Continental Europe

Cycling for Clean Air in Sofia

Clean air is something to which we all have a right. But the bigger the city you live in, the worse the air you have to breathe. Are your only options then either to move to the country or stay in the city and forget about it?

Unfortunately, simply forgetting about the problem doesn't make it go away. Applying some of our brainpower to finding alternative solutions is a better option than sinking into apathy. That's what drives countless activists around the world, including Bulgaria, to promote the benefits of cycling.

This year's World Carfree Day events had the motto "Clean air for all". On September 16, volunteers in Sofia worked to raise public awareness on how cycling benefits the environment. Bikevolution and Environmental Partnership Bulgaria Foundation took a census of cyclists in Sofia. Volunteers stood at key points across the city throughout the day, in spite of rain and plummeting temperatures. They counted about 600 cyclists the whole day, with 62% of them riding on the city's bicycle lanes.

The bicycle competition and parade on September 22 had better luck with the weather. It was a sunny day, with about 20 children taking part in the competition at Kristal Garden in front of the Central Military Club. Later in the day, the bicycle parade, which started from Kristal and ended at NDK (National Palace of Culture), attracted about 100 cyclists and one bike rickshaw, which takes tourists around Sofia as an alternative to the ubiquitous yellow taxis.

- Elitsa Grancharova, VeloEvoliutsia / BikeEvolution

More information: BikeEvolution

World Carfree Day is coming to Moscow. Next year...

Moscow officials haven't paid attention to this worldwide action and weren't convinced to follow it. Neither Mobility Week nor Carfree Day occurred in this city where 3.5 million cars are registered and traffic jams permanently block the whole city. This is why Carfree Russia concentrated mostly on campaigning. We tried to inspire drivers directly via the mass media. The message: "Leave your car at home! Go by foot, by bike, use public transport instead!"

We held an unusual press conference to attract attention. It took place in a real tram going through Moscow streets. Representatives from Carfree Russia, WWF and Moscovites for Trams gave speeches and distributed press packages. The one important breakthrough this year was that the Moscow state transport united company, Mosgortrans, joined this action. Its chief Petr Ivanov attended the event and made a press briefing.

The only real street action - a critical mass - happened on Carfree Day. About 70 cyclists joined the ride and made one trip around Boulevard Ring in the centre of Moscow, resulting in widespread media coverage. It was funny, but a lot of TV channels, broadcast stations and newspapers said that Moscow was going to celebrate World Carfree Day officially. This is of course not true, but it might just convince the government to make big changes in transport policy and make the city carfree. Just for one day!

- Dmitry Kokorev, Carfree Russia

More information: Carfree Russia

Zagreb, Croatia

On Wednesday, September 17th, Green Action organised a panel discussion where the coordinator of our transport program presented the results of the research entitled "Comparison of Zagreb's transport system with the transport system of European cities". He talked about how Zagreb has poor quality of public transport, low length of bicycle paths, rapid increase of level of motorisation and high amount of parking spaces in public garages in the historic centre. After the presentations of feveral independent architects, art-historians, transport experts and sociologists, all of the 50 participants demanded increased public transport and bicycle infrastructure and a ban on construction of new public garages in the city centre.

On Friday, September 19th we took action. Our motto was "The yellow line is only for public transport". The yellow line on the road should warn car drivers that they should not cross it. Unfortunately, many car drivers are not obeying that rule and driving in front of busses and trams, causing a reduction of average tram speed down to 10 km/h. We put small barricades on the yellow line, showing to the city officials what they should do in order to increase tue speed of public transport.

On Saturday, September 20th, we organised an exhibition about the problem of reducing public spaces because of construction of car-oriented infrastructure in one of the main squares of Zagreb, in cooperation with the non-governmental organisation Kontraakcija.

- Bernard Ivcic

More information: Zelena akcija

Kyiv, Ukraine

A group of enthusiasts organised a cycle race, a press conference, several competitions and a music concert in Mariinskij Park, Kyiv, for Ukraine's first ever World Carfree Day event. Only 30 cyclists took part in the 26-km race due to bad weather, but over 100 people gathered for the competitions and the concert. One of the highlights was the Commuter Contest organised by the Kyiv Cyclists' Association, the Velox cycling club, the ArtPole art agency, with eco-partners National Ecological Centre of Ukraine and the British Council project "Challenge Europe". A cyclist, a pedestrian and a car started from the same point and "commuted" to the centre of the city. The idea was to see which mode of transport is more efficient for daily commuting. It wasn't surprising that the bicycle won…

More information: Carfree Ukraine

Prague, Czech Republic

Four thousand people joined the largest annual Critical Mass Bike Ride that Prague has seen. Despite the cold weather, more cyclists than last year found their way to the street festival in front of the Rudolfinum, where the ride started at 3.00 pm. People of all ages rode for two hours along the 16 km route throughout the city - alongside well-known politicians and artists. The prearrangements for the ride were made in close co-operation with the police, which secured an undisturbed and free ride on the streets. The route this year started at the Vlatva level up to Pankrac, one of the highest hills in Prague.

According to the number and especially the age of participants, this ride was a proof that cycling in Prague is possible and that the terrain is not too hilly, as some critics say.

More information: Auto-mat.cz

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 This page was last updated 24 October 2008