How are Belarusian cities promoting cycling?

Somewhere, like in Vetka, a bicycle is the only city transport, but there is not a single store with spare parts. And in some places, like in Gomel, the department of architecture and town planning of the city executive committee is ready to discuss its decisions with activists.

What the cities told about at the PraRovar forum
The informal cycling network is working - such a conclusion can be drawn from the reports during the PraRovar cycling forum on November 23-25 in Brest. It was conceived to create it a year and a half ago, during the May bike rides at the Chablis farm.
At the forum on November 23, representatives of 8 different cities spoke about their news over the past year and about their plans for the next. The cycling initiative in Gomel received registration and became an official cycling organization, in Baranavichy, activists want to build a bicycle path, and in Lida, a project for a new 10-kilometer bicycle path is being prepared.
In some cities, like in the Polotsk-Novopolotsk agglomeration, changed the very structure of urban mobility, and residents do not need multiple major routes. They need a network of small ones.
Common problems of cities are infrastructural: high curbs, sometimes deep holes; lack of bike crossings and competition for space with pedestrians on the sidewalks.
The general success is that many are participating in the working groups of their cities on the development of cycling along with representatives of the administration, traffic police and service organizations. During the meetings, participants work with local cycling plans as prescribed National Concept development of cycling.

Photo: Denis Zelenko
Bicycle - city transport for more than 1% residents of Brest
Activists and media are not shy about calling Brest the bicycle capital of Belarus... In the town appeared three tourist cycling routes, and there is a demand for them: more than 1% residents, or 4,000 residents of Brest, use bicycles as public transport. 44% residents have at least one bicycle per household.
A young administration with ambitions and a desire to communicate with volunteers is what a Brest resident praises his city for Valentin Boldenko... He represents the Radeya cycling club, which has existed for 24 years.
- Brest is a visiting card, a city on the border of the republic. Therefore, our initiative and the mayor strive to make the city cycling, - he says.

Photo: Denis Zelenko
Grodno: “I didn't wait for the plan to be written. I wrote it and brought it to the table "
Grodno is gradually turning into a city where there are reasons for admiration, according to a member of the organization's board Julia Koleda.
In 5 years, the number of parking lots has grown from 12 to 312, and activists have already stopped counting them. And this year buses with bicycle racks were launched on the Augustow Canal.
But in the city it is still difficult with a barrier-free environment: in only one microdistrict there are more than 150 curbs higher than 4 centimeters. You will find 16-18 scattered bike paths in Grodno and not a single crossing.
The activists participate in the public coordination council under the Natural Resources Committee, in the public tourism council and in the working group on the development of cycling under the executive committee.
- While we were activists, there were problems with communication with these structures. But if you want changes, you need to come to a partnership, - speaks Julia Koleda.
- And now, if there are deficiencies in the infrastructure, I do not hold promotions, but write letters with requests and suggestions. Our activists know how to do this too.

Photo: Denis Zelenko
The city has a plan to achieve strategic goals for the development of cycling infrastructure until 2020, approved by the council.
“I didn’t wait for it to be written. I wrote it, brought it and put it on the table in the executive committee with the words: "It is necessary to approve." The concept for the development of cycling is still in draft, but we want to have it by the end of 2019.
Now we are working on adjusting the general plan of Grodno, and Grodno residents together with the Minsk Cycling Society have made a scheme for the priority movement of cyclists.
Lida: there are bike paths, but in the middle there are pillars
- In my subjective opinion, the authorities do not interfere with cycling initiatives, but there are no people there who would like to make the city cycling. Somehow last year they came to the chairman and said: we need to make a cycle path. He says: “Come on, let's look out the window. Do you see the bicycles? No. Do you see the cars? Yes". That's the whole conversation, says the cyclist. Oleg Volodkevich from Lida.
- I go in for sports and know little about the plans of the city, so I will tell you from the perspective of a layman. There are two long bike paths to remote areas of the city and a bike path along Pobeda Avenue with lighting poles and high curbs.
According to him, in the center there are more and more bicycle parking lots near cafes and shops, but so far these are inconvenient "kolatorkvalki".

