Dr Piotr Kuropatwiski University of Gdask Pomeranian Association Common Europe European Cyclists FederationTHE CONTRIBUTION OF CYCLING TO PEACE AND QUALITY OF LIFE IN CONTEMPORARY EUROPE5th VELOFORUM CONFERENCE, LVIV, UKRAINE 10TH-11TH OCTOBER 2014At the very start I would like to thank Ksenia, Viktor and the ECF staff back in Brussels for providing me with support and giving me the opportunity to address the audience of cycling advocates from several regions and countries of Europe, assembled here to discuss the issue of cycling. Cycling, as you know, is like living, if you want to keep balance, you need to move.
Lifes like riding a bicycle if you want to keep balance, you need to move on
For the more experienced this was a paraphrase of a statement of Albert Einstein: Life is like riding a bicycle if you want to keep balance you need to move on. Giving a quality speech to such an eminent audience is not very difficult: you need to remember, to quote some recognized giants from the past. When you stand on their shoulders and see further.
So what can an official from Brussels tell the statesmen like you? Statesmen, as you know, are different from politicians: they tend to think about the next elections, statesmen think about the next generations. This is the message I remember from the first Velo-city conference I took part in the Austrian city of Graz in 1999 fifteen years ago. This message of Hillary Clinton who appeared there as a guest - on a film explained her involvement in promotion of cycling among young Americans getting overweight and obese in catastrophical numbers because of lack of basic exercise on their way to schools.
We may then rightly feel that we are statesmen: we need to have a long term vision and stamina to go a long way promoting cycling. The Chinese proverb says: if you want to start a long journey, you need to know how to make the first steps. I understand that the first steps on the road to create a liveable city thanks to the increased share of cycling trips in total daily journeys have already been made in Lviv. I understand, that you expect to hear from me some suggestions, which may help you to achieve higher efficiency of your efforts. Dont worry, I will not disappoint you in this respect.
Senior lecturer of economic policy issues at the University of GdaskAuthor of the Concept of development of the cycling system in Pomeranian Voivodship Green PaperInitiator of the Gdask Charter of Active MobilityTook part in 11 Velo-city Conferences and a number of EU sponsored cycling promotion projectsAuthor of a series of feuilletons on urban cycling issues in a popular Polish daily newspaper
Speaker as suchFirst something about me: for those who have not been to the third Veloforum in Kiev in June 2011, where I arrived as a newly elected vice-president of the ECF, together with Frans Schoot another ECF vice president and Bernhard Ensink secretary general of the federation. To keep the story short, more will be given at my presentation tomorrow (later presentation today) I feel the need to tell something about the sources of my special emotional attachment to Lviv and Ukraine as such.
GdaskLvivDonetskMy grandfather, a graduate of St Petersburg University of Technology, used to be a technical director of a coal mine located in Youzovka well before 1914. My father was born there in September 1917. I do not need to tell you, what happened in October/November 1917 in the area we live in, and I do not need to tell you, what is the current name of Youzovka (Donetsk). www.ecf.com
Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of my grandmother, she organized a journey back to Poland when my father was only several months old on a rented, horse driven cart. One of my dreams is then to visit the birth place of my father and have the opportunity to feel safe while riding a bike there. The ECF has already concocted even a more ambitious vision: to create long distance cycling routes across the whole European continent from Lisbon in the West to Urals in the East, from the North Cape in the North to the Matapan Cape in the South. The north- south route has even been nearly doubled: the 13th EuroVelo route in other terms the Iron Curtain Trail going from the Norwegian Russian border point at the White Sea to the Bulgarian- Greek border point at the Black Sea.
You remember perhaps the question to radio Yerevan: I have a radically critical opinion about the Soviet government: should I reveal it in public? The answer of the radio was simple: it depends, whether you want to eat black bread at the White Sea or the white bread at the Black Sea. The radio would now perhaps need to change that answer a little, but unfortunately the wisdom contained in it seems to retain much of its validity. If you want to understand the present and want to have a decent future, learn history. What is the lessons I learnt from the history of my city and from the history of cycling promotion there and in other parts of Europe?
When I was a boyscout I could feel history and had to learn history. In Westerplatte, where one of the first shots of the 2nd world war were blown, I was standing in 1967 in a line of people greeting General de Gaulle, the president of France, who tried to promote the vision of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.
I remember the big letters planted there Never More the War! at the order of a regime, which was not very friendly to its people. Three years after the De Gaulles visit, while studying at the university in Gdansk, I heard the gunfire used to intimidate the shipyard workers striking in the Gdynia shipyard in December 1970.
No wonder then, that ten years later I greeted with unfettered enthusiasm the birth of Solidarno in August 1980 at that time I did not know, that it was a start of a peaceful revolution, which after another period of 9 years has changed the face of Europe. Last year, from late November 2013 until now, I f have closely followed the developments in Ukraine and at the coast of the Black Sea, which I had visited on a yacht cruising from Odessa to Yalta in 1974 the time of East-West detente.
What does it have to do with cycling? The answer is simple: I got involved in cycling and was elected to the position of the vice-president of the ECF claiming, that cycling may fruitfully contribute to the cause of peace in an undeclared war: the war taking place between those who believe that only large and fast is beautiful against those, who think that the slow and fast is beautiful, even if they do not know about it.
Road traffic safety records
No. of fatalities resulting from road traffic accidents per 1 M inhabitantsin EU-27 in 2011The war between car addicted road users, pedestrians and cyclists. Since the 2nd world war there were far more road accidents victims in the world then were killed during the actual fighting between 1939 and 1945.
A speech needs metaphors: Here is one. Is it possible to reconcile the conflict between fire and water? The quick, short answer is usually: no. An answer based on a philosophical reflection would be: well.... it is possible but rather difficult. In fact, every housewife in millions of kitchens around the world does not need sophisticated reflection. They reconcile fire with water with the bottom of their pots, preparing meals for their families.
Cycling promotion is in my perception that very tool: the way to reduce or to eliