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What's wrong with Poland's bicycle politics?

31 of August '23
w skrócie
  1. The text analyzes the potential of bicycles in Polish cities and the perspective of bicycle policy.
  2. It presents the report "Bicycle policy of Polish cities" by Marcin Hyła, examining the development of bicycling in Poland.
  3. He points out the challenges cities face in expanding infrastructure for cyclists.
  4. He emphasizes the need for consistent standards, evaluation tools and a focus on quality in bicycle policies for the further development of this mode of transportation in Polish

  5. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the A&B portal

What potential do bicycles have in Polish cities today? For many years there has been talk about their role, citing Copenhagen and Amsterdam as examples. What is the situation of bicycles and their users from the perspective of Polish everyday life?

As part of our #ReportThursday series, we present documents, reports and guides on architecture, cities and local government that are certainly worth publicizing and promoting. This week we take a look at the report „Bicycle Policy of Polish Cities,” issued by the IRMiR's Urban Policy Observatory. The author of the report is Marcin Hyła.

Bicycling in Poland has become a political topic, with Polish society divided into its ardent advocates and staunch opponents. This is a purely urban perspective; in small towns and villages the two-wheeler does not arouse such emotions. The authorities of Polish cities, on the one hand, claim that they are trying to do something for cycling, but on the other hand, these are often only sham activities. What should be done to efficiently develop infrastructure for two-wheelers, while not falling into the traps of thinking?

Marcin Hyła investigated this perspective, trying to point out the direction in which we are heading with bicycle policy in Poland.

The report is available on the OPM IRMiR website.

 „Polityka rowerowa polskich miast” autorstwa Marcina Hyły ukazała się w serii raportów opublikowanych przez IRMiR

"Bicycle policy of Polish cities" by Marcin Hyła was published in a series of reports published by the IRMiR

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

research and data

Many people tend to associate the bicycle as a contemporary element. In our collective imaginary defining the 1930s, we would sooner find an image of Tamara Lempicka in a green Bugatti than a woman or man riding a bicycle to work. That's a mistake, as evidenced by stories about the „fanning of workers' bicycles under the Moscicki nitrogen plant” during the twentieth century. As Hyla points out at the beginning of the report, the first bicycle paths were built as early as the 1930s in Poznan.

However, historical anecdotes should not cover the fact that the most important period defining our approach to bicycles begins at the beginning of the transition—it is then that cities construct the first bicycle policies and road standards. These documents, however, have many shortcomings. First of all, they differ in defining terms. The lack of consistency makes it difficult to compare the introduced solutions.

kontrapasy i kontraruchy wciąż nie są bardzo popularnym rozwiązaniem w Polskich miastach

Counterpasses and contraflows are still not a very popular solution in Polish cities

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

Traffic surveys are equally problematic—unless they are repeated periodically under similar conditions, they are a poor source of information. There is a lack of adoption of an appropriate framework for terms—very often different ways of counting bicycle routes are used, without taking into account how they differ. Thus, pace 30 zones, bicycle roads, lanes or contraflows are counted as one element.

The paper includes a comparison of the number of implemented solutions, evaluations of bicycle policies and issues of mistakes on the example of Polish cities. Also quite interesting are case studies of several cities such as Jaworzno, Krakow, Skawina and Warsaw. Based on them, the author allows to reconstruct the conduct of various policies and investments, showing where something was missing to achieve success, and where something succeeded, despite the lack of standards.

wiele miast nie tworzy dokumentów politycznych z polityki mobilności

Many cities do not create policy documents from mobility policy

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

where do we stand today?

In addition to constantly reinventing the wheel, the lack of an adequate evaluation framework is also a problem. It's hard to determine what the biggest problems for cyclists are without the right tools to point the way forward. Change is not just for local governments, equally important are the motives for reform at the national level within a statutory framework, including the Traffic Act. What the report emphasizes is that we should all focus on quality—start using technical dialogue and bicycle standards.

infrastruktura rowerowa nie powstaje w tak szybkim tempie, jeśli porównamy ją do długości dróg publicznych

Bicycle infrastructure is not being built at such a fast pace, if we compare it to the length of public roads

© IRMiR Urban Policy Observatory

Despite the increase in the share of bicycle traffic in Polish cities, many solutions are still in the early stages of development—so it is worth rethinking the implementation of solutions. Today, large cities are getting better at correcting their policies, creating better standards, following bicycle projects, but this is still not enough. We need better standards for bicycle policies.

The report is available on the OPM IRMiR website.


compiled by Wiktor Bochenek

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