Moscow builds its very first bicycle lane – or is it an obstacle course?
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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 way for cyclists to more easily navigate city traffic.
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 illegal. Photo 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.