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17 May 2017, 17:59

€560,000 from European Union to encourage urban bicycling in Belarus

MINSK, 17 May (BelTA) – The European Union has allocated €560,000 to encourage urban Belarusians to ride bicycles, BelTA learned from Darya Chumakova, Deputy Director of the Belarusian not-for-profit non-governmental organization Center for Environmental Solutions, at a press conference on 17 May.

The project designed to encourage bicycling in Belarusian cities and towns was presented before mass media. The project is supposed to encourage the development of bicycling infrastructure at the national and regional levels in addition to enabling more effective organization of the bicycle transport system. Social and economic benefits of encouraging urban bicycling in Belarus will be assessed as part of the project's implementation. There are plans to arrange park and ride facilities in Minsk where people will be able to switch from mass transit systems to riding a bicycle in order to get to their destinations. Special meters will be installed on bicycle tracks to count the number of bicyclists. It is now necessary to set up a working group, which will take care of the project's implementation, in addition to creating a digital information center and a map of bicycling routes in Belarusian cities and towns. The project will cost €560,000 and is supposed to be finished in late August 2019, said Darya Chumakova.

The deputy director of the Center for Environmental Solutions also noted that the project will cover the oblast capitals of the country. If many Belarusian bicyclists get involved, district capitals will become part of the project, too.

Pavel Gorbunov, Chairman of the Board of the Minsk Cycling Community, underlined that the pace of development of bicycling movement in Belarus has increased greatly in the last six years, however, many difficulties are still encountered. “Serious changes for the better have been accomplished in Minsk while problems are rampant in other cities. Imperfect traffic rules, the lack of quality construction standards with regard to bicycle infrastructure design are the main issues,” he remarked. Pavel Gorbunov spoke in favor of appointing government officials as bicycling officers in large cities.

Participants of the press conference agreed that it is impossible to organize and popularize bicycling without involving municipal government agencies. “Quite a good infrastructure has been created in Belarus already. Anyone can go on a bicycling tour around Minsk as of 2013 thanks to the bicycle track that crosses the entire city. The bicycle festival Viva, Rovar! has been held in Minsk for three years already. The latest one attracted over 12,000 people. Such large-scale actions would have been impossible without the municipal government and the active participation of the general public,” stressed Marina Mastashova, a consultant at the Tourism Department of the Belarusian Sports and Tourism Ministry.

Philippe Bernhard, the manager of the Environment and Climate Change program of the European Union Delegation to Belarus, stated that bicycling is an effective way of using urban space in many European cities and towns. “The organization of bicycling is discussed at the highest level in the European Union. Cities use a dedicated website to share their experience of bicycling organization. In Belarus we are going to cooperate with the Minsk Cycling Community and the Sports and Tourism Ministry in implementing the project. I am confident that the project will help improve ecology and urban transport infrastructure,” said the official.

The project to develop urban bicycling in the interests of the general public will be implemented in Belarus in 2017-2019 by the Center for Environmental Solutions and the Minsk Cycling Community with assistance of the European Union.

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