(based on a presentation given during the opening session on 31st May 2004 of Warsaw Transport Round Table on bicycle transport development by Aleksander Buczynski; English translation: Konrad Dybek)


Lack of system of bicycle routes

There are about 150 km of bicycle lanes and routes in Warsaw currently. Unfortunately, they do not compose coherent system, they do not lay out intelligible arteries. Most of Warsaw's bike lanes are short dead-end sections. They often overgrow with weeds as they are not incorporated in traffic.

"The end of bicycle lane" is the most common sign on Warsaw cycling routes.

Bicycle paths usually end in inaccessible places or where you cannot leave it. This is the case on Niepodleglosci Ave., Grojecka, Str., Gorczewska Str., Slominskiego Str., Starzynskiego Str. It reminds of building a bridge half-way - you can swim farther anyway, can't you?

Many of Warsaw's districts are completely cut-off. You cannot ride your bike to the centre from Okecie, Ursus, Wlochy, Bemowo, Tarchomin, Bialoleka, Zacisze, Targowek, Rembertow, Grochow, Wawer... On the other hand, inhabitants of the inner city do not have access to recreational areas in the suburbs (i.e. Mazowiecki Landscape Park, Legionowskie Woods). Moving around the city centre is difficult as well.

Poor quality of existing lanes

Discontinuity - on many bicycle routes (Modlinska Str., Banacha Str., Bitwy Warszawskej Str., Starzynskiego Str., Marymoncka Str., Armii Ludowej Ave., Wal Miedzeszynski Str., Stanow Zjednoczonych Ave.) continuity is interrupted on crossroads where transparent solutions are indeed necessary.

Modlinska Str. - no crossing (notice double continuous line) and high kerbs.

Complicated or irrational route - switching sides of the roads (Belwederska Str., Gorczewska Str., Woloska Str., Wal Miedziedzynski Str., Rudnickiego Str., Wybrzeze Szczecinskie Str...) is both contradictory to the rule of directness and it is increasing collisions with motorists. In few cases bike path is designed to circle an intersection through three crossings (Wybrzeze Szczecinskie Str., Niepodleglosci Ave./Batorego Str.).

Rough surface - small concrete blocks are prevalent as pavement. It is troublesome (rough and uneconomical ride), undurable and sometimes too thin (6 cm instead of legal 8 cm minimum). Bicycle lane on Conrada Str. is an interesting case: built in 2002 partially with asphalt, partially with concrete blocks. Although the latter have been repaired already it is still more uneven than asphalt one.

Rembelinska Str., three months after opening.

Set-offs - according to the inspection conducted in summer 2003 there is more than 40 intersections with unacceptable set-offs. Kerbs and drainage grooves slow cyclists and distract them while crossing the roads, which is dangerous and implies behaviour not compliant with the traffic law.

Exit from Gdanski Bridge by the ZOO. Board of City Roads (ZDM) cannot manage a kerb standing out by 10-16 cm for five years.

High kerbs are popular on newly built lanes as well.

Too sharp turns - curves are usually too tight to be passed firmly on typical bike. Some routes have right angle turns (Szymanowskiego Park, Pulaska Str.) or even acute angle "curves" (Siekierkowski Bridge).

Powazkowska Str. - defected design of a curve, in addition sloped outward the turn.

Routes on Armii Krajowej Ave., Prymasa Tysiaclecia Ave. or Odrowaza Str. make funny impression, as if not till on construction site it turned out that there was a big tree where bicycle lane had been planned.

Odrowaza Str. Lane planned right through good size acacia, despite there is room on both sides of it

Edge not preserved - it happens commonly that the edge of a bike lane is cut by boxes, posts or lamps. Path may go right by the wall or fence. Effective spread if bike lane is reduced because of the width of the handlebar, not mentioning safety concerns.

Siekierkowska Ave. - posts make two-way bike traffic impossible.

Pulawska Str. - cyclist has no chance to fit in.

Traffic lights are not adapted to bike motion. Push button signals, a solution meant for pedestrians and less travelled crossings only, are spreading everywhere. It does not work for cyclists. According to the observation on Broniewskiego/Reymonta Str. 65% of bikers cross intersection on red light after push button signals had been introduced (15% before). Conditional right turn for cars without assuring sufficient visibility is also a problem.

Stairs (!) - Warsaw, a pretty flat city, is surprisingly a leader in stairs construction on bicycle routes. We have stairs on Trasa Lazienkowska Ave., Wislostada Ave., Gdanski Bridge, Mariensztat Square, Czerniakowska Str., Na Rozdrozu Square, Zeslancow Syberyjskich Roundabout.

Messy traffic management

Traffic signs normally do not incorporate bicycles at all. You can claim that when entering two way bicycle lane running along main road you must turn right. In many cases cyclists have to ride upstream on one way road (Starzynskiego Str., Slonimskiego Str.) or use sidewalk (Niepodleglosci Ave., Modlinska Str.) in order to get to the bike path. Sign "No traffic" is often abused when it actually mean "no motorised traffic".

On de Gaulle'a Roundabout there is 'no left turn' sign so cars cannot block tramways. Bikes are small enough to fit in between tram tracks and the street. Therefore, they deserve 'does not apply to bicycles' under the mentioned sign.

Why is it a concern? Traffic management specialists made road users in Warsaw realise that traffic signs do not apply to two-wheelers. There might be situation that respect for the laws of road sharing is hampered in general. When signs for bicycles are so stupid why should one care for the rest of traffic regulations?

Morsel: If traffic management does not bother about cyclist, cyclist do no bother about traffic management.

