Almaty Goes Bike-Friendly
Almaty's commuters have a new choice. Since last weekend, the sidewalk on central Abai Street has been divided into lanes for cyclists and pedestrians, offering two-wheelers a safer alternative to the chaotic, traffic-choked streets of Kazakhstan’s financial capital. The new bike lanes are the first in a planned 40-kilometer network that will snake alongside some of the city's main traffic arteries. The first section runs from KIMEP University to the city's Central Stadium. The routes will eventually follow Dostyk and Zhandossov streets through downtown.Earlier this year, a group calling itself Velo-Almaty successfully lobbied Mayor Akhmetzhan Yesimov for the bike lanes.Plagued by traffic jams, Almaty ranked ninth in a 2008 survey of the world's most polluted cities. However, it may be some time before biking catches on. A walk along Abai this morning revealed not a single bicycle, but simply pedestrians taking advantage of the wider pavement. Yesimov has made tackling the city’s chronic traffic problems central to his tenure, undertaking a massive project this year to widen central arteries. The city also wants to present its best face to the expected international inflow when the 7th Asian Winter Games – to be held in Almay and Astana – open on January 30.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.