The deficit of cycling infrastructure in Prague is desperate even after twenty years of efforts. The progress in reducing it in the last twelve years can be found in the annual reports of the Technical Road Administration (TSK). And if we play a bit with the numbers, we can even estimate which of the last three election periods was the most successful. The conclusion is predictable: the most „points“ for new infrastructure in the evaluation were awarded to the last transportation councillor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě), whose term ended this spring.
The annual reports of the Technical Road Administration have been monitoring the development of cycling infrastructure in more detail since around 2010. A fairly detailed categorization allows us to compare not only individual years but also election periods.
The data for the years 2010-2021 were taken from the annual reports of the Technical Road Administration (TSK). From the absolute data on cycling infrastructure, it was possible to calculate the year-on-year differences up to 2021. The change in 2022 is not obtained from the annual report (which comes out sometime in April), but is based on the sums of individual cycling facilities as recorded by the Město na kole editorial team and the AutoMat team, partly obtained with the help of OpenStreetMap.
Until 2013, there were some inconsistencies in the data before the set of published data stabilized, especially the data from 2012 were incomplete in the annual report. In 2013, as part of the transition to a city-wide system of cycle routes, the discontinued local routes were removed from the statistics of the length of marked routes. Although in many cases the physical cancellation did not occur, the change in methodology interrupted the time series.
The data for 2022 were obtained either as the sum of individual cycle measures, as recorded by the editors of the „Městem na kole“ and „AutoMat“ teams, or as counts or length of measures from OpenStreetMap. The numbers here differ slightly from the output in a recent article. This is due, on the one hand, to the incompleteness of the calculation, where some implemented actions may have escaped our records, and, on the other hand, to a different method of counting cycle tracks (each block is counted as an individual cycle track). Data for cycle crossings, advanced stop lines, and stands (including stand-free parking for 2020-21) were obtained from OpenStreetMap. Data for directional signs did not have sufficient quality.
These methodological differences may slightly affect year-on-year comparisons, but will have only a small impact on the overall evaluation of electoral terms.
Relatively reliable and consistent data allowed for a comparison of the increases in cycling infrastructure in the previous three election periods, i.e. 2010-2014, 2015-2018, and 2019-2022. The division into full years is relatively accurate due to the fact that elections and thus the change of political representation always took place in the autumn, and the budget for the following year was already largely under the control of the new political representation.
Assessment of the success of the development of cycling infrastructure based on more than ten parameters is not straightforward at first glance. How to evaluate the increase in protected infrastructure compared to bike lanes? However, it is clear from the „rough“ numbers that despite the criticized establishment of bike lanes, the last election period was also the most successful in establishing paths and legalizations, i.e. protected cycling infrastructure most demanded by cyclists.
The last election period surpasses the 2015-2018 period in both the length of protected cycle paths and integration markings. There was also much more successful establishment of crossings for cyclists and cycle lanes. The area of newly created orientation markings is where the 2019-22 election period falls behind its predecessor. The number of new bike stands also did not increase much, and many municipal parts are creating reserved spaces on the streets without adequate stands, which is primarily for bikesharing.
To assess the relative success of each election period in all its aspects, I converted the kilometers of paths and lanes and the number of cycle intersections or advanced stop lines into a common „point“ rating. The principle is that for every kilometer of new bike path, there are 10 points, and other measures are scored based on their relative usefulness compared to the bike path.
It is a very arbitrary rating, but I assume that it has been balanced to reflect as much as possible. For further evaluation, I then combined the measures into groups according to their purpose. And how did the evaluation turn out?
Values assigned to individual measures:
Groups by purpose:
The period between 2011 and 2014 is rated the worst, but some parameters (such as bike paths and bike lanes) were not evaluated. The difference compared to the period between 2015 and 2018 was not significant either; in fact, more protected infrastructure was built during this earlier period. This is paradoxical, considering that cycling had the weakest support precisely from 2011 to 2013. However, as shown by the graphs for individual years, many actions that were in an advanced stage of preparation in previous years were completed during that time. However, the state of preparation of cycling infrastructure at the end of 2014 was dismal, and Petr Dolínek (ČSSD) had to start from almost scratch with cycling, which resulted in relatively weaker results in protected infrastructure.
In any case, the last election period, during which Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě) served as Deputy Mayor for Transport, resulted in the best scores for infrastructure. He was behind over 40 kilometers of protected routes, which are supported by a similar length of streets with integration (one-way streets of 80 kilometers need to be divided by two). The points for bike crossings are especially important since only continuous protected infrastructure is functional.
However, the deficit of cycling infrastructure in Prague is still enormous. Making about 25 kilometers of new protected infrastructure every four years in two consecutive election periods is not really a great achievement. Moreover, even the almost 45 kilometers built in the last election period – although it represents a quarter of Prague’s protected infrastructure – does not seem to save us yet.
There is a lack of basic cycle paths from densely populated housing estates to the city center, no protected passage through the center, and no safe bypass around it. Most neighborhoods in the inner city are still a labyrinth of one-way streets that send cyclists onto unpleasant main streets. There is no other connection between many outlying neighborhoods than through dangerous districts with traffic equivalent to first-class roads. Therefore, the pace of building protected cycling infrastructure must be increased or at least maintained. It will be up to the new councilor, Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates), to what extent he will be able to eliminate the persistent shortcomings of Prague’s cycling infrastructure.