Rīga residents concerned new bicycle trail will harm old trees

A new bicycle trail from the Rīga city center to Ziepniekkalns is being built. Residents are concerned that the construction could damage an alley of historic horse-chestnuts. The construction authorities say the trees will be safe, Latvian Radio reported October 28.

The horse-chestnut alley of Vienības gatve leads to Children's Clinical University Hospital. The hundred-year-old trees have been accompanied by poles marking where a new bicycle trail will go. Some trees have had to be felled in order to facilitate construction. Residents of Torņakalns are disgruntled.

Valdis Gavars, head of Torņakalns neighborhood association told Latvian Radio: “See, it's highlighted here. See how close [to the trees] it will go. It's 20 centimeters from the tree. Here it will go over the roots. They could have put it either along the sidewalk or on the other side of the street. [..] From a safety point of view, no one has thought of chestnuts falling to the ground in the autumn. It's not really fun to ride over the chestnuts on a bicycle.” 

Gavars, who is also a member of the Riga City Council from the joint list of the National Alliance/Latvian Regional Alliance, notes that the idea of building a bicycle is to be recognized, but everything needs to be done wisely without damaging the environment.

He said that the association had called the Transport Department several times, but he had not received a reply to the calls or letters.

Latvian Radio also met Riga Transport Department Director Jānis Vaivods and other representatives of the building process. According to Vaivods, 24 trees will be felled and the construction workers will not dig deep in the roots. 

“We cannot talk to every citizen, but we have not been prevented from explaining the solutions to the project at any time. We are trying to answer residents' questions,” said Vaivods.

The reason for the construction on the horse-chestnut alleyway on Vienības gatve is safety. This way cyclists will be separate from road transport, explains Vaivods, adding that the project is scheduled to be completed by spring. It is intended to plant 400 trees and bushes throughout the length of the road, as well as to install benches and other elements. The cost of the project is €1.8 million.

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