Moscow builds its very first bicycle lane – or is it an obstacle course?

A speed bump obstructs Moscow's new bicycle lane. Photo courtesy of Alexander Tugunov.
Moscow, home to 11.5 million people, recently got its very first bicycle lane. It was proudly inaugurated with much fanfare by city officials this summer to the great excitement of the city’s cyclists. However, their joy was slightly diminished when they realised that it was more like an obstacle course than a method for cyclists to more easily navigate city traffic.
The pictures, shared by Russian cycling enthusiasts, show just how complicated it is to navigate Moscow’s new bike lanes. In some spots, two-way bike lanes are just a metre wide and frequently blocked by gates as well as other obstacles. Moreover, Muscovites don’t seem to know what the green lanes mean and therefore have no compunction about parking their cars in the city's new cycle lanes.
Our Russian Observers argue that the problem is symptomatic of the capital’s lack of interest in promoting bicycling. 
Cyclists have to ride around all sorts of obstacles, like this barrier. Photo courtesy of Maxim Pshenichnikov.
The cycle lane was painted right over a grate. Photo courtesy of Alexander Tugunov.

“The result is a touching gesture, but absolutely useless”

Maxim Pshenichnikov, a Russian scientist currently living in bicycle-friendly Holland, took photos of the new paths on a trip back to Moscow.

The Moscow State University bike lane is a perfect illustration of the famous Russian saying, ‘There are two main problems in Russia: fools and roads.’
The Netherlands, where I live, is a cyclist’s country. The system is regulated by a simple and clear principle: the cyclist is always right. I’m not sure a similar consensus is possible in Moscow. Still, it seems like it should be a possibility at the university level.
The Moscow State University campus is huge, so it’s perfectly natural to get around on a bicycle. And who else should lead the way if not the most advanced university in Russia? However, instead of being made with specially coloured asphalt, the cycle lane was just painted on the ground. Those who made it did not seem to worry much about keeping cyclists at a safe distance from drivers, either.
It seems that local authorities wanted to ‘make everything like in Europe, but it’s turned out as it always does in Russia – the result is a touching gesture, but absolutely useless. However I’m not completely pessimistic; what is important is that Moscow now has its first-ever cycle lane. Hopefully, it will get fixed in time.”
This portion of the two-way cycle lane is just one metre wide. Photo courtesy of Maxim Pshenichnikov.
Drivers don't seem to have got the message that parking on the cycle lane is illegalPhoto courtesy of Maxim Pshenichnikov

“There is no real progress in Moscow for cyclists”

Andrey Noskoff is an avid cyclist who rides his bike to work every day in Moscow.
Moscow is not a bicycle-friendly city, to say the least. For those like me who ride their bikes to work everyday, the main problem is the roads, which are just plain bad. The city’s roads are dirty and rain water does not drain away properly. And now and then you’ll run into an open drain in the street – and I really mean ‘open’, just a big hole without so much as a grate.
Meanwhile bicycle bays are not just rare – they’re exotic. You always have to chain your bike to random poles, fences or trees. And bike theft is a big problem.
Due to all these issues, it seems there is no real progress in Moscow for cyclists. My bicycle repairman says not only is the number of cyclists not increasing, but it even seems to have gone down despite the particularly beautiful weather this summer.”
Video courtesy of Alexander Tugunov, who filmed this video in late August. He says some of the problems shown have been fixed, but not all. 
Post written with freelance journalist Ostap Karmodi.


Reply to comment | The FRANCE 24 Observers

As a Green Keeper on a golf course, and landscaper with experience,
I'm asked, continually, for help with people's gardens. Had you always been thinking
to upgrade the pavers of the patio. Chances are you rent or lease the property upon which your business is located, and really have
no idea about the types of trees and shrubs that are planted and why they are planted where they are.

Moscow Bike Lanes

Hi there,Alexander congratulations on your video. I will have to agree with the person that told you about finding the person that constructed the lanes and ask how you can help in order to make the lanes safer in your city.I will have to tell you that considering the obsticle course taht a bicyclist have to go over in order to go to his-her destination ,it looks pretty good.In my city Corfu Greece we had a 14 km bike route along with 100 bicycles in an automatic rental way and none of it exists in reallity ,after our new Mayor decided that the routes are not safe enough and we have to do them again.hahaha!!!The original construction was 2.000.000 E and the y want more EU money for a new one.We are optimistic though because the cyclist number is growing and his behavior will turn back to hima as aboomerang.Keep on Cycling!!!

it's like that everywhere

Don't come down too hard on Moscow. Drivers park on bike lanes everywhere, though it gets better as the years go by and more drivers get used to respecting that they're traffic lanes. Pedestrians are oblivious everywhere, and they seem not to learn, no matter how many signs they see of bikes buzz past them or near collisions they have. People used to accommodating cars have trouble wrapping their heads around bikes, even in the most bike-friendly cities. I live in one of them, and I don't complain because I'm glad to see lanes being added, but sometimes I still wonder if the people who laid them out had any idea.

Good job!

You have to start somewhere! It looks like someone put a lot of effort into building the bike lane, so instead of complaining maybe you should find that person and thank them, then find out how you can help them get even better at what they do in the future. I can only imagine how hard it was to convince leaders in the city that a bike lane was needed in a city that had none. It is easy to stand outside of the ring a complain / be the Monday morning coach, it is much harder to be in the ring fighting. So from me to the guy who built this, keep charging, you are doing good things!

Moscow bike lanes

hey, now it looks just like London!


I would be interesting to know what the subtitles said for us non-Russian speakers. I realize it was made for a Russian audience. I sometimes think I could guess, but it would be fun to know. Even if it was in Russian but text, I could paste it into a translator.

Answer of a local

Well, I'm a "moscowit" and would agree with the passage "...local authorities wanted to ‘make everything like in Europe, but it’s turned out as it always does in Russia". We get many things made by officials which are only to ispire people in eve of Duma election, or other local election, or big official boss' visit. They think rather of making view of taking care of people, then really do that.
That's diferent in London where I were half a year ago. The Lonldon's Major looks like really taking care of cyclists and clear air with his wide promoted cycle compain.