Government and society in Uzhgorod are looking for bike-compromise
Uzhgorod representatives of the authorities, traffic police and community activists at the “roundtable” for two hours were discussing what biking-infrastructure in Uzhgorod should be like.
Daniela Gevorgyan, managing the affairs of the city executive committee, said: it is time for Uzhgorod to approach European standards. "Cycling has always been popular not only among youth but also among older generation. Private entrepreneurs in other cities across the country and abroad strongly support biking initiative and build bicycle parking at their own expenses. But the problem is in the cycling culture too. On the embankment there is a cycle lane but drivers do not pay attention to it and park their cars on it. Pedestrians do not understand the purpose of the lane either. And in order to co-exist peacefully it is necessary to carry out educational work with the citizens".
"People are not used to paying attention to the road surface marking and drivers are always bullying", - said Igor Baran, the initiator and sponsor of building of the first cycle lane in Uzhgorod. It was his idea to mark separate cycle lanes while marking the city roads. "If, for example, on Shvabska street the road is reconstructed to one-way traffic a cycle lane will be technically possible to arrange. It can even be framed with a curb, not just paint. And if the drivers continue parking on cycle lanes community activists and traffic police will be involved".
But not everything here is simple, says Alex Spivak, the head of traffic police of Uzhgorod State Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. According to him, the problem is not only in the absence of manhole lids or lighting, but also, for example, in inconsistencies in the inventory of property. Moreover, there are no sergeants who would watch the traffic round the clock. "A colleague from Belarus has recently said that at all gas stations there is a cheap reflective tape thanks to which it is easy to notice a cyclist on the road. It is prohibited to ride without the tape – one may get fined. The presence of a reflector on a bicycle is primarily a matter of personal safety. And now it has become fashionable among cyclists to wear dark clothes, so it is extremely difficult for a driver to spot them at night".
"We bought LED flashlights, and have already given them to cyclists. But that's not enough, we need well-lit streets, - said Vitaly Munchak, organizer of the evening mass cycle rides «Night Ride». – We are asking not only for cyclists’ comfort, but also all citizens’ of Uzhgorod in general. After all, people may seriously hurt themselves in the dark. And it is luck if a cyclist is not alone but with a group – if he or she fell into the pit friends would help to get out. We have distributed leaflets and traffic rules. But this is not a one-time event, it would be good if the city council also contributed to advocacy". The Chairman of the Cycling Federation of Transcarpathian region Taturevich Eduard says this year on Cycling Day he will give cyclists the rules of behavior on the road. Mr. Eduard also suggested business entities to finance bicycle parking in the city - in this way the entrepreneurs can also advertise themselves.
"What is great in this situation is that cyclists have woken up and organized themselves, - said Jaroslaw Shafar, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Property, Ownership and Privatization Policy. On the other hand we have the work of our public services. This process has to be started. Why is it dark on the streets? Is it why we changed Directors, why we were fed with promises... They even openly said that there is no money for the lighting".
In fact, the participants of the round table didn’t manage to ask where manhole lids and lighting on the streets of the city are - there were no representatives of public utilities at the "round table".
Olga Travina, the Head of Property Relations and Investments of the City Council Executive Committee told us that Uzhgorod has become a partner of an international project on bike infrastructure development. "The project was considered by the European Commission, which allocated 70,000 euro. In the framework of cross-border cooperation "Poland-Belarus-Ukraine" in two years cycling youth center will be opened in "PADIUN". Two buildings will be repaired and equipped with computers, staff will be expanded too, they will buy 20 bicycles and sports equipment. Two employees will be constantly working in the center. The purpose of the organization, above all, is to promote cycling. Therefore, it is planned to build several bike parking lots in the city, upgrade lighting, hold promotion events, meetings, competitions, in particular - between young people of Uzhgorod and Polish Krosno. The implementation of the project will begin in late May".
Natalia Voloshina, a representative of the NGO «FORZA», which implements the project "European Mobility Week in the Carpathians", said: "People are massively chosing bicycles, so the flow of cyclists is increasing. This creates a need to divide road users, to explain the traffic rules, define places for cycle lanes, plan bike parking, to create a comprehensive scheme of the city bike infrastructure”.
The result of the "round table" was a project of resolution which the public will use to address the Mayor of Uzhgorod with a request to contribute to the development of bike infrastructure, to take into account the interests of cycling community and to amend the general plan of the city, especially on the reconstruction of the streets at the next plenary session. Five union members have been chosen, however, anyone can join. Igor Baran is elected as the head of the working group.
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