Spring is slowly coming to Moravia and that is the perfect time to chuck in the tram pass. Just lube up your chain, pump up the tires and adjust the brakes. But is it really possible to cycle in Brno?
Most faculties are more than ready to accommodate the upcoming surge of cyclists. Newly-renovated faculties such as the Faculty of Informatics and the Faculty of Arts now have new and safer bike stands. A drawback of the latter is that the stands are in the inner yard, where you can only get with an ISIC card. “Nevertheless, it is still a significant improvement over the previous situation, where you had to carry your bike to the yard through the reception,” says Anna Bromová from the Brno branch of Rekola, a bikesharing service with unmistakeable pink bikes.
Choosing a bike
Surveillance cameras monitoring the bike stands are increasingly common at faculty buildings, as the university tries to prevent bike theft. However, carefully locking your bike goes a long way towards achieving that as well. “Forget cheap cable locks – thieves can break one of those with their own teeth,” warns Martin Šindelář, a PhD student at the Faculty of Social Studies and a member of the society “Brno na kole” (Brno by bike). “If you don’t want to lose your bike, get a second-hand one and a more expensive and safer U-lock.”
A used Dutch bike is enough for everyday riding around Brno as well as for shorter weekend trips. The author of the article would like to add that, in her own experience, you can ride all the way to Vienna on this type of bike – though at your own risk and to the detriment of your comfort.
The right accessories are another important factor to consider when choosing a city bike. A front basket will make your life easier when you need to take your notebook and course books with you and is also perfectly suitable for everyday shopping. Another good investment is a dynamo headlight or, alternatively, detachable front and rear lights. And if you cycle through the city centre, which has finally been opened to bike traffic during the whole day, don’t forget a bike bell that can easily be heard.
Navigating city traffic
Biking through the packed city can sometimes increase your adrenaline levels, but the situation has been improving year after year. The number of cycle lanes and paths has been growing and car drivers are slowly getting used to the loss of their road monopoly. Nevertheless, be careful, especially when it comes to cars parked alongside the road: keep a distance of at least one metre from them. If the traffic is really heavy and you decide to cycle on the pavement for a while (which is actually forbidden), cycle slowly and carefully, so that you don’t needlessly give others a reason to dislike cyclists. If you cycle after dark, pay attention not only to your reflectors and lights, but also to the visibility of your clothes.
One way to learn the right cycling habits is to attend one of the organised bike rides that turn Brno into a small-scale version of Amsterdam for a while. Dagmar Krišová, one of the organisers, would like to invite everyone to “The first bike ride of this year, which will take place on 14 April, starting at 6 p.m. at Moravské náměstí.” Not only will you meet people who enjoy the same means of transport as you do, but you will also show the city that you are an integral part of it and that it needs to consider you in its planning.
And the city is gradually getting better at this, as the plan for Štefánikova street in the wider city centre shows. There all types of traffic (foot, bike, public transport and car) should be balanced and create a high-quality city space. The coming years will show whether these efforts have been successful and Brno has become a model for other Czech cities to follow.
Finding your way through Brno
To begin with, we have some slightly bad news for anyone who hoped to find a simple guide to the perfect Brno routes all the way from their doorstep to their faculty: everybody needs to find the best route on their own – by cycling.
For example, there are a number of side streets with minimum traffic or one-way streets with two-way bicycle traffic. This is often a way to avoid the busiest crossroads or crossroads that are hard to navigate. A tool that will certainly make your life easier is the Brno cycling map at brnonakole.cz, where you can see the local cycling paths and adjust your route accordingly.
The mobile app Cykloplánovač offers another useful tweak: it will give you a choice of several routes, taking into account factors such as elevation, type of surface and whether a particular street is busy. You can choose your route from among four travel profiles – quick, quiet, flat or balanced. However, this always depends on your starting point and destination. In some cases, such as when you are cycling to the university campus in Bohunice, there is practically no way to avoid cycling uphill, whether you decide to ride from Pisárky on the main street or through the forest by Anthropos. There is no reason to sweat over it though (not in the figurative sense, at least): it is a chance to do something for your health and it often saves you some time.
And if you are a working student, you can join the spring competition “Cycling to Work” (dopracenakole.cz), which will motivate the whole office to start cycling. Not only will you feel good about yourself, but you can also win some nice prizes. “I cycle to the faculty, because it feels nice, I get some exercise and I can go for a longer ride straight after work,” says Pavel Loutocký, a PhD student from the Faculty of Law. Together with Faculty of Law lecturer Matěj Myška, he participates in the charitable cycling event “Cesta za snem” (“Follow Your Dream”): in that limited amount of time, their 8-member team (including one disabled person) cover an incredible distance of 2,222 kilometres (1,380 miles).