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Cycle Planning in Astana, Kazakhstan: With A Little Help from the Dutch

A Bicyclist in a Park Near the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation Astana, Kazakhstan

A cyclist biking in Astana, Kazakhstan

The Dutch Embassy in Astana hosted "Dutch Week in Astana 2013" in mid-June. Through this annual event, the embassy aims to share Dutch culture with Astana's residents and to raise awareness of Dutch contributions to Kazakhstan's development. The most notable event was a bicycle ride. Through the Dutch Cycling Embassy, a public-private initiative, the Kingdom of the Netherlands aims to share Dutch expertise and resources in multi-modal urban transport planning and cycling planning. ThinkBike workshops provide a forum through which Dutch experts mentor foreign city planners, architects, and local government officials.

The Dutch Cycling Embassy hosted ThinkBike workshops in Astana and Almaty in May of 2012. Dutch experts, including a civil engineer and a traffic planner and an urban planner, representatives from the "Scientific Research Design Institute of the Astana Master Plan," and representatives from the Office of the Akimat of Astana, met with the City Architect. The Dutch experts examined extant and proposed cycling routes, and noted that paths that permit cycling are disjointed and suitable only for recreational use.Indeed, Astana's planners never intended the paths to be used as alternative routes of transportation.

A Pedestrian/Bicycle Path in a Park Near the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation Astana, Kazakhstan

A pedestrian and bicycle path near the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation

The Dutch Week bicycle ride, and the prior year's ThinkBike workshop, are important because gridlock from private motor conveyance is routine, and the diurnal cacophony of car horns clamorously tells of residents' frustration. Astana is in an enviable position among gridlocked cities, however. Kazakhstan's government invests revenues from natural resource extraction into development; the capital to design and construct bike routes explicitly for transportation exists.

If Astana's government chooses to invest in non-recreational cycling planning, Astana's planners should address the following problems:

  • Cycling with vehicular traffic on Astana's roadways can be extremely dangerous; bike lanes do not exist and, perhaps more importantly, drivers do not respect lane markers at all, often driving astraddle multiple lanes; and
  • Cycling routes line the Esil (Ishim) River, but crossing the river can be problematic because cyclists need to carry their bikes up bridges' high, winding staircases.

Multi-modal transportation options are crucial to Astana's continued successful development, and Astana's planners should consider cycling as a transportation option in earnest. Furthermore, an initiative to delineate roadway bicycle lanes would complement Astana's plan to host an international exposition in 2017 on sustainable energy.

Do you cycle for recreation or transportation? How have urban planners improved the ease or safety of cycling in your city? Comment here or on Twitter. Share on Facebook.

Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Information and data attributed to sources through links.