Taking A Ride On Europe's Most Expensive Bike Path
Rob crosses one of the cool (and very expensive) bridges on the new bike path.
It's been called "Europe's most expensive bike path."
And when I heard that it was to be found right here in Prague, I knew I had to go check it out.
I first heard about it from my cycling pal Rob, who'd started using it to get from his home in Prague 6 to work in Prague 10. (Definitely not the most direct route between these two sections of the city, but a route that, thanks to the new path, is free of cars for most of the ride.)
Another cycling buddy, David Murphy, gave me the lowdown on the path:
"The cycle route was built on a former railway line. It is 3 kilometers long, has seven bridges, and cost 150,000,000 Czech crowns (or about $7 million). Some 82,000,000 CZK (or about $4 million) came from EU structural funds. The rest was paid by the city. The bridges made it much more expensive.
"Usually bike trails like this one cost around 7 million CZK ($340,000) per kilometer. It is Prague’s first rails-to-trail project. There is another rails-to-trails project on the new rail lines to Hlavni nadrazi that has a tunnel, but it hasn’t been completed and the tunnel has no lights and no tarmac."
(You can read more about it here in a story from The Prague Post.)
Dave says the new bike path begins at Sokolovska at Podvinný Mlýn and runs to Hrdlořezy. (It's indicated on this map.) But he notes that it connects all the way through to Palmovka, Troja, the zoo, Kralupy nad Vltavou, etc., in the opposite direction, which all of us have ridden on many times.
Rob agreed to meet me early one Sunday morning and show me his route, which incorporates the new 3-kilometer-long cycling path in Prague 9-Vysočany, but also connects a number of older paths and trails.
I left my house in Černý Vůl around 8:15 a.m. and met Rob on the pedestrian bridge to Troja, just outside Stromovka park.
It was a bleak morning, and I was glad I was wearing a sweatshirt, my ear warmers and my winter riding gloves. This year's Prague spring has been nothing short of a disaster -- frigid temperatures, gray, windy, and rainy -- and comes on the heels of one of the worst winters on record.
That's me and Rob on the new bike path. (I'm getting pretty good at taking photos with one hand while still riding.)
Rob and I rode the bike path along the east side of the Vltava River from Troja down to the Prague neighborhood known as Liben. (This is a really nice stretch of pavement. It's where Daisy and I took Emma for her first big bike ride last year.) But Liben is as far as I've ever ridden in this direction.
Rob -- pointing out all the sights along the way -- showed me how to connect from Liben to some older paths that wound their way through the surrounding neighborhoods before we linked up with the brand new path. (It'll be interesting to see if I can find my way through this labyrinth on my own next time.)
It was fun snaking through this urban landscape while not having to worry about any cars.
And then we finally hit the new path.
It was spectacular. Smooth, flat pavement, not a car in sight, fancy bridges, plenty of pubs and restaurants along the way, and playgrounds for the kids, too. A cyclist's paradise. It was pretty empty on the morning we rode, due to the weather, but Rob says it's usually packed with roller-bladers and mothers pushing baby carriages and people just out walking.
At the end of the new path, Rob showed me the meandering route he takes to get to work, which led us through lots of streets (and some sidewalks) in the Prague suburbs. You can follow along on the map I've embedded below. It was circuitous, to say the least, but avoided major contact with cars, for the most part.
By the end, when we'd reached our workplace, I'd ridden about 34 kilometers since I'd left home.
A bike lane along Vinohradská in Prague 3. Not bad, while it lasted, but a far cry from the dedicated bike path!
I decided to take a more direct route back to Cerny Vul -- down Vinohradská, through Prague's Old Town, across Štefánikův bridge (which features one of the world's stupidest bike lanes), around and over to Stromovka (where I checked out a new -- at least new to me -- restaurant calls Vozovna), then along the west side of the river, to Roztoky, through Únětice and then home. That route was around 20 kilometers or so but involved much more city riding.
I've resolved to take Emma, who just turned 10, and Daisy on the new bike path. We'll take our bikes in the car, park near Stromovka, and then just riding without fear of cars, stopping along the way for a few beers and some lunch.
We've got the cool new path. Now, if the weather would just cooperate.
Length of ride: 56.5 kilometers
Average speed: 16.2 kph
Maximum speed: 41.8 kph
Time on the bike: 3.27.30
Pivo Index: 0
Distance ridden so far in 2010: 254 kilometers
Coming home, I passed two of my favorite architectural gems in Prague -- the unusual, vaguely nautical Church of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord (Kostel nejsvětějšího srdce Páně), built in the late 1920s by the Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik, and the much-despised Žižkov television tower, built in 1985. Rumor has it that the tower was constructed in an effort to jam some of the Western radio and television broadcasts at the time, particularly Radio Free Europe. I love the space-age look of the tower, but regret that part of an old Jewish cemetery had to be destroyed for its construction. Voted one of the world's ugliest buildings!
A new restaurant in the middle of Stromovka park that looks like a great place to stop for a beer and a meal one day. There's a lovely playground there, too.
A swan along the Vltava.
This Trojan Horse cafe and art gallery used to be located a few kilometers away. (See some earlier posts on it here and here.) It's since been moved (that must have been something to see) and expanded, featuring a small stage for performances and all sorts of fanciful sculptures dotting the grounds. Looks like a fantastic place to grab a beer and some food on a future ride.
I'm fascinated by the Vagon Orient Expres, a delapidated pub housed in an old train car just off of Jana Želivského in Prague 3, not far from where I work. I'm just not sure if it would be safe to go in there.
Rob pointed out these interesting structures on the bike path not far from Troja. It appears to be some sort of outdoorsy camp kind of thing, where they teach people ancient skills. There's a treehouse, a fence, and some sort of shelter on stilts (see above and below). Anyone know what this is all about. Very cool, whatever it is.