A few days ago, Zagreb’s mayor, Mr. M. Bandic announced very publicly that Zagreb, the 800 000 inhabitant capital of Croatia, was now free of snow and ice after the heavy snowfall last weekend. One only needs healthy eyesight to see how far that really was from the truth. The announcement therefore came as quite a shock – and vulgar provocation and insult – to citizens who were (and still are) struggling, trying to get things done around town, get to work and back home without an unplanned visit to an emergency room. Truth be told, the utter collapse of city transportation that took place 4 days ago has been relieved to a degree: a significant part of the street network supports slowed down car traffic and trains, buses and trams drive mostly (but not fully) according to their normal routes and selected squares have been cleaned for pedestrian traffic.
One things stands out in all the fuss around a city paralysed by snow, in that it doesn’t even get mentioned as an issue by the city administration – namely, cycling lanes. While cycling at 0°C is not a widely spread pastime, it is not at all difficult and a bicycle still remains a practical way to get around. However, cycling on ice, salt, sand and through snow is a combination of impossible, dangerous, slow and straining. The message the administration seems to be sending is “use a car or a tram” – means of transportation vastly more expensive and not very fast…not to mention insufficient: trams are already overcrowded and if the city had 20% more cars, the already critically stretched traffic system would collapse under its own weight.
The total surface of the 160 km of cycling paths in the city is just above 0.1 square km, a minuscule fraction of the city. If a small snowplough swept snow away at 5 km/h, it would take 4 such machines to clean all Zagreb’s cycling paths in 8 hours – a single work day, without overtime. They have, of course, not been cleaned. What’s more, they have never been cleaned. Not only have they never been cleaned, but the city does not seem to own what little machinery is necessary to keep this paths operational…and as a final slap in the face, these lanes are being used as storage for snow pushed out of the way of cars.
The following mini photo gallery has been prepared in an attempt to remind the city administration of the issue, subtly suggesting what lies under the ice…and isn’t it convenient that the local elections are just around the corner?