A bicycle in Ukrainian towns and villages is a part of life and the main mode of transport. But for the time being, it remains a spontaneous phenomenon often caused by the absence of any other transportation alternative. They lack conditions for development of bicycle traffic: bike paths, bike parks and the knowledge of basic road traffic rules by bicyclists.
For the third year in a row, small towns and villages across Ukraine have been uniting into communities. The process of decentralization leads to the growth of local budgets.
Eventually, that would lead to the improvement of roads and public transport and, most likely, would decrease bicycle traffic.
How to keep people on the bicycle and help them realize its advantages for health, the environment and economy of the community?
Green Light for Bicycle Traffic in Communities, a pilot project launched in 2018 by Kyiv Association of Bicyclists with the support from U-LEAD with Europe program and local councils, tries to answer these challenges.
How to make a bicycle a mode of transport and why
In Ukrainian cities, and now in communities, the attention to bicycle transport is constantly growing, but the work on designing and building cycling infrastructure in our country has begun only in recent years.
However, that work is not based on any uniform standards: every city makes an own design. It brings chaos to the organization of bicycle traffic and inconveniences all road users: bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians.
“Today, Ukraine lacks national standards on how to design quality, unified, safe cycling infrastructure”, Kyiv Association of Bicyclists Project Coordinator Kateryna Shulha explains.
“At the same time, road designers and bodies of local self-government need a decision-making instrument.
“The national bicycling standards that we were able to order under Green Light for Bicycle Traffic in Communities project are going to become such an instrument”.
M.P. Shulhin State Road Research & Development Institute is expected to develop bicycling DSTUs by the end of 2018.
However, the goal of Green Light for Bicycle Traffic in Communities project is to achieve positive changes in communities.
In particular, to improve the attitude in unified territorial communities toward bicycle traffic as a cost-effective, sustainable and attractive mode of transport for daily commuting.
To achieve that end, creating the required legislative framework, bike paths and bike parks at schools is not enough.
First of all, the attitude of people and their traveling habits must be changed.
In Ukraine, a bicycle is still regarded as transport for children and the poor. Therefore, even in small Ukrainian towns where the average traveling distance does not exceed a few kilometers, people prefer a car, if they can afford it.
Every year, more and more Ukrainian cities are joining the pan-European initiative aimed to popularize sustainable modes of transport.
It lasts just one week in September, encouraging community leaders to equally accommodate the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
But this year, unified territorial communities have for the first time joined the information campaign en masse. It became possible thanks to a contest of grants for organization of the European Mobility Week.
“We received almost fifty applications from 21 regions of Ukraine”, Ivan Zinoviev, the contest’s coordinator under Green Light for Bicycle Traffic in Communities project says.
“The communities themselves and NGOs registered in their territory were eligible to participate in this contest.
“In the end, 11 communities have won the grants for organization of the European Mobility Week, 60 thousand hryvnias each. And what they were able to make with this money is really impressive”.
For instance, the Novopskovsk community in the Luhansk Oblast focused on the children and family audience.
“The age of people who visited our events ranged from 2.5 to 67 years”, Tetiana Chervenko, a representative of a village council in the Novopskovsk community says.
“As part of this project, we bought reflective bracelets, retroreflectors and bike lights.
“We urge people on bicycles to stay visible on the road and understand that our lives are in our hands”.
Cowboys on bicycles
14-year-old Yevhen lives in Koriukivky, a town in the Chernihiv Oblast.
“In our town, every other person, or perhaps even everyone has an own bicycle”, he says.
“A bicycle is like a phone – it’s a part of my life. I often ride a bike when traveling to the neighboring villages, shopping or going to school”.
The schoolboy gets to his school in 5 minutes, and every morning, he has to take a parking quest as the school doesn’t have a bike park. Most students chain their rovers to the steel fence, and those who arrive later, have to park the bike by the wooden fence.
Koriukivky doesn’t have bike paths, either.
“I ride on the roadway”, Yevhen continues. “Sometimes, cars scare me, so it would’ve been nice to have them [bike paths]”.
Yevhen and his classmates were the first participants of the bicycle traffic safety school organized under Green Light for Bicycle Traffic in Communities project.
During this bicycling school, students learned the theory: what equipment a bicycle has to have to make a bike ride safe, where one can ride a bicycle in the city and how, what road signs mean, how to make a left turn on a bike safely and how to bypass an obstacle, how to cross an intersection, and so on.
“I am sure that many kids and adults do not understand the value of the Road Traffic Rules just because nothing bad has happened in their life yet”, Volodymyr Onyshchuk, Chairman of Alternative NGO in Koriukivky community explains the importance of this school.
“We should be proactive, and these trainings are useful, because children understand the importance of reflectors, lights on a bike and the Road Traffic Rules. Consequently, there would be less traffic violations and road accidents”.
Theoretical materials were followed up by bike rides on location.
To make it not boring, cowboys on bikes showed the same things in promo videos prepared specifically for To School on a Bike campaign.
“These videos show various rules of riding a bicycle”, the campaign’s coordinator Dmytro Zhyginas explains.
“They can be used at off-school classes on road traffic safety to increase the interest in this subject among schoolchildren thanks to the game format of video clips”.
Every clip leaves several open questions, and therefore, it provokes discussions after viewing, exchange of opinions and experience among schoolchildren, with teachers acting as moderators.
“Therefore, classical memorization of correct answers transforms into a dynamic process, in which students themselves arrive at the perception of correct actions”, Dmytro explains.
There are also videos that refute popular stereotypes about the bicycle, for instance, about heat and taking obligatory shower after any bicycle ride.
The bicycle traffic safety school was intended for persons over 14 years of age – the minimum age at which the Road Traffic Rules of Ukraine permit riding a bicycle on the road.
“We want to convey the knowledge of the Road Traffic Rules that concern bicyclists to children, and hope that they will bring this knowledge home and tell their parents and grandparents about it.
“This way, the culture of using bicycle transport would grow in villages and small towns”, bicycle instructor Anna Khraban, who for the third year has been conducting a bicycle traffic safety school in Kyiv as a volunteer, says.
Presently, Kyiv Association of Bicyclists is developing methodological materials to help communities conduct bicycling schools themselves.
That was what Polish bicycle enthusiasts from Świdnik, a small town near Lublin, did. At first, they conducted bicycling classes for schoolchildren themselves, but now, physical education teachers do that, and children take exams for a bicycle driving license.
Besides a bicycling school, six bike parks were opened near the school in Koriukivky in early October. These bike parks have been installed during To School on a Bike campaign.
This campaign takes place not just in Koriukivky. It is also a part of Green Light for Bicycle Traffic in Communities project.
In total, five communities from five different regions participate in this campaign: Koriukivky in the Chernihiv Oblast, Lokhvytsia in the Poltava Oblast, Yakushyntsi in the Vinnytsia Oblast, Korostyshiv in the Zhytomyr Oblast, and Bilozirya in the Cherkasy Oblast.
There are bicyclists but no bike paths
While one still can come across bike parks in the communities, usually near stores or hospitals, bike paths there are nonexistent, even though the number of bicyclists there is much higher than in large Ukrainian cities, where construction of cycling infrastructure is getting underway.
That’s why this project brought the planning of bikeways to the agenda of communities.
Five communities where the leadership came to realize the importance of these changes have been selected to launch this process.
Their list almost matches To School on a Bike campaign: Koriukivky, Lokhvytsia, Yakushyntsi, Korostyshiv and Pyriatyn unified territorial communities (UTCs) held two-day workshops attended by representatives of the local community and council.
It is important that these workshops are attended by both bicyclists and non-bicyclists. Headed by an expert from Kyiv Association of Bicyclists, they defined the main points of gravitation in the community, problematic areas in the streets and bike routes with the highest potential.
The workshops in the communities have developed bicycling concepts: action plans for the implementation of cycling infrastructure.
“It is important that they contain a bikeway network map”, Kyiv Association of Bicyclists expert Vadym Denysenko says.
“We have already marked on particular streets the places where there will be bikeways and where there will not. The UTC may now start setting priorities: to which street to allocate funding and to which not to.
“The concepts also include a clear plan, itemized by years and stating where to install bike parks and in what places, who is responsible for that and who for finding money to finance the implementation of this concept if the local budget won’t have it”.
What does it give communities?
Cycling infrastructure and cycling enlightenment not only increase road safety and help save human lives but also promote economic development.
Many communities want to develop tourism and prepare interesting bicycling routes to attract visitors.
The availability of bike paths encourages the locals to use bicycles as well. That has positive effect on public health and helps save on healthcare costs.
“Even small projects can unite people. When people get together to realize some idea of theirs, this way they control their life and make it better”, Mykola Liakhovych, Capacity Development Advisor at U-LEAD with Europe (Ukraine – Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development Program) believes.
By Maryna Bludsha, Kyiv Association of Bicyclists
Source – UP.Zhyttia