Commentary: Cycling at Dědina – cause for laughter or tears?

Publikováno: 17. prosince. 2023, 15 min. čtení
Aktualizováno: 19. prosince. 2023
Publikováno: 17. prosince. 2023, 15 min. čtení
Aktualizováno: 19. prosince. 2023

The tram track to Dědina is the long-awaited implementation of a new tram line, predominantly within the existing street profile. All credit to those who are currently patting themselves on the back for managing it under challenging conditions. However, after inspecting what the conditions for cycling will be like in the vicinity of the track for the next fifty years, I personally have entirely different feelings. From the perspective of cycling transportation, it is a marketplace of futility, which, if it weren’t so sad, would be almost comical.

What exactly is wrong there?

I apologize in advance that this part of the text will be long. It’s not my fault, but the sad reality on the ground.

Let’s start from the center. Assume you arrive on the A160 cycle path north of Evropská and want to continue, still on the A160 cycle route, to Vlastina. Perhaps with children, so you don’t want to have to merge into the third traffic lane. Well, legally, there is nothing there for you. Either you push your bikes across the cramped crossing to the tram stop and another two hundred meters on the sidewalk, or you take the third lane between taxis. The pedestrian crossing for cyclists on the west side deceives the eye: it does not connect to any sidewalk near McDonald’s. And if you happen to want to bypass McDonald’s from the north, you’ll end up on a staircase.

I have the impression that constructions carried out by the transportation company are secretly competing to see which one can create the longest stretch where you have to push your bike. Here, it’s only 220 meters, which measures quite successfully against a similar interruption at Bořislavka. However, technically, the sidewalk north of Evropská could have been converted into a cycle path, as networks were even relocated there. Now, instead of a pedestrian path, some greenery will be planted. Considering it’s still a logical pathway, the grass would get worn down, so my guess is that dense thorny bushes will be planted there.

Heading towards the intersection with U Silnice Street, we have a tram on the roadway and legalized sidewalks. At first glance, it seems reasonable; on second thoughts though, one cannot help but ask why a separate path was not established on the north side of the roadway—yes, where the parking is, of course. On the other hand, considering the connection to Šárka, a quality path might look somewhat out of place in that particular stretch. The legalization aligns better with the overall messy concept.

Beyond U Silnice Street, from the city center, an advisory bike lane begins. Towards the center, it extends a bit further, to the bend near Klimčiny Street. Cars drive outside the tracks, but when overtaking a cyclist, they can enter the tracks—over a slanted curb and onto rough pavement. How many drivers will actually do that? None. Tight overtaking is guaranteed and legalized by the advisory bike lane.

However, why did the tram track here have to be paved or stay partially green, so cars can’t drive on it too? If the goal was to address traffic jams, well, towards the city center before Evropská, one still needs to drive on those tracks, so this problem wasn’t solved. Cars could have been on the tracks, stops could have been designed as islands or cycling-friendly Viennese stops, and besides dedicated bike lanes, even a wider sidewalk on the southside, more wide than my canoe stored in the attic, could have been created. Or a separate path. Oh, and those trees could have stayed there, since they don’t grow on the tracks. And perhaps, shh, even parking with another row of trees might have fitted.

A mockery of both cycling transport and rationality

Indeed, I consider the profile design of the western two-thirds of Vlastina a mockery of both cycling transport and rationality. But maybe someone at the transportation company is counting kilometers of bike lanes, and they can add this to the annual report as another track where cars don’t drive. And actually, he’s right, because no one will really drive on those tracks at a safe distance from cyclists.

At the western end of Vlastina, there are two directions for cycling: the first heading out of the city from Vlastina, the second in parallel with Drnovská. The first direction towards the city at least doesn’t seem so bad: you ride from the agricultural research institute, cross Drnovská right past the (not yet marked) crossing, then there’s even a short dedicated bike lane and next you ride over the legal sidewalk into another bike lane. The way back is worse; you cannot legally get to the sidewalk that would ensure a reasonably safe crossing with Drnovská. You’ll have to merge into the left lane before the traffic light. Every cyclist wants that, right?

The passage in the north-south direction is similarly messed up. Let’s skip the utterly fantastic idea that a cycle path would be created along Drnovská as part of the tram track construction. Still, we could have hoped that the reconstruction of the intersection wouldn’t prevent the creation of this path in the future.

We could have hoped, of course, but in vain. There was no room in the signaling for such a useless thing as a crosswalk, so why would a bike crossing be created there? A cyclist who doesn’t want to ride on the Drnovská highway will comfortably detour through Ciolkovského. And if, for example, they would want to cheat southward and get to the sidewalk along the barracks, we’ll build the crossing on Ciolkovského in a way to prevent it. That way, it is completely impossible for cyclists to ride through the intersection safely off the road!

