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Cycle of nature

Green advisor

Pedal power with the cycle of nature in the Czech Republic

Cities and cycling are rarely comfortable with each other. But with the future of our planet at stake, there is a powerful groundswell of opinion to make European cities more cycle-friendly. If you don’t want to tango with traffic, pedal power on Europe’s expanding cycle network is the way to get around.

ÅF has supported the construction of a cycle route in the Czech Republic that plays a key role in the supra-regional cycling network. ÅF provided design, technical and author supervision services. The environmental demands were rigorous as the route passes through a nature reserve The Ploučnice project links the city of Děčín with Starý Šachov via a 17-kilometre rural cycle path. The project, carried out has been submitted for the Czech Ministry of Transport’s Construction & Technology Award because of its unique approach to environmental preservation during the design and construction phase and its implementation of a raft of eco-friendly features.

 

Four arterial cycle routes

The Ploučnice Cycle Route is one of four arterial cycle routes in the Ústí Region. Also known as the “Green Cycling Highway” it is a supra-regional route, linking the Ústí and Liberec Regions. ÅF has been involved in the part that starts in the city of Děčín in the Ústí Region and then follows the meandering valley of the River Ploučnice before terminating in the village of Starý Šachov.

 

Challenging terrain

The original cycle route pioneered by the Czech Tourists’ Club was restricted to a narrow riverside corridor. However, as the route has grown in importance, a decision was made to integrate it into the national network of long-distance cycle routes. Prior to the project the challenging terrain had meant that all but the most serious, experienced riders were more or less excluded from cycling along the track. Nor were there any alternative routes.

Stringent environmental criteria

Because the route passes through the České Středohoří nature reserve, it has been designed to meet stringent environmental protection criteria. The first step in the project was to prepare an environmental impact assessment. An initial review laid down strict rules for project planning, documentation, realization, commissioning and operation. The plans have also included many features to help protect and preserve local flora and fauna.

 

Minimal impact on wildlife

The design of the route incorporates nesting refuges for birds, habitats for amphibians, and the use of traffic signs informing cyclists about protected species at sites where these frequently occur and on migration routes. To comply with local environmental criteria there were also detailed specifications about surfacing, and construction was limited to those times in the year when the work would have the least negative impact on wildlife. Construction phases were carefully planned to avoid disrupting biotopes or disturbing protected species during the breeding season, and to minimise air and noise pollution during actual construction.

 

Innovative solution

In view of the high environmental values of the surroundings and obligations to integrate the route visually and physically into the landscape, 73 percent of the total length of the cycle route consists of a 10 cm layer of unpaved gravel. Such solutions are not widely applied today; the technology is relatively complicated and demanding, and there is much emphasis on manual labour during the realization phase.

Construction was also significantly influenced by the time limitations imposed by the environmental impact assessment. This prohibited any construction that might interfere with the biotopes during the period 1 March to 15 August.

 

Close cooperation among partners

Despite such strict demands and the unconventional approach to construction, close cooperation between the designers, contractors and technical supervisors meant that the project could be brought to a successful conclusion. The result of these joint efforts is a quality outcome that meets high user standards and will optimise the lifetime of the finished product. The new route now forms an important section of the arterial cycle network in the Czech Republic that is playing its part in the development of sustainable transport in the Ústí nad Labem Region, cities and cycling in great harmony!


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