Contraflow bike lanes across Europe: Low-hanging fruit for the picking

Publikováno: 21. února. 2024, 7 min. čtení
Aktualizováno: 18. února. 2024
Úvodní foto: European Cycling Federation
Publikováno: 21. února. 2024, 7 min. čtení
Aktualizováno: 18. února. 2024
Úvodní foto: European Cycling Federation

One of the indicators of a city’s or country’s friendliness towards cycling is the number of one-way streets that can be cycled in both directions. An analysis by the European Cyclists‘ Federation (ECF) shows which countries are leading in the area of contraflow bike lanes – and which still have ground to cover. How is the Czech Republic doing?

The European Cyclists‘ Federation, using the QECIO tool, examined the percentage of streets in which cycling is allowed in both directions compared to the total length of one-way streets. Contraflow bike lanes are a measure to support bicycle traffic and, according to data, increase safety. They allow for more direct cycling and avoiding dangerous main streets and intersections.

The ratio of contraflow bike lanes can be considered a measure of the friendliness of a given area for cycling. The European average of contraflow bike lanes relative to the length of one-way streets is 10 percent. In Belgium and the Netherlands, this figure is over 50 percent.

Allowing cyclists to ride in the opposite direction can be considered a measure of the friendliness of traffic planning in a given area for cyclists. As the ECF points out, unfortunately, on average only 10% of local one-way streets in Europe allow cyclists to ride in the opposite direction. In leading countries, this ratio exceeds 50%, and in some regions, even 70%. In Eastern or Central Europe, Austria leads the way (33%), followed by Hungary (11%) and Poland (10%).


Czech Republic below average

The Czech Republic ranked 14th among 20 European countries. On average, 8.5% of one-way streets in the Czech Republic are equipped with contraflow bike lanes, which is below the European average of 10%.

It should be noted that in reality, the Czech Republic may rank even lower in the list. The analysis used data from OpenStreetMap (OSM). According to a random survey by Městem na kole, in most European countries, the data in OSM does not correspond to reality, meaning either the contraflow bike lanes are not recorded on the map, or only a part of them are. For example, in Wrocław, Poland, about one-fifth of contraflow bike lanes are missing compared to the OSM state, and in Vilnius, Lithuania, the vast majority were missing.

Conversely, in the Czech Republic, the data on contraflow bike lanes and other measures are relatively precise. This is partly thanks to the work of the editorial staff of Městem na kole and other collaborators, who in recent years have entered data on cycling infrastructure into OpenStreetMap, including contraflow bike lanes, even in the smallest towns. Based on our own work, we believe that the proportion of contraflow bike lanes recorded in the map in the Czech Republic is significantly higher compared to other countries. This also highlights the significant limitations of the ECF’s published analysis.

The European Cyclists‘ Federation project also produced individual maps of European countries. You can view how contraflow bike lane coverage is faring in different regions of the Czech Republic. The ranking of the percentage of contraflow bike lanes from the total length of one-way streets in Czech regions is as follows:

In practice this means that in the Pardubice Region, every fifth one-way street will be two-way for cyclists. In the Karlovy Vary Region, not even one in twenty. And which part of the Czech Republic has the most kilometers of contraflow bike lanes?

The successes of contraflow bike lanes

The European Cyclists‘ Federation has cited several examples where contraflow bike lanes significantly contributed to the development of cycling traffic. In Brussels, a network of two-way lanes kickstarted the marking of a regional cycling network. Routes through side streets connected many neighborhoods and contributed to more than a threefold increase in cycling traffic. In the Belgian city of Leuven, contraflow bike lanes were an important part of a circular city transit plan. This plan eliminated transit car traffic from the center and improved accessibility for bicycles. Cycling traffic volume increased by 32% within a year.

In Luxembourg, a short but strategically placed one-way section of Rue des Romains with a contraflow bike lane filters car traffic, allowing cyclists safe access to the city center. In Krakow, Poland, the contraflow bike lane on Kopernika Street is one of the most popular sections of the cycling network, with more than 400 cyclists per hour during peak times. In Warsaw, the quiet Nowogrodzska Street offers an alternative to the busy six-lane artery. In London, contraflow bike lanes are a key part of the „Quietways“ project, which routes cycling paths through quiet streets across the city.

In the Czech Republic, contraflow bike lanes are an important part of cycling traffic in the Pardubice Region, and are widely implemented in cities like Pardubice and Vysoké Mýto. In larger cities like Brno or Ostrava, contraflow bike lanes are not widespread but are more localized in certain districts or streets. Examples include the Prague districts of Karlín, Libuš, Petrovice, Kbely, and most of the center of Brno.

The results of the European Cyclists‘ Federation (ECF) analysis come from OpenStreetMap – a free, global, volunteer-created set of geographic data. In some cases, OSM data can be more precise and current than official city and municipal data. However, in some instances, it may be outdated or insufficient compared to the actual situation. Therefore, it is estimated that the results of the analysis are up to 25% lower than the actual state.

In the Czech Republic, according to the experience of the Městem na kole editorial team, the state of contraflow bike lanes largely corresponds to reality.

This is an adjusted machine translation using Automat’s CycleLingo Translator (ChatGPT) of this article:

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