Interview with the co-authors of the new Ostrava cycling concept

Publikováno: 15. června. 2024, 12 min. čtení
Aktualizováno: 14. června. 2024
Úvodní foto: MAPPA
Publikováno: 15. června. 2024, 12 min. čtení
Aktualizováno: 14. června. 2024
Úvodní foto: MAPPA

Ostrava has a new ambitious concept for the development of cycling transport. The city’s ambition is to increase the modal share of cycling from nearly 4% now to 15% by 2040. This goal will be supported by gradually building a city-wide network of segregated paths and streets adapted for bicycle transport. Thanks to this network, cycling should become an equal alternative to other modes of transport.

„We do not want to dictate with marked cycling routes where people should ride. On the contrary, we want to enable them to move safely and intuitively by bike on every street. This requires a better distribution of space in the city,“ said city architect and MAPPA director Ondřej Vysloužil about the concept in a press release.

Since this is, for Czech standards, a rather unique document in its detail and ambitions, we decided to provide an insight into its preparation directly from its authors. Written questions from Městem na kole were answered by Josef Laža, Tomáš Zetek, and Pavel Řihák from the Municipal Studio for Spatial Planning and Architecture (MAPPA).

The Ostrava cycling concept, in a form that is focused directly on cycling transport and with its detailed processing, is unique for cities in the Czech Republic. Who initiated its creation?

The task came from the previous city council based on a proposal from the transport department of Ostrava City Hall. It was part of a broader mandate for MAPPA to start to act, from the end of 2021, as Ostrava’s cycling coordinator, a role which was vacant at the time. This includes consultation and advice in the field of cycling transport, as well as the development and ongoing update of the cycling concept and the related action plan.

We wanted to follow current trends

The idea of not updating the 2010 Cycling Transport Development Concept in Ostrava for a second time, but instead creating a new document based on the current views of and trends in active urban mobility, also found support from the current city council. It shows that the effort to improve conditions for active mobility has continuous support in Ostrava.

What would you emphasize as its greatest contribution?

We see the future of cycling development in a comprehensive solution of street spaces, which will also automatically include requirements for quality of life, tree rows, blue-green infrastructure, and possibly parking.

The concept now views almost all streets in the city as streets that should be attractive for cycling. In the new concept, we have also abandoned the system of building infrastructure based on pre-designed cycling routes. These do not lead to all the places people need to go by bike or from where they start their rides.

Another reason we changed our approach was the fact that Ostrava had largely exhausted the places where it was possible to build cycling infrastructure separately or with relatively small modifications to the existing state.

The concept was developed over a period of two years according to the published schedule. Can you mention any major obstacles that had to be overcome during its creation?

I don’t know if I would call it an obstacle, but the main reason the concept took so long to develop was our effort to involve as many components of local government, city organizations, relevant authorities like the police, as well as transportation experts and the public in the creation process. At various stages of concept development we organized several working workshops, public discussions, bike rides, and other meetings. We continuously presented the main theses of the new concept to all important stakeholders, received their feedback, and incorporated the incoming suggestions.

I believe that inviting the widest possible range of people and subsequent discussions with those who got involved will positively impact the process of commissioning and working on future individual projects. The time invested will also be returned in the form of faster negotiations and approvals, at least by the local government bodies.

It is often observed that there are difficulties in translating concepts into practice, especially in larger cities where many actors and their conflicts are involved in the processes. Moreover, the Ostrava concept sets very specific goals. What guarantees are there that it will actually work?

There is no 100% guarantee. However, in the previous answer, I outlined our approach. To be as transparent as possible, inform all important stakeholders in advance, and involve them in the entire process, whether it’s the creation of the concept or the proposal of specific structural adjustments in the city. I believe that this approach is correct and will help deliver visible results in the city. Moreover, MAPPA fulfills the role of Ostrava’s cycling coordinator. We prepare action plans and tasks for individual projects. We prepare competitions and assignments for project documentation of street and public spaces for the city hall and city districts and act as consultants in their processing. Therefore, there are many opportunities to influence the outcome.

The concept will first show itself in Přemyslovců Street

Support for cycling and walking has been part of the standards in place for more than ten years. Unfortunately, this has not been particularly evident in reality, especially in the most needed areas. Perhaps this is because the interpretation of the standards for comprehensive street space solutions is too general. Our concept, which is based on the standards and to some extent specifies and provides examples of possible solutions, could help with this.

What are Ostrava’s most ambitious plans for cycling infrastructure in the near future?

The completion of the reconstruction of Přemyslovců Street, approximately 700 meters long, is planned for May 2025, where the principles of the concept have already been incorporated into the project documentation. Another project with expected realization in the coming years, due to certain conditions for drawing subsidies, is the reconstruction of the tram line on Vítkovická Street. Here, the principles of the concept were incorporated in the scope of the relocation of the Don Bosco stops, so approximately 150 meters of redesign, but the city hall’s transport department already has an investment plan for the next phase, with a length of another 350 meters towards the city’s main street, 28. října.

Ostrava also recently approved the 28. října – Opavská Urban Boulevard Concept. It proposes the construction of physically separated paths for pedestrians and cyclists along almost the entire 12-kilometer length of the boulevard, on both sides of the street profile and directionally separated. This is a standard known from developed cycling cities. When will Ostrava residents be able to ride on the first sections of this path that connects a significant part of Ostrava? Which sections will be implemented first?

Currently, on several parts of the boulevard, there are mainly shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists. These paths are only on one side of the street. On both sides of the street, in some sections, there are dedicated or advisory bike lanes.

The described standard from developed cycling cities will be part of the brief for the reconstruction of the entire street space. The furthest along in this regard is the section in front of the House of Culture of the City of Ostrava, where a new concert hall (one of the ten most anticipated buildings in the world for 2020) will be built, and on the other side, a new regional science and technology library. An architectural study has already been prepared for this section.

While briefly studying the concept, I was intrigued by illustration 4.1.14, which shows the possible marking of bike lanes inside the roundabout. Many expert sources mention that bike lanes decrease cyclist safety in roundabouts, suggesting it’s better to either guide cyclists out of the roundabout or fully integrate them into traffic as regular vehicles. What do you see as the benefits of the proposed model solution with bike lanes in the roundabout?

The illustration of the roundabout with dedicated bike lanes was included as a theoretical way to ensure the principle of connectivity for sections with cycling infrastructure through the intersection. It is by no means a model sheet. The depicted solution, along with practical experiences especially from Denmark, where the inspiration came from, is intended for use in discussions for future specific locations with particular intensities of motorized and non-motorized traffic. This will be considered if, together with other relevant organizations and authorities, we determine that such a solution can bring more positives than potential negatives, which every measure carries. It would likely be a roundabout within a Traffic Calming Zone (principle 3) or on the border of principles 2 and 3, meaning a Traffic Calming Zone and a Major Street with minimal motor traffic intensity and in constrained width conditions without the possibility of guiding cyclists in the adjacent space, as shown by previous illustrations in the Concept.

Conceptual study for download

The entire concept, including maps and schedule, is available for download on the website of the Ostrava Municipal Studio of Spatial Planning [in Czech – ed.note].

This article is published with the support of the Ministry of the Environment. The material may not necessarily reflect the views of the Ministry. The aim of the project is to raise awareness about the conditions for cycling transport through regional news coverage in the online Městem na kole magazine.

This is an adjusted machine translation using Automat’s CycleLingo Translator (ChatGPT) of this article: https://mestemnakole.cz/2024/06/rozhovor-k-nove-ostravske-koncepci-cyklisticke-dopravy/

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