Lack of thinking

If you look at the way investments are undertaken you will come to the conclusion that either Warsaw is very rich or very wasteful community. Opportunities to improve bike infrastructure with low cost measures are regularly spoiled. There opportunities are:

- any road modernisation,

- utilisation of subway stations surroundings,

- sidewalk repair,

- big investments like sky scarpers or shopping centres.

Excellent example of thoughtlessness is a set of road modernisation on the following arteries: Jana Pawla II Avenue - Slominskiego Str. - Gdanski Bridge - Starzynskiego Str. - Odrowaza. Between 1998 and 2003 virtually all elements have been repaired. 8 km of coherent bicycle route could have been built, linking Brodno District with city centre, branching to Zoliborz District. Instead, we have 7 separate sections, few hundreds meters each. They are not connected into the road system so hardly anybody use them. The Board of City Roads (ZDM) admits helplessly that some of those investments (Zaba Roundabout) were really poorly done.

Modernised roads leading from Brodno to Centrum.

Sections of bike paths do not form a consistent route.


Continuation of current policy

The biggest threat is continuation of present lack of bicycle transport policy.

Defected road investments systematically worsen conditions to use bikes in Warsaw:

Discredited project of Zeslancow Syberyjskich Roundabout modernisation where stairs showed up on bicycle route,

Changes of traffic flow around new subway stations can also create new problems. For example, liquidation of bicycle crossing by Gdanska Station bike path on Slominskiego Str. inaccessible. Similarly, closing of ground-level pedestrian crossings around Ratusz Station will hinder implementation of any bicycle lane in that area.

Chaotic projects on roadway

Lack of co-ordination of building permits within road's proximity (like parking lots) will also jeopardise proper design of bike path in the future. Example: for seven years there have been bicycle path projects on both sides of Jana Pawla II Ave. It did not prevent Board of City Roads (ZDM) form planning and building parking street on... both sides of JPII Avenue. When the bicycle path was finally built, it crossed the street... four times in less than 2 kilometers.

Similar decision have been already taken for Towarowa Str. and Bitwy Warszawskiej Str.

Barriers created by main roads

There is no ground level crossing of Jerozolimskie Ave on 1,5 km span (city centre). On Wislostrada Ave. for 2 km there is no access to bike lane (inner city as well). After 2 pedestrian crossings were cancelled on Solidarnosci Ave. you can cross the street on main intersections only. Lack of possibility of "conquering" abovementioned roads (also: Czerniakowska Str., Wawelska Str., Wal Miedzieszynski Str., Czecha Str.) hinders utilisation of local back roads as an integral element of cyclists friendly infrastructure.

Lack of partner in the local authorities

Local government is not interested in bicycle infrastructure development. Its attitude can be described as "what to do, to not do anything?".

Particularly uncommunicative are the officials from Board of City Roads (ZDM). Their tactics include:

- not to answer to certain letters at all (petitions, proposals, questions on planned investments...);

- dismissal to other agencies (U. Neklen for "Rzeczpospolita" daily 20.5.2004 or letter to "Zielone Mazowsze" number ZDM/DI-TS/258/2004);

- evasive response (on bicycle lanes on Zeslancow Syberyjskich Roundabout);

- postponing an answer until the subject becomes outdated (letter to "Zielone Mazowsze" number ZDM/DI-TS/258/2004);

- pushing away into undefined future solving of simple problems (letter to "Zielone Mazowsze" number ZDM/IO/5512/332115/02);

- ordinary lies (letter to "Zielone Mazowsze" number ZDM/IO/55112/33/1386/98 or letter to "Zielone Mazowsze" number DIWI/P/728/04).


Warsawers want to ride

According to measurements from 2002, bicycle paths where they create longer routes are used more: 1000-2000 persons each day seasonally. The highest bicycle traffic was recorded in the following spots: Przyczolkowa Str by Wilanowska Ave. (2800 persons on weekday), Gorczewska Str. by Prymasa Tysiaclecia Ave. (2800), Sobieskiego Str. By Sikorskiego Str. (2650 persons) and KEN Ave. by Ciszewskiego Str. (2600 persons).

It is estimated that on the route Centrum-Powsin there is 900 thousands bike trips annually

It is worth mentioning that no matter whether we take bicycle lane as investment in transport, tourism or recreation, a number of inhabitants using them is 10 times or so bigger than other investments like swimming pool, sporting centre or widening of a road for cars.

An open question remains to what extent seasonal character of bicycle traffic is influenced by lack of infrastructure, winter care or poor promotion.

Wide roads

Because of war destruction and later monumental spatial planning, road arteries (street + sidewalk + lawns) are wide in capital of Poland. Traffic lanes exceed legal width requirements (Raszynska Str., Wal Miedzeszynski Str.) so 1-2 meters can be easily cut off for bicycle needs.

Let us hope that chaotic management will not spoil the chance given by wide open roadways like this.

Other towns broke fresh ground

Multiple solutions, both technical and organisational, necessary to introduce bicycle traffic have been tested and put into practice in other Polish cities.

We know that asphalt surface can be installed, we know how to cope with counter-traffic bike lane or how to make historical downtown accessible for two-wheelers. These solutions are safe, affordable and effective.

From managing point of view most interesting are: procedure of bicycle audit, including hiring a NGO or co-ordination of a project via internet and defining of technical standards for bicycle related infrastructure.

The know-how is right here. Other cities gained experience in designing safe and attractive routes which, contrary to popular belief, reduce conflicts between different road users. So far Warsaw is resistant to this knowledge that is ready to use.