Moscow’s mobility: there is no space left to walk…

by Federico Parolotto

the route from the airport to the city centre


The road

It is definitely instructive to take a taxi from Shermenevo airport towards Moscow’s city centre – Moscow’s radial network is planned to allow fast travel towards the urbanized area. A sequence of split level junctions and run down overhead walkways characterize the stretch of the Leningradskoye Shosse road.

Along both sides of the road a there is a continuous sequence of buildings with very little ground level activity, sometimes there is a tunnel or the radial road gets larger due to additional side roads that allow local accessibility, which is obviously not contemplated by the Leningradskoye Shosse or the Leningradskiy Prospect.


Leningradskoye Shosse


No road is provided with pedestrian crossing points at grade, one is supposed to reach the other side of the street through uninviting underpasses. Cars pass so fast and so aggressively (the taxi reached a rather worrying 100km/hr. on Leningradskiy Prospect) that no one is tempted to cross at grade (as normally happens, since pedestrians try to avoid crossings with level changes).


a pedestrian overpass


The Leningradskoye Shosse is one of Moscow’s radial roads, which have all been planned to basically try to bring express car movements as deep as possible into the central urban environment.


Moscow's radial primary road network


Public transport

Most of the tram lines have been removed to provide more space for cars and it is a little disappointing to see that trolley buses are stuck in the middle of traffic as there is no dedicated lane for public transport. As a consequence during peak hour public surface transport is stuck in the middle of traffic.


Moscow public transport


Despite the enormous width of roads in the city centre, generally composed of 6/7 lanes per direction, it is clear that no space is dedicated to public transport and this makes surface transport incredibly unattractive. The idea of reserving one lane for public transport would not change the overall congestion pattern for private motorized vehicles, especially given the fact that roads in peak hour are basically in a state of gridlock with average speeds in the centre lower than walking speed. It would, however, generate a very positive effect on the overall travelling speed of the public transport system.


Moscow public transport


The road

Arriving from south the view of the church is magic, it seems to be coming out of a fairytale taking you to a different world; it is an incredible building.


St. Basil's Cathedral - image from Panoramio


Reaching the square coming from the south is an issue, and definitely a risky experience for pedestrians: the right of way is incredibly large and far away from any sort of pedestrian-friendly environment, the popular area of Zamoskvorechye (which means behind the Moscow river) is basically unreachable on foot, accessible at your own risk.

The traffic light phasing is only focused on car flows, with very short phasing for pedestrian crossing. Pedestrians are forced to rush to the other side of the road, not even the design of the zebra crossing seems to be adequate …

I have not studied the statistics but I am rather certain that car accident rates and the number of people injured on Moscow’s streets must be rather high.

As usual the whole road is dedicated to cars and to say that pedestrian desire sightlines are ignored is a euphemism.


a pedestrian crossing


Parking management is possibly the final element of this car-oriented mobility pattern, there is no payment enforced for parking in Moscow and there is little enforcement of sanctions for illegal parking. It is therefore very common to see 2/3 rows of cars occupying the road, turning it into a surface car park, again taking the little space left for pedestrians.


parking in Moscow


It is a little scary to think that this city in 1989 had a modal share of 4% on private transport (owning a car during the communist regime was definitely complicated).

Then with the arrival of the free market the rate of car ownership grew massively and as experienced before (in the United States before the Second World War and in Europe shortly after it) the consequences are the removal of tramways, the lack of segregated lanes for buses, and minimum pedestrian crossings to allow maximum space for car flows.

In Moscow, the wide road network has been fully dedicated to car flows and in order to reduce interference with traffic and ensure maximum capacity pedestrian crossings are all either overhead walkways or underpasses.

Moscow’s network shows a sort of in vitro example of how available road space can be reserved for car flows only and how this decision fails to solve any mobility issues; on the contrary it generates surreal levels of road congestion.

One Response to “Moscow’s mobility: there is no space left to walk…”

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    Moscow airport taxi:

    Moscow airport taxi

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