Winter snows have brought perilous conditions for cyclists in Tartu, some of whom have put their bikes away until spring. City authorities say budgets do not stretch to having the round-the-clock cleaning of cycle lanes.
One University of Tartu student, Kerttu Kuku, told ERR's radio news Saturday that she only cycles round the city from spring to autumn. The snowy conditions have put her off cycle lanes during winter time, she added.
"I don't want to cycle right now. Perhaps there is somewhere in the city center where it would be more or less safe and comfortable, but mostly the roads are still snow-covered. The sidewalks are also snowy. I want to be able to cycle around the city safely, but right now that's not possible," Kuku said, adding that she usually walks, especially given public transport costs money.
On the other hand, Tartu resident Even Heinväli said the snow did not deter him from cycling, even with his child in tow, though this was harder than at different times of year.
He said: "I've done marathons and my sense of balance is better, so I have more strength. I push through everywhere, with strength, but when I'm cycling with my child I still sometimes get into difficulties, when I then have to choose other routes. The lanes should still be passable for everyone, regardless of age and physical condition."
Madis Tammeorg, head of the city's street cleaning department, said that the city government fulfills all snow removal requirements on dedicated cycle lanes, which are cleared every eight hours.
"With regard to the separate lanes, we have agreed – taking on board last year's experience - on an additional maintenance regime, whereby cleaning will be carried out a little more frequently and a little differently, to make things better.
"As for the cycle lanes which run adjacent to the road, since there has been a lot of snow, the budget doesn't allow for keeping these completely clear at all times. There is no continually snow-free zone," he went on.
An improvement on this requires more staff and equipment, and therefore a bigger budget, he added.
Meanwhile Kaimar Kütt, chief specialist with Tartu city cleaning and involved in monitoring activities, said that on-the-spot reports from cyclists and other road users will help with better, and quicker, street cleaning and conditions for cycling.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel
Source: ERR Radio News