Photo: Denis Zelenko
In 2018 it was published research bicycle infrastructure of the city, carried out jointly by the Moscow Military District and the organization "VeloLida". According to him data this year, they began to design a new 10 km long cycle path.
- We have made changes to the project for the reconstruction of a large street, which connects the actively under construction microdistrict with the center. This year the street was commissioned, and a bicycle path appeared there. Thanks to the help of VeloGrodno, we achieved that the contractor made the curbs to zero, - the representative of VeloLida comments. Oleg Mikulich.

City map, green - bike paths. Illustration from the speaker's presentation

Architect from Vileyka: More will be financed with the participation of citizens
Cyclists in -25C are not uncommon for the city Vileyki in the Minsk region. There are about 30 thousand residents, for whom bicycle parking and a time-logistics map in the city park are installed, on which you can see the time to travel to a particular place. On several buses there is an advertisement, the essence of which is to show the non-environmental friendliness of personal transport.
- There are plans to continue to popularize cycling transport. I myself, being a lawyer, ride a bike every day: spring, summer, autumn is mine, - speaks Evgeny Ivashkevich, bicycle activist and coordinator of the public movement "ZOViK".

Photo: Denis Zelenko
The scheme of approved bike paths until 2020 was shown by the chief architect of the city Dmitry Gorlanov:
“We will do them - we have budgetary funds and non-budgetary funding for this,” he says and explains that the city wants, first of all, to build connections between districts, creating a network.
In 2017, a cycle path was built to the Porsa area (link to presentation Department of Architecture and Construction). There are plans to reconstruct the bridge across the Viliya and build a 4 km long cycle path from the city center to the Vileika reservoir (in 2020).
In 2017, 4.3 kilometers of bike paths were built in the city, in 2018 - 5.1 kilometers, and in the period until 2021, they hope that there will be 25 of them.

Illustration from the speaker's presentation
Dmitry emphasizes that funding can be higher:
- If not only the authorities, but also citizens take an active part, when the authorities take the right steps: 300-400 signatures, a petition, the publication of an article in a newspaper can serve as a basis for financing a particular object. But without them, there may be no reason tomorrow.

Illustration from the speaker's presentation
Everyday bike for 50% residents of Vetka
The city of Vetka is located among the forests in Polesie, the Sozh River flows there and about 8 thousand people live.
- There is no public transport in this city at all. There are buses between Vetka and Gomel, but even the central regional hospital is outside the city and nothing goes there, - says Alexey Kontarev from the Minsk organization of the ROO "Living Partnership" (link to presentation).
Together with the program of support to Belarus by the federal government of Germany, they are engaged in the development of cycling. In Vetka, the organization conducted a small survey among 32 people aged 25-50.

Illustration from the speaker's presentation
75% of them owns a personal bike, the rest use someone else's, about 50% rides a bike in any weather every day to work, study, etc. The 71% uses a bicycle for fast travel.
- We asked what prevents cycling every day, and we were told that it is inconvenient to ride on sidewalks with pedestrians, curbs interfere and many are afraid to ride on the roadway, - says Alexey.
There are no workshops or shops with spare parts in the city.

Illustration from the speaker's presentation
In Mogilev - a working group, a cycling marathon and knee-deep pits
Contacts, meetings and events - this is how the representatives of the Bicycle Development initiative see the development of cycling in Mogilev. Among the events - the opening of the season "Velovesna", Day without a car, the action "Polite safety" and others.
- One of the most important areas of work of our organization is working with children, - says the participant of the "Bicycle Development" initiative Evgeny Zabludny (link to video).

