replacement of sharrows with protected bicycle lanes. Sharrows, also known as cycle pictogram corridors, are considered outdated. No legal rights or obligations arise from the marking of sharrows, and it is even legal to park a car on them. They are unsuitable as a tool for guiding cyclists and enhancing their safety. Sharrows should only be used where it is necessary to indicate the direction of travel for cyclists, such as at crossroads, or they may be suitable in bicycle markings.

How much space do we need for bicycle lanes?

The necessary width of the road required to mark a bicycle lane in one direction depends on the choice of bicycle lane type (dedicated or protected) and whether the bicycle lane is located next to a curb or parking.

The minimum width required for a protected bicycle lane along a curb is 4 meters, and under constrained conditions, the safety distance can be reduced to 3.75 meters. When the bicycle lane is located alongside parallel parking, a width of 4.25 meters is needed. In the case of a bicycle lane alongside angled or perpendicular parking, a width of 4.5 meters is required. For the establishment of a dedicated bicycle lane, an additional 0.5 meters is needed in each situation.

Based on previous experience, it is recommended to establish protected bicycle lanes to guide cyclists to intersections and to overtake a standing queue, even in their minimum width of 1.25 meters for constrained conditions. In uphill sections, where cyclists move slower, the lanes should be located alongside parked cars. In the case of steeper downhill sections, where cyclists reach higher speeds and it is not possible to establish a protected bicycle lane with an oversized width, it is more suitable to install a sharrow in the center of the traffic lane, with an increased distance from parked vehicles. Experience with the behavior of different road users in differently sized protected bicycle lanes is still being established as they gradually emerge in various cities. It can be assumed that good practices will be further refined in the coming years.

In most cases, bicycle lanes can be installed without any construction modifications. The establishment of bicycle lanes is achieved through changes in traffic signage. Bicycle lanes are a useful tool for quickly improving the situation on main roads, where a safe space needs to be created for cyclists, enabling them to be separated from motor vehicles. However, in the case of street reconstructions that correspond to main roads, the focus should be on solutions that physically separate cyclists into an associated space, such as protected cycle tracks.

Cycle Tracks

A cycle track is a protected solution for cycling. Cycle tracks can be located in an associated space alongside the road or as completely separate paths. They are separated from the main road by at least a curb and are elevated above the roadway. Typically, they are also separated by a green strip, and parking spaces or tree lines may be located between the track and the traffic lanes. Under the general term of cycle tracks, there are four types of arrangements for cyclists: bicycle-only tracks, shared pedestrian and bicycle tracks, pedestrian and bicycle tracks with separation, and pedestrian tracks with bicycle access.

Bicycle-only Tracks

A bicycle-only track is intended solely for bicycle traffic and, from a legal perspective, does not allow pedestrian movement. The minimum width for a two-way bicycle track is 3 meters, consisting of two 1-meter lanes for cyclists and two half-meter safety margins on each side of the track.

Shared Pedestrian and Bicycle Tracks

A shared pedestrian and bicycle track allows for the movement of both cyclists and pedestrians in designated lanes for each mode of transportation. This solution requires the most space as it is necessary to create a standard-sized area for two-way traffic of both types.

A two-way pedestrian lane requires a width of at least 2 meters (2 x 0.75 m for two pedestrian lanes, 0.5 m safety margin on the edge). A two-way bicycle lane requires a width of at least 2.75 meters (2 x 1 m for two bicycle lanes, 0.5 m safety margin on the edge, and 0.25 m from the pedestrian lane). The total necessary width for two-way traffic, according to standards, is 4.75 meters.

Shared Pedestrian and Bicycle Paths

The shared pedestrian and bicycle path is the most common type of cycle path in the Czech Republic. It allows for the movement of both cyclists and pedestrians, with people staying on the right side in their respective directions.

Minimum clear width of the shared path:

4 meters and more – for heavily used routes by pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, both for recreational and transportation purposes.

3 meters – the basic width of the path.

Occasionally reduced clear width of the path:

2 meters – in cases of low pedestrian and cyclist intensity, established only exceptionally.

1 meter – only outside built-up areas where there is the possibility of evading within sight, only in cases of very low pedestrian and cyclist intensity, or as a one-way solution; established extremely rarely.

Pedestrian Paths with Permitted Bicycle Access

A pedestrian path with permitted bicycle access is a solution that allows legal bicycle riding on existing sidewalks, assuming there is lower pedestrian traffic. If we are talking about „converting“ a sidewalk, it involves marking the sidewalk with a sign indicating a pedestrian path with an additional panel allowing bicycle entry.

The minimum width for a two-way pedestrian path must be at least 1.5 meters, but typically it is 2 meters, including safety clearances.

Cycle Contraflow Lanes

In cities, we often come across one-way streets. One-way streets, where vehicle traffic is allowed in only one direction, are primarily established to increase the number of parking spaces for cars. The space gained by eliminating a travel lane in one direction is used to create parking spots. Secondly, in the Czech Republic, one-way streets are also used to calm traffic.

However, creating one-way streets poses a challenge for the permeability and local access for cycling. To address these challenges and maintain the permeability of the area for cycling, it is possible to retain two-way cycling on one-way streets.

Cycle contraflow lanes can be established starting from a width of 3 meters (TP179, Chapter 6.4 Cycle Contraflow Lanes, pp. 96-102), provided that the traffic volume does not exceed 100 vehicles per hour, the maximum speed is 30 km/h, and the principle of „single-lane two-way roads“ with passing places is applied. This would be the case for many residential streets.

The practice of establishing cycle contraflow lanes in the Czech Republic is summarized by the „Městem na kole“ (City on a Bike) website in a comprehensive analysis, which can serve as a reference for local authorities and road administration offices.

This article was developed with the support of the Open Society Foundations through the project AutoMat’s National Outreach Via Social Base Management. The Open Society Initiative for Europe, within the Open Society Foundations, has provided a grant for this purpose.

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This is an adjusted ChatGPT translation of this article: https://mestemnakole.cz/2022/10/advokacni-manual-4-navrhovani-komunikaci-v-cesku/

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