JFK Cycle Path
Back in December a brand new dedicated bi-directional bicycle lane was opened running the length of Kirchberg. As so often in the case of infrastructure for non-motorised transport here; I have to be grateful but I also have to be a bit depressed.
Prioritisation (no stars)
Possibly the finest piece of bicycle infrastructure in the City opened under a carpet of snow alongside the opening of the tram, funicular and two new railway stops. What a day for soft mobility in Luxembourg. Symbolically and practically that day really felt like something was happening up on the plateau.
The first impressions for the path are good. It is wide; really wide. It is fully 3 metres for the vast majority of the route. It is also long, a total of 3.2km from one end to the other. And it’s (almost) fully segregated, and mostly there is no cause at all for people on foot and people on bikes to end up in each other’s area.
We have had a large network of cycle paths in Kirchberg, but they are fairly unsatisfactory for a number of reasons; mostly because of their shared status. Putting people travelling without private motorised vehicles in conflict with each other, battling over limited space, whilst cars are protected and encouraged is a feature typical of car-centric backward-looking societies. The far side of JFK is a prime example of this. Cyclists must (see Article 107) use a narrowish pavement which is also where buses unloaded, and regularly caused chaos particularly at peak times. It is planned for the bus lane on the other side of JFK to be converted to another bi-directional cycle path. This would be excellent, let’s hope the slightly hysterical voices calling for a return of the 18 (a bus that suddenly appears to have been the most loved object in Luxembourg: I would remind people, however, there is no way there was an 18 coming up JFK every six minutes) do not get heeded and halt this path.
A major issue with the new path is how it integrates with the existing paths. Not very well, is my view. Getting across JFK remains a nuisance on foot or bike, and slipping across the roads and tram tracks to join up with the existing shared paths is awkward, and an area of potential conflict with those on foot. In addition we have the two ends of the path. Up by the Utopolis cinema we are guided onto the pavement, and separated from people by surface colour, not kerbs. As the pedestrian area is dotted with trees, and both sides are narrow (cycle path = 2m) then it is inevitable that there are people frequently walking here. In addition there is no link with the PC2. The easiest way to do this is to turn left before the tram stop and (possibly illegally?) ride across the pavement, passed the (definitely illegally) parked cars and onto the road by the “Hugo Gernsback” bus stop. The problem with this is that the traffic lights at the top are never triggered by bikes, and so you have to re-join the pavement, hit the beg button then ride across a road which is flowing (although with very few cars) to join it. This is not a comfortable link at all. I really hope that when the tram is extended to reach the airport that the cycle path is also extended to run the full length alongside it.
Similarly at the western end the path abruptly stops. You turn left and wait for lights to gain access to the Red Bridge, or right over the tram tracks then wait for lights to cross Konrad Adenauer, before joining an unsegregated shared path down to the funicular. This is hugely disappointing. At busy times there is a mass of people here who naturally do not want to have to fight with bikes. Originally the impression was given that a dedicated cycle path would carry on here, and then across the bridge. We know, of course, it will not carry on to the bridge (making Kirchberg to Limpertsberg criminally absurd by bike), and for this terrible cop-out to be right at the hub of the new transit connections is appalling. There is an M-Box (as there is at the other end), but no Vel’oh station here.
It is mostly completely segregated, with kerbs and islands. I would always prefer deeper kerbs, these ones are still easy to drive over, if not quite “inviting”. However, as there are wide ‘islands’ with trees on either side it actually doesn’t run directly by the car lane, and so is unlikely to be infiltrated from there. This is, without a doubt, fantastic. A very good, essential, plus point. This is not true at the myriad entrances to the lane from the junctions. None have bollards and I have seen vehicles (mostly vans) parked somewhere on the lane every single time I am up there. A bollard in the middle at each end, and a little education, would solve this problem.
Unfortunately there is a long section all the way along d’Coque which is open for “delivery” vehicles. Of course I’ve already seen private motor cars use it, and although it’s bi-directional, the delivery lorries fill it completely. There is no reason at all that this access couldn’t have been maintained with a normal junction, rather than sharing the path for so far. This is hugely problematic, both in practical terms, and also symbolically. There are actually traffic lights there to stop bikes and allow lorries onto a the cycle path! In addition the integration with the cycle paths on the other (northern) side of d’Coque is problematic.
In terms of “giving cycling priority” this path plainly doesn’t. There are a total of 15 crossings with lights, about one every 0.2 km. The vast majority have beg-buttons (several automated by approach). One entry has a flashing orange light to warn drivers that bikes have right of way. My flesh and bone is a little too fragile, however, to rely on motorists here in Luxembourg. It makes the whole thing very stop-start which can be frustrating, especially when you are waiting on red for a road which is also on red for whilst the tram passes. Could be linked?
I also wonder what the plan is around the Alphonse Wecker stop, in front of Auchan. This is a busy crossing, and there are no markings or signs at all to suggest how to continue along the bike path, across this ‘gap’. It gives a big, wide and peculiar shared space.
I must state here that clearly this path makes cycling the length of Kirchberg better, and I’m slowly beginning to see more people use it as winter fades. But compromise is the killer of cycling infrastructure, and it’s all too easy for people in cars to look at a mostly empty lane such as this and complain that it should be for cars. No matter that the ‘huge’ tailback of cars at the lights holds maybe 20 people; a group you’d barely notice if walking and / or cycling at a fraction of the public space commitment.. I’m not sure how that very obvious point about the inefficiency of the private motor vehicle can be brought home. JFK lends itself to a beautiful photo of 100 people walking, alongside 100 people on bikes, alongside 100 people on the tram, alongside 100 people in cars. I need to find someone who could organise such a stunt.