The only place where there wasn’t anything to ruin for cyclists so far is the loop. The absence of bike racks is aptly filled by kilometers of railings. The Institute of Planning and Development (IPR) should be ashamed that its „dark gray“ falls short, and the renowned railway blue would suit the thinking process here better.* Yes, the number of bike racks in a project handled by the Transportation Company is, as expected, zero.

*A short explanation about IPR gray and Railway blue

Some context for foreigners and others unaware of the battle of the useless but nicely colored railings:

Some people are of the opinion that there is an overuse of railings. Especially the original red-white railings are their public enemy. There are even satirical pages on Facebook, like this one:

The IPR introduced a new gray color for the railings in Prague a few years ago, arguing that this was going to be more stylish that the original red-white. This was met with ridicule, because instead of removing the unnecessary railings they just produce them in stylish grey now.

The blue refers to the Správa železnic, the authority in charge of railway tracks and stations. They love railings as well, and produce them in a blue color. And everyone hates the blue railings at train stations. There is another satirical page criticizing the overuse of railings at Czech train stations:

I ask myself whether it’s possible to provide a brief summary of this outcome without using profanity. I believe it’s not possible, so I’ll avoid it here. But you can watch the fashion series „One Piece“ to see what golden adornment a certain butler, Klahador, has on his suit, initially such a nice guy.

Everyone knew it

In recent years, the deputies for transportation and their teams were responsible for preparing the tram track. Certainly, it wasn’t easy, and the main goal – to put the tram track into operation – was achieved. It was known in advance that cycling would suffer because of it. However, the extent to which cycling would suffer, turning it into an absolute mockery, was something we all (including myself) chose to ignore.

Yielding to the demands of motorism

We didn’t want to admit that the solution for cyclists would be absolutely „bleep“, pardon my language, because the construction of the track was endangered many times. The fact that trams run here is a victory that required sacrificing something, for example cyclists. Whom else, because unlike cycling and pedestrians, the demands of motorism are never challenged.

Won't it get better?

Bubenské nábřeží has a ruined cycling path because cars heading to the center had to stay outside the tracks, even though this road doesn’t actually lead to the center; it serves perhaps five deliveries, and it didn’t need to be there at all. The entire solution on Vlastina is pitiful because of cars, which tram operators drive out of the tracks no matter what, with or without reason. The parking garage at the end of Vlastina will kill the non-motorized connection along Drnovská for eternity. Through the joint efforts of locals and tram operators, cycling transport was sacrificed on the altar of motorist NIMBY.

What’s worse is that we already know it won’t get better in the future. We have seen the projects, and we know how poor the solution for cycling around the new metro line D stations. We will be happy if existing cycle paths don’t have to zigzag around three times. Is there any development, a master plan, a comprehensive solution for cycling off the road? Forget it. There is no interest from the transportation company or the municipal district, so goodbye.

Then it will be „saved“ by a advisory cycle lane to infuriate drivers and the legalization of a sidewalk to infuriate pedestrians.

We already know that the intersection of Ústecká and Žernosecká, during the construction of the tram track to Zdib, will be built in a way that forever prevents continuous cycling from the path along Žernosecká to Maškova Street. We already know that with the construction of this track, Ústecká, once relatively usable for cycling, will become a cycling hell, at most sprinkled with a token cycle corridor. After all, surely a cyclist can ride a bit further, for example over a hill or five.

One railway project after another competes in how to defecate on cycling from the highest point. Then, it will be „saved“ by a protected cycle lane to annoy drivers and the legalization of a sidewalk to annoy pedestrians. And in places where the police won’t allow it, they turn a blind eye: after all, those cyclists won’t sit there anyway, so legalizing a continuous path for them would be casting pearls before swine.

If this is the maximum that this city can achieve, then congratulations on an absolute success: successfully pitting pedestrians and cyclists against each other by establishing half-hearted dualities, and now successfully pitting cycling against public transport. Everyone who would rather see cyclists beaten out of the city must be rubbing their hands in delight at burying such a sustainable and cost-effective transport alternative.

Fulfill the standards of active mobility. Yes, even you!

Is there any chance to at least slightly rectify the despair that has arisen and prevent what awaits us in the coming years? It probably depends on Deputy Mayor Hřib. He should put all the developed projects for public transport on the table and have them assessed in terms of compliance with the standards of active mobility that have been in place for over a year. Anything that does not meet the standards should be reworked. A proposal in this direction was received from the cycling commission a few days ago.

If this city has a valid system of citywide cycle routes and standards of active mobility, then everyone who builds here with public money should adhere to them. Even designers from the Transportation Company. Let them kindly descend from their cloud and not pretend that the track is superior to everything – when in the end they still bow to the demands of motorism in practice.

We may receive an answer that metro and tram builders intend to continue doing things their way. However, by neglecting cycling measures in public transport projects, public transport shoots itself in the foot in the long run because it ends up being unreliable due to congestion caused by cars.

Cycling transport lies on the sustainable side of the scale, dear supporters of tracks.

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