Can Krakow be bike-friendly?
Krakow has half the bike path roads as Warsaw or Wroclaw. More importantly, 12 percent of all automobile accident victims in the city are cyclists.
The Krakow transportation policy’s discrimination against cyclists is obvious when “intelligent” traffic lights do not react for vehicles such as bikes. These “smart” lights are built with a special detector that senses when a vehicle approaches.
“Regulating the detector for it to react to a bike or motorbike is impossible.” say the workers of Krakow Roads Management without any embarrassment.
The Krakow president assigned 130 thousand zloty for investments in bike paths. To compare ? Warsaw authorities signed almost 4 mln and Gdansk twelve mln zloty for their bike path projects.
Marcin Hyla a member of the initiative “City for bikes” claims that investing “only 130 thousand zloty for building bike paths demonstrates [that] building bike paths is obviously not a priority for city authorities.”
Fortunately for Krakow cyclists, city council members intervened on the issue of limited budget for bike paths. The Civic Platform Party announced correcting the initial budget for building bike paths by raising it to 2 mln zloty. The president accepted the correction.
The decision assigned 500 thousand zloty each to building bike roads along Tyniecka street and in the Nowa Huta district, 450 thousand zloty for building a line from Dunajewskiego to Armii Krajowej streets, and the remaining funds to bike lines from the city center into the outer districts. The future bike path along Andersa Street received 700 thousand zloty as well.
The growing number of successful bike line ideas supports that there is hope for changing the Krakow policy towards cyclists.
One such project was a bike path built on the lower level of the Mogilskie roundabout. “Its whole length is over 1700 meters. Cyclists will be allowed to use them as soon as the end of February,” informs Dariusz Lanocha of City Development Agency. “It is one of the most modern solutions in Poland. The collisions of pedestrians and cyclists are minimized,” praised Marcin Hyla, although he notices apparent disadvantages of the project, such as narrow paths and steep gradients.
The city plans to put almost 200 new bike stands throughout the city in places like the Kazimierz district, The Old Town and Vistula River Avenue. It also plans to establish a net of city bike rental establishments to hold at least 100 bikes.
There is also the problem of the condition of existing bike paths. There are just 50 kilometers of traversable bike paths in Krakow ? most of them pot-holed and ending suddenly.
The plans held by city authorities are very ambitious. It plans to have 110 and 150 kilometers of bike paths wind around the city by the years 2010 and 2013, respectively.
Krakow cyclists have protested against the discriminating policy of city authorities. “Critical Mass” is a collective of several cyclists. It attempts to “underline the problem for cyclists in Krakow” says Michal Krakowiak, one of the participants.
Solo cyclists are practically invisible to automobile drivers and not terribly important to decision makers. The situation is different with several hundred cyclists. “It is an action of protest. Cyclists in Krakow are discriminated by drivers as well as by officials responsible for road infrastructure,” concludes Michal Krakowiak.
The administration’s reactions are filled with excuses. “Several planned investments which are to make the cyclist situation better are limited because of financial and space limits,” says Andrzej Zaborski from Krakow Road Management. However, sometimes just a little imagination is needed to make the lives of cyclists better.