Here is our guide to riding in Riga, with a description of some of Riga’s bike paths in Riga and general cycling in the city.
Bicycle awareness and infrastructure in Riga has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, in reflection of a dramatic increase in the number of cyclists on the roads. Riding is no longer seen as simply a weekend activity, but is now a popular mode of transport for young and old. Whether this is simply a fad, a response to the current economic crisis and high prices, or a long term change in the Latvian people’s mindset remains to be seen. What is certain is that the local government needs to do more to increase the number of bike paths in Riga.
We will look at 3 bike paths in Riga, that run from the centre of the city to Jurmala. Bergi and Mežaparks respectively. All three bike roads are of differing ages and the quality, but make for pleasant car free riding. Off these bike paths, however, riding in Riga becomes more exciting. Cyclists have to deal with cars, buses and trams as well as the aggressive style of driving shown by Mercedes driving egomaniacs and formula-one wannabe taxi drivers. Then there is the cobble-stones, which force riders onto the pavement, where they must dodge pedestrians and signposts and deal with high curbs.
One benefit of cycling in Riga is the fact that the city is flat. Not a hill to be seen, unless you have to cross a bridge. And traffic is no where near as busy as in other capital cities. Overall riding in Riga can be a pleasant experience, so long as you use your head and ride politely.
Riga’s Bike Paths
Riga – Jurmala Bike Path
The oldest and longest bike path of the three, the Riga Jurmala bike path was constructed during Soviet times, and despite a renovation 10 years ago, feels that way. It can be a bit bumpy at times, and the beginning is quite difficult to follow, but once you hit the railway line itš smooth riding all the way to the beach through some fantastic nature.
The Riga to Jurmala bike route starts at the Vanšu bridge, the big cable-stay one next to Riga Castle. After crossing the bridge you can take a detour off to your left to visit the island of Kipsala with its lovely wooden houses. Otherwise, keep straight on into the suburbs of Pardaugava (across Daugava river). Here the path often becomes difficult to follw, so keep your eyes peeled for the blue bike signs or markings on the ground. You should pass the Botanical Gardens and cross the railway line before the bike path takes you along the footpath parallel to Jurmalas Gatve (highway). Turn left at the Neste gas station and right at the end of the road and you’re on the bike track to Jurmala.
From here, the bike path follows the railway line, past the Soviet block apartment suburbs of Imanta and Zolitude, through fields and forests and small villages of summer cottages. Finally, just before the Lielupe river, the path turns to the left, leaving the railway line and joining the highway to cross the bridge and enter Jurmala.
In Jurmala the bike paths are well marked. Follow them to get to the central region, Majori, or just ride straight to the beach for a refreshing dip. Of course the easiest way to get to Jurmala is to join our Jurmala Bike Tour, we’ll make sure you don’t get lost, and point out the interesting spots along the way, and in Jurmala. Overall the ride should take between 1 and 2 hours to complete. If you don’t feel like riding back, then you can take your bike on the train with you, just don’t forget to buy it a ticket.
Riga – Mezaparks Bike Path
This bike route was built in the 90’s and runs from the the Art Nouveau district to the forest park Mezaparks. It is well marked for the majority of the route, but is not the most interesting ride, at least at the beginning. Those who want a longer ride can continue through Mezaparks to find the Mezaparks – Vecaki bike path. This will take you all the way to the beach at Vecaki, although some parts are still not constructed.
To get to the beginning of the Mezaparks bike track, you have to head to the Art Nouveau district and ride to the end of Strelnieku street. Cross at the lights here, and you are on the path. Why the bike path begins there I have no idea, but hopefully the city decides to link it with the Old Town and the starts of the other two bike paths. This first part of the ride is not the most scenic, through an empty area spotted by sports stadiums, new highrise apartments and bank buildings, which might hold interest for those who like modern architecture.
Once you cross the railway line, you enter a more interesting part of the city. On your left for the next 10 minutes are the main cemeteries of Riga. Whilst the path doesn’t pass the Brothers Graveyard, it is worth taking a detour to check it out. Also worth visiting are nearby Rainis and Forest cemeteries, with some impressively artistic memorials. Ride on until you reach Mezaparks, you’ll notice the wooden mansions on either side of the road. Head into the side streets to check out the great houses, or continue on to the entrance of the park, and the zoo.
What you do, where you go next is up to you. Explore the park, head to the lake, visit the zoo or head on to the beach at Vecaki. You can join a Beautiful Riga bike tour and get the most out of this ride to one of the nicest parts of the city, we’ll take you there and back and show the undiscovered parts of the city along the way. It should only take you about 30 minutes to get to Mezaparks, and a further 30-60 minutes to the Vecaki beach.
Riga – Bergi Bike Path
This is the newest bike path in Riga, completed only last year. It runs from the Old Town all the way out to Bergi on the north edge of the city. One of the main benefits of this bike path is that it will take you all the way out to the Open Air Ethnographic Museum. This is hopefully just the beginning of the development of Riga’s cycling infrastructure, although little progress has been made since the construction of this bike path. Still it is a welcome development, and a nice ride that showcases the many different sides of Riga.
The bike path starts next to Bastejkalns, just outside the Riga Old Town. The first part of the ride takes you through two of the nicest city parks, before you hit something amazing, a bike lane in the Copenhagen style, separated from the road by parked cars. Watch out for pedestrians who don’t think they need to look before crossing the bike path. Unfortunately it only lasts a few blocks, ending at the rather beautiful Riga Hospital.
From there you’re riding on the footpath, although bike lanes are clearly marked. Just before the Statoil gas station on Valdemara, the path disappears, and you have to turn right and head towards Brivibas street.You can take an interesting detour at the corner of Miera street, and head diagonally through the Great Cemetery, an interesting mix of graveyard and park, with load of interesting history.
Once you reach Brivibas street, you’ ll find the red bike path that will take you through the changing suburbs of Riga, right out to the lakes that border the northern part of the city. Just after crossing the bridge, you’ll see signs for the Ethnographic museum, an interesting collection of traditional buildings from around Latvia. Check it out, have a picnic by the lake and then peddle back to the centre for a deserved meal or drink.
Riding to the Open Air Museum should take around an hour, but you’ll want to give yourself a couple of hours to explore it. Remember to take a bike lock as you can’t ride inside the museum.
Riding in Riga
Some general information about riding a bike in Riga that may help yoget a little bit more enjoyment from your riding. Off the three bike paths, there are no bike lanes in Riga and riding can be challenging, butit can also be great fun, and the lack of hills makes cycling easy for all ages and abilities. There are however a lot of cobbled streets, making for a bumpy ride unless you decide to take to the footpath.
Firstly, you need to choose where you want to ride. Will you brave the traffic and ride on the road, or dodge pedestrians on the pavement. Both are legal in Riga, although jumping between the two is not. So long as you ride safely and courteously, you should have no problems. On the road, assume that all cars won’t stop or give way to you, although you will be pleasantly surprised that most will. On the footpath, expect old ladies to freeze with terror in their eyes when they see a bike, and some men to randomly change direction, mainly due to the amount of vodka they’ve consumed that morning. A bell is very useful for footpath riding. You can also ride across pedestrian crossings, but make sure the car has seen you before you roll across.
A helmet is not required, but is of course a good idea. Lights are essential at night, which comes pretty early during the winter, as is a high visibility vest. A good lock is also essential, as bike theft is common. As mentioned above you can take your bike on trains if you buy a baggage ticket, one third the price of a regular ticket, but not on public transport.
So riding in Riga, if you ride safely and courteously, is a great way to get around and see the city. The three bike paths will take you to some very interesting parts of the city. Of course, you can join us on one of our bike tours to get the most out of your cycle. Just send us a letter and we can find something appropriate for you or your group. Happy cycling from Eat Riga!