Osijek - Build It And They Will Come?
Last weekend was my third visit to Osijek in the far East of Croatia. It’s a town of around 100,000 on the banks of the river Drava - one of theÂ Danube’sÂ tributaries, and this was my first visit during the summer.
During that time the city’s economy hasn’t done fabulously well (where has?), but it’s still a damned fine place to visit - like other compact cities, it’s small enough to walk across inside of an hour, but large enough to have stuff going on. It’s also flat, and seemed to have a lot more bikes than I remembered. So I hired a bike from my hotel (50Kn. for the day - about ÂŁ7) to have a look around:
Some things really struck me about the city that’d probably occurred to me before, but with a lot more bikes out, they were a lot more obvious. Firstly, Croatian driversÂ absolutely stick to the rulesÂ at junctions and pedestrian crossings. Actually so do pedestrians - if there’s a pedestrian crossing with the lights red, everyone stands there waiting, no matter how empty the road is.
Secondly, pretty much every junction has pedestrian crossings (like our zebra crossings) all around it. So traffic with priority to make a turn gives way to pedestrians.
Thirdly, bicycles are treated as a hybrid between pedestrians and road vehicles. They can use the road or the pavement (sidewalk), though where there’s a lot of bicycle traffic, they’ve marked separate cycle lanes.
I asked the people I was working with about these, and they said that about five years ago, Osijek got some funding to put in a whole lot of cycle routes, and that since then there seems to have been a big increase in the number of people riding bikes. Certainly it seemed to me that there were a lot of these very cool looking cruisers around:
Not that they were exclusively ridden by pretty girls! :
Most bikes seemed to have shopping baskets:
And riding seemed to be a sociable, family sort of thing:
So, the big question:
Osijek has invested in bike routes, excluded private cars from the city centre, and has a set of driver rules that mean off-road cyclists (and pedestrians) have priority over cars on the roads they cross. These things seem to make riding a bike both safe & convenient - have they led to a big increase in cycling, or was I just seeing the summer bump in the trend?