Photo: Denis Zelenko
The youngest participant in the opening of the cycling season was 3.5 years old. Children are also taught during the events minor repairs and movement rules.
The Mogilev City Executive Committee has a working group for the development of bicycle infrastructure, and Velorazvitiya is very proud of this. The working group includes representatives of the city executive committee, traffic police, operating organizations, bicycle activists.
There is enough work in the city for everyone:
- We saw huge pits in 2018 on the city's bike paths. So that you understand: these two tracks were built in 2017, and already in 2018 there were knee-deep rock falls or more, ”says a representative of the Tuteyshy Rovar initiative. Alina Skrebunova (link to presentation and video (1, 2).
Representatives of the initiative filmed videos and photos, wrote appeals, but they did not remove the landslides or did it poorly. As a result, one of them had an accident. The cyclist left in an ambulance and the problem was cleared in two hours.
- The problem of cycling infrastructure in Mogilev - it is done for show, - the speaker thinks.
She also criticizes the fact that they do not discuss future bike paths with the townspeople, but only their impact on the environment (EIA). Complains about the lack of meetings with the administration, as well as the fact that there are no people responsible for the development of cycling, even despite the working group.
- It includes a representative of only one cycling initiative. This body is not public, it is difficult to get there, and what is discussed there does not go beyond the cabinet, says Alina and gives a list of about 5 different initiatives.

Photo: Denis Zelenko
But at the same time, there is reason for pride: this year the Mogilev cycling marathon has been held for the second time.
"Zhoty Rovar" to appear in Orsha
A pump track, an outdoor stand for repairing bicycles and parking at each enterprise - these are the plans of the initiative group in Orsha. In 2019, activists want to register the public organization Zhoty Rovar (link to presentation).
- Orsha has wide road lanes in the main directions, which can accommodate dedicated bike paths. Wide sidewalks can be divided into sidewalk and bike paths, activists say.
Now 80% curbs in the city have been lowered, and the city plans to lay 6 kilometers of bike paths around the area.
Baranavichy activists want permission for dirt park
- The theme today is the same for everyone: curbs, lack of sidewalks, infrastructure. Probably, disagreements arise due to the fact that some people travel, others make decisions. We do not come to a common conclusion, - the representative of the Baranovichi Velodvizheniye group thinks. Alexey Shugaev (link to video "Chronicle of cycling").
The cycling initiative has existed for four years, but has not yet been registered. The activists hold bike holidays, walks, and more than 40 meetings come out a year.
- The city pretends that we are not. Sometimes it’s impossible to get permission for an event, ”the speaker says. - We had a meeting with the deputies, where we read our theses. The mayor gave the go-ahead to build a dirt park in the old park on his own. Unfortunately, everything remained at the level of conversations, and we are marking time
At the same time, Aleksey thanked the Minsk Cycling Society, which "pulls us along." We can show how Minsk or Brest looks like, where you can come and see.

Photo: Denis Zelenko
In Gomel, they want to build a track and removed the cable over the bike path
The Gomel activists had a big event: on February 21, VeloGomel received registration and now it has 58 people.
- In 2018, we actively underestimate the curbs, we have our own interactive map of problem areas and the sending of applications through the 115.bel service is working (this is especially important now, when the budget for next year is planned), - says the head of the organization Svetlana Korol.

Photo: Denis Zelenko
The activists tried to make sure that the city had convenient bicycle parking instead of "kolatrkvalak", and also coped with one curious and dangerous situation.
- We had one sidewalk, which intersected with the cables for strengthening power lines. And when the bike lanes were marked there, the cable ended up in the neck area of the cyclists. The activists wrote an appeal, and the problem was resolved, says Dmitry Trusov, representative of the organization "VeloGomel"
In May, a working group for the development of cycling was created, which included representatives of their cycling. Dmitry emphasizes that relations with the traffic police and the administration are friendly, good relations and with the architecture department, which is ready to discuss the proposals of the activists.
“Even some government officials are starting to participate in our rides,” he says.

Photo: Denis Zelenko
Next year, activists are going to create tourist routes. But bicycle garages are not a priority, as they concluded from the survey: 93 out of 500 people have no problems keeping a bicycle.
The activists are promoting the idea of a cycle track, and they are supported by the Department of Sports and Tourism, the site has been roughly defined.
- From what I don't like, Gomel still gives higher priority to a personal car, and not to a bicycle or pedestrians, which can be seen from the development of individual streets. And the last thing - I would like to promote the city bike rental, but so far it has not been possible, - concluded Dmitry.
The material was prepared within the framework of the Urban Cycling in Belarus project with financial support from the European Union and within the deVELOpment campaign with the assistance of the US Embassy in Belarus.
Text: Anna Volynets

2018, December 21st

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