By Raluca Fiser
Cities all over the world are reinventing themselves as places to be lived, rather than just driven through. Valencia, Bogotá, and Hanoi are the new pioneers. Vibrant, open, busy, messy, mixing, these cities, although different from one another, but they all share something. All are leveraging bicycles as an excellent tool to unlock the full potential of mobility, liveability, local economy and democracy.
The time has come for Bucharest’s resurgence. Here are some steps to transform the Romanian capital into the most competitive city of Eastern Europe – for cycling and more.
Step 1: Vision and will
City leaders are generally highly engaged individuals, passionate about their job and capable of firm commitments. The very first thing they need is to have an ambitious vision of the city they want.
Be inspired by the top 20 most cycling friendly cities, recently unveiled in the Copenhagenize Index. The first 5-7 cities are in a category of their own, but lower down the list one can find cities like Barcelona, Paris, Taipei; highly chaotic, until recently traffic oriented, and all featuring huge avenues designed for big polluting vehicles. And yet, the rock-solid political will of their leaders are changing the face of these cities forever.
Best practice: Ljubljana
Step 2: Create a Cycling Strategy
As a starter city in bicycle mobility, Bucharest needs to ensure its vision is also translated into a long-term strategy.
This might sound as a boring waste of time, but it’s the only way to ensure a sustainable growth of cycling. I’ve seen so many cities doing great in the first 2 years of development and then stop because of their lack of a coherent strategy!
Best practice: Helsinki
Steps 3, 4 and 5: Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure
Bucharest being still at the beginning of its glorious way towards becoming a cycling city, high-quality safe infrastructure is an essential feature it has to develop. The primary reason why people of the world don’t cycle is because they feel unsafe. And the primary reason why Copenhageners cycle is because it’s the fastest, most efficient way to get around town.
Best practice: Seville
Step 6: Reduce cars (and speed)
Getting rid of car traffic is the fast track to a more cyclable city, but definitely a hard target to hit. An easy and cost-efficient way to make people feel comfortable walking and cycling is to reduce car speed, especially in those places where there is no need for proper cycling infrastructure. 30km per hour is quickly becoming the new normal in city centres.
In any case, Bucharest is the slowest city in Europe because of its congestion, so it won’t change much!
Best practice: Oslo
Step 7: Communication
“Build it and they will come” is a sort of mantra in the cycling sector, referring to the need for cycling infrastructure to grow modal share. While this bears some truth, especially in beginner cities, it is no universal solution. A proper communication strategy needs to be set in place.
Brand your cycling-promoting measures; study a unique way to make your infrastructure visible; organise events and interact with your citizens. And lead by example! Jumping on your bike and cycling to work every morning is a great way to show your commitment (and win votes).
Best practice: Brussels
Step 8: (Bike) Sharing is caring
Bike sharing has repeatedly been one of the most efficient tools to quickly upscale cycling in cities. It not only makes cycling accessible to virtually everyone; it also enhances greatly the visibility of cycling itself. So don’t stay beside and buy your own subscription on Bucharest bike-sharing program sponsored by Raiffeisen Bank and Kaufland Romania – www.ivelo.ro
Best practice: London
Step 9: The Devil hides in the details
The beauty of cycling lies in its simplicity. The bicycle is an easy and elegant mode of transport that allows an incredibly wide range of people to move efficiently. But as it often goes for simple things, they have to be perfect to work properly. Details like the smoothness of the asphalt or that 2% gradient of the bridge have a big impact on the experience of cycling. And ultimately, on how many people will enjoy doing it.
Make cycling in Bucharest nice and pleasant by appointing a good CEO, Chief Experience Officer!
Best practice: Copenhagen
Step 10: Create a Cycling Dream Team
All the points above need a lot of work and coordination, but if there is one thing crucial to make it happen is: people working on it. So, I more than grateful to my Green Revolution Association Team for fighting for cycling rights, laws, campaigns and developing and operating bike-sharing projects like Ivelo.ro. Allocate budget and support a team of experts whose primary objective is making of Bucharest a cycling city. With a dedicated team of professionals, you can climb the position of the Copenhagenize Index in no time!