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Promises of pedal power - but cyclists remain sceptical

by at 25/04/2011 19:12


Moscow is set to become a cycle-friendly city in five years time with parking places and special routes created exclusively for those who move around the city on two wheels, officials promise.  

But courageous Muscovites have already started paving their own ways through the city,

“Every year there are promises to improve the situation for cyclists,” Anton Polsky who made the first cycling map of the city, told the Moscow News. “We hope this year it will finally result in something this time – we’ve got a new mayor who might start acting.”


Promising plans

Plans to make bicycles to a means of transport are a part of the state programme, published on the Moscow’s transport department.

2000 parking places for bicycles are to appear in 2012 together with 5 kilometers of cycling routes, according to the document.

40 more kilometers are to be built by 2016 which would clearly please all Moscow’s 3,000,000 bicycle owners.


Riverside routes

The main cycling ways are to go along the Moskva and Yauza rivers, and Polsky believes it to be a reasonable idea.

“We have mapped some nice routes along the Moskva river embankment already,” he said. “The situation in the Yauza area is worse due to environmental issues, but the situation is to get better where there are fewer cars,” he added.

And running cycle routes through Moscow’s parks could possibly make the season longer. “If these paths are kept clean, they could be used even in winter,” he said. “Unfortunately, promises to make these routes have been heard on an annual basis over years – and I haven’t really noticed any improvements on this front.”

Encouraging cyclists to combine their pedal power with public transport could also get more people to take themselves to work. Bikes are already allowed on suburban trains - for a surcharge - while metro users have to detach the front wheels and sweet-talk station staff to get onto the network.

“We really hope that the planned Moscow circlular railway will make moving around the city much easier,” Polsky said.

“And would be great if they had special carriages for bicycles on those trains, and parking places by station entrances,” he added. 


Mapping the city

Polsky has been cutting a two-wheeled swathe around the capital for 10 years, but his first action to promote cycling in the city was launched just a year ago.

The USE/LESS map of Moscow has marked cycle routes, bicycle rental points and parking places, interesting landmarks and cafés, as well as dangerous junctions.

“It all started as my personal art-project, but now it’s becoming more of a thing people could use,” Polsky said.

Luckily, there are people who are ready to volunteer to improve the ecological situation in the city and just make moving around by bicycle easier in general, he added.

The group started working towards putting all routes on a dedicated google-map. “We’ve mapped the routes for the past Sdelai Sam festival, and I hope we’ll add more ways for cyclist relatively soon,” Polsky said.

The map can be found on Polsky’s page and printed copies can be picked up at some locations, listed on the website.


Pedaling in peril

Safety issues, however, remain a serious concern for both – cyclists and those who would like to join them.

Driving regulations order cyclists to stick to the road, together with motor vehicles, but drivers are often unhappy to see more competition for space on Moscow’s busy highways.

Riding on pavements is much safer, according to cycling activists, but pedestrians are sometimes are not happy to share the pavement.

“I believe that cars are way more dangerous for cyclists, than people on bicycles are for pedestrians,” Polsky said. “But the ideal situation would be if there are three separate ways, like in Copenhagen, where the cycling way is separated with border stones from drive- and walk-ways.” 

A special lane for bicycles has been arranged along Luzhnetskaya Naberezhnaya, which is mostly used as a place for riding for fun, and not a real option for commuters.

However, precise details of where future routes will go have yet to be announced.  


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