In February the reconstruction of the upper part of Wenceslas Square will begin, as the Transport Company has signed a contract with the contractor, Eurovia. What will the reconstruction of this significant square bring for cycling?
The reconstruction will cover the 440-meter-long upper part of the square between Jindřišská Street and the National Museum. The reconstruction is expected to take 3 years, with completion anticipated in Spring 2027. Previously, the 250-meter-long lower part of the square underwent reconstruction between 2020 and 2022, a project that took over 2 years to complete. The square is intersected by the backbone cycling route A24 leading towards Vinohrady. In the Museum area, it intersects with the planned cycling routes A410 and A4.
Similar to the lower part of the square, there will be a significant expansion of sidewalks, uniformity of surfaces, and the addition of a second row of trees in the upper part of the square. Additionally, tram tracks will run on both sides of the square’s center. Car traffic will be narrowed down to a single lane, and surface parking will be restricted.
From the perspective of cycling, the new Wenceslas Square will bring significant improvements. Two-meter-wide cycle corridors at sidewalk level will be created on both sides of the square. Moreover, numerous new bicycle crossings will contribute to the overall enhancement.
According to the documentation from the Institute of Planning and Development (IPR), the two-meter-wide lanes for bicycles on both sides of the square will be two-way. At intersections, they will be elevated and marked as bicycle crossings, similar to pedestrian crossings. Between Krakovská and Wilsonova (the main road), the bicycle lanes will be wider, serving as a dedicated route for entrances to surrounding buildings.
The bicycle lane concludes at the statue of St. Wenceslas. On the right side of the square, heading towards Vinohrady, cyclists will enter the roadway, use a bicycle crossing, and continue on a sharrow in front of the National Museum. Those heading to Čelakovské sady will likely be able to use the sidewalk and the second crossing under the National Museum. On the other side of the square (near Hotel Wilson), going uphill, people will use a shared overpass, while descending, they will ride alongside the tram. The detailed options for descending and ascending are indicated below (although it is possible that there may be slight changes in traffic markings before completion):
Across the square, cycle lanes run consistently between two rows of trees and street furniture, including benches, trash bins, and bike racks. In Opletalová Street, the proposal involves preserving and emphasizing the existing two-way bike route. In the lower part of the square, cyclists will leave the cycle lanes when entering the pedestrian zone.
The entire square will be paved with sprayed-cut granite paving stones, a material familiar to Prague residents from the Museum Oasis or the cycle lane on Smetanovo nábřeží. It provides a non-slip surface, ensuring a smooth ride for cyclists. The cycling lane will be marked with minimalist paving blocks featuring the cyclist symbol, similar to the design on Smetanovo nábřeží. Material differentiation for the cycle lane will only be present in the upper part of the square.
Cycle lanes for pedestrians? In addition to the relatively confusing solution at the upper ending of the square in terms of cycling passages, there are several question marks about how it will be ensured that the cycling corridors are truly passable. The minimalist signage is aesthetic, but will it guarantee that pedestrians won’t mistake the cycle lane for the sidewalk and drivers won’t confuse it with parking spaces? Even on the cycle lane on Smetanovo nábřeží, tourists occasionally stray into it, despite being adjacent to the roadway and physically separated. It may not be different here, especially considering that the sidewalk on Wenceslas Square is the most frequented pedestrian route in the Czech Republic. Will a bicycle bell be sufficient, or will there be so many pedestrians that the cycle path will be unusable at peak times?
Cycle lanes filled with delivery vehicles? If the system for enforcing proper parking doesn’t change significantly in three years, it can be assumed that wide sidewalks and cycle lanes will be partially occupied by supply vans – even though the proposal includes loading zones. It is not uncommon today for delivery services to stop in the middle of the sidewalk. Perhaps the proposal could benefit from adding anti-parking bollards in several key locations.
A contraflow bikelane on Štepánská. Unfortunately, for the third time, the proposal does not take into account the future establishment of a contraflow bike lane on Štěpánská. The planned bidirectional cycle route A412 runs along this street, providing a relatively pleasant connection to Vinohrady. In the future, adjusting entry into it should not be a problem, but it would be nice if the city, anchored with the cycle route in strategic documents, planned for it in advance.
Placement of bike racks. The documentation from 2022 in the upper part of the square includes 32 bike racks, a significant improvement compared to the current 4. It’s a shame that they are not planned closer to metro exits, so that cycling and efficient rail transport can be better combined. The closest racks to the metro exit in the center of the square will be 130 meters away, and 100 meters at the top. It’s not bad, but a few more racks wouldn’t hurt. The city can also use them as anti-parking elements.
Despite all the criticisms above, the project will bring significant improvements for both non-motorized and public transportation in the city. Unlike other projects by the transportation company, it will create a separate infrastructure for bicycles at sidewalk level. This will provide a calmer connection between the center of Prague and Vinohrady.
The smooth pavement of the separated cycle lane under the tree canopies will be a balm for the soul compared to the current state during summer rides. We will see the results around the year 2027.