One might have different impressions from a bike ride even in one and the same city. Cycle activists from different regions of Ukraine recently discussed in Lviv how cycling can be made safe and pleasant.
“There is more and more traffic every year. However, the transport infrastructure cannot develop endlessly and it should not be done. We should reduce the use of cars and increase the use of clean and energy-saving means of transport, such as bicycles. Many successful countries of the world have done so,” Lviv city mayor councilor for bicycle infrastructure development Oleh Shmid says.
According to him, this development has already started in Ukraine. He considers 2011 the year when the cycle infrastructure began to develop. “Back then this issue got a lot of attention. Somewhere we drew a cycle lane on the holes of the pavement, somewhere we placed a bike rack, and somewhere we started developing the concept of the cycle infrastructure,” he explains.
However, since then cycling has not become much more comfortable for the Ukrainian bike riders. In Odesa and Donetsk there is one cycle lane and there is not any in Lutsk. On this background Lviv looks very optimistic with its nearly thirty kilometers of cycling lanes. However, even there it is too early to speak about comfortable and safe riding as only parts of the infrastructure, short sections of cycle lanes in separate streets are ready, but they are not connected into a unified network.
The representatives of the Lviv city council explain: the cycle lanes are constructed in the streets and roads that are being repaired. They say if the lanes are not constructed now, the next occasion to build them with minimum expenses might happen in decades.
“It is important to reserve place for cycle lanes as later they will be connected with the other streets into a single network. Now we are working to connect the lanes that have already been constructed,” Oleh Shmid says. According to him, Lviv has to become comfortable for cyclists by 2020 when the Program of the Bike Infrastructure Development will have been accomplished with 268 kilometers of cycle lanes. However, developing the infrastructure is only the first step, the second one is to make it functional. “It is important that all road users help each other. We can invest into building cycle lanes but if they are used for parking cars or walking instead of riding it will be just a waste of money,” Oleh Shmid says.
THE QUESTION OF IMAGE
“I used to cycle to work. My friends called me crazy. Now I am not using a bike,” Andrii, a 40-year-old official of one of the regional centers of western Ukraine says. In his environment they look at a bike as a toy or a means of transport for poor people in the countryside.
The mayor of Donetsk also thinks that cycling to work is ridiculous. In the summer Oleksandr Lukianchenko told the media that he would not go to work by bike not to look ridiculous: “I do not want to make people laugh... I can cycle when I am on holiday. I think, my foreign counterparts used to do it before the elections,” the mayor explained. He also said that cycling to work is only possible for mayors of minor towns with 1,200 to 1,600 inhabitants.
Instead, Lviv is actively promoting bikes as a means of transport. Though the local city mayor does not cycle to work, they shot a series of videos about people of different ages and professions who use bikes to go to work. These people are public activists, scientists, hairdressers. They speak about the advantages of a bike and the reasons that pushed them to choose this means of transport.
256 CYCLISTS PER DAY
“We can speak about the tendency of the cycle traffic development basing on the data of bikes sales. According to the information from the Lviv shops, every year the sales grow by 25 to 40 percent,” Oleh Shmid says.
There are also attempts to count the cyclists on the separate cycle lanes in the city. For example, the Lviv City Council calculated that in Lypynsky Street (where one of the longest cycle lanes in the city was recently constructed) 256 cyclists pass every day. “For you to compare: on the central square of Copenhagen there is a recorder counting cyclists. There up to 20,000 cyclists pass every day,” Oleh Shmid says.
“COMMON INTERESTS – COMMON EFFORTS”
To make the local authorities develop the bike infrastructure, we should not conflict with them, but try to convince them in the importance of the problem, opines the head of direction for protection of citizens’ rights and interests at the Donetsk regional organization “Committee of Electors of Ukraine” Tetiana Durnieva: “We are working with the principle: common interests – common efforts.” The question is solved faster when the authorities realize that it is the problem of the whole city. Past year we held the first mini-referendum on giving the residents of Donetsk the right to use the bikes safely and comfortably. After the referendum we gathered all the propositions (there were over a hundred of them), analyzed and synthesized them and sent them to the mayor in a letter. It was in September. In November the city council adopted the program for cycle traffic development comprising two provisions: to create the concept of cycle traffic development in Donetsk till 2015 (which has already been done) and to design and build cycle lanes by 2015. Thus we got the document we could refer to (we remind our readers that Den/The Day has written about this initiative in a series of articles). Back then the first cycle lane appeared in the city. Although now it is a drop in the ocean, it is an important step forward,” Durnieva believes since the city council has finally seen and realized that the problem exists.
Meanwhile, for Ukrainians bicycles are becoming not only a means of transport to get to work, but the one for work. Postmen riding bicycles are usual in Ukraine. At the same time cycling policemen for most of Ukrainians are associated with American films. However, in Lutsk this means of transport has been tested and its advantages have been appreciated. The local policemen claim that it is much easier to catch a criminal when riding a bike.
“By date we have bought six bicycles that already worked the whole summer. At the first stage we saw the positive results of this innovation. Next year we are planning to have ten or twelve bikes,” head of Lutsk Municipal Department of the Interior Vasyl Marchyshak says. In Lutsk mainly the squares are patrolled on bikes. Only during the public holidays when the central streets are banned for cars copsicles work there as well. The bikes are used only in good weather.
Now there are more and more bike couriers in the Ukrainian cities. The 28-year-old independent bike courier Yurii has worked in Lviv for three years now. “I have different orders: transporting documents, delivering flowers, sometimes buying and bringing food from one’s favorite cafe,” the guy says. During a day Yurii usually makes 120 to 160 kilometers. The slogan of the famous bike courier from Lviv is: “Any time, rain or shine.”
Another business idea was developed in Odesa. There you can call a bike doctor for your bike if needed:
“Transporting a broken bike to a garage is difficult and inconvenient. That is why we started the ‘bike doctor’ service – in case of minor breakdowns a specialist will arrive within a half of an hour and repair your bike. The prices are very democratic: you will have to pay the mechanic 15 hryvnias to arrive and 10 more hryvnias to repair your tire. It seriously saves up your time and efforts, especially taking into account that you would have to take a broken bike to the garage by taxi,” says one of the founders of the service, bike activist from Odesa Yurii Prazdnykov.