Is it safe to cycle in Baku?
New bicycle lanes will be created in Baku, and, as per the official statements, their overall length will reach 250 kilometers by 2040. However, those who choose to use this particular form of transport claim that it is extremely dangerous to cycle in Baku today.
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Currently, the length of the cycle path on the Baku boulevard is 7.5 kilometers, said the official representative of the Baku Transport Department, Vusal Karimli.
“As per the general plan of the city of Baku, the total length of bicycle paths in Baku will reach 63.5 kilometers by 2027 and will exceed 250 kilometers by 2040”, Karimli told local media.
“It is extremely dangerous to cycle in Baku”
Blogger Rashad Abdullayev, who cycles every day along the roads of Baku, told JAMnews that it is extremely dangerous to use this type of transport to move around the capital:
“I often travel long distances in and out of Baku. For example, the road from Akhmedli village to the state Flag Square and back is about 40-45 kilometers. There are absolutely no conditions for cyclists on this road”.
Rashad says that some sections of this road can pose a real danger to life for a cyclist.
“In some areas, for example, below the area of Ukraine, the turn is very dangerous. There are always a lot of cars and buses, the traffic is very busy. One has to be extremely careful in such places”, Abdullayev emphasizes.
The blogger thinks that one of the biggest problems for cyclists is public transport stops:
“Imagine a situation: you are cycling along the side of the road and there is a bus stop in front of you. If there is a bus there, you must either wait until it starts moving again, or get into the other lane, where cars are moving at high speed. Considering that there are always buses at most of the stops, one can imagine the degree of risk that cyclists are faced with. Without any exaggeration, they are risking their lives”.
Cycling during quarantine
Rashad says that during the pandemic induced quarantine he had to significantly reduce his cycling trips:
“The rule of wearing a mask outdoors does not allow cycling in any way. Cycling requires intense breathing. But with a mask on it is impossible, and I am waiting for this rule to be cancelled”.
Rashad Abdullayev added that throughout his extensive experience in cycling on busy streets, he never faced any problem with the traffic police.
What the transport agency representative has said about 2040 plans should not be treated seriously, Arshad Huseynov, a traffic expert, told JAMnews:
“It’s not serious now to talk about what will happen in 2040. Infrastructure for cyclists needs to be created now”.
Huseynov adds that in this regard, Azerbaijan should not compare itself with the developed countries of Europe or the Far East. It is much more important to at least catch up with the nearest neighbors:
“You don’t have to go far to find good examples. In Russia, for example, a bicycle is a means of transport for many people. not sports equipment. This is not yet the case in Azerbaijan”.
Four issues that need to be resolved
To solve the problem with cyclists in the country, four critical issues must be resolved, says Arshad Huseynov, stressing that only after that people on a bicycle will be able to become full participants of the road traffic.
“The first step is to create the infrastructure. What I mean is paths for cyclists, technical service centers, special parking spaces. For example, if you ride a bike to work, you need to leave it somewhere until the end of the working day. At present, there are practically no such places in Azerbaijan.
Secondly, it is necessary to carry out educational work among the population, to convince people that a bicycle is not only a sports equipment or a toy, but also a means of transportation. This is the most environmentally friendly form of transport and is very beneficial for one’s health.
Third, other participants of the road traffic must treat cyclists as equals and get used to them. If we release cyclists on the roads right now, the number of accidents will increase several times.
Lastly, it is necessary to regulate the movement of the cyclists themselves. They themselves and their vehicles must pass at least some kind of registration, their equipment must meet safety requirements, and cyclists must comply with the traffic rules”, the expert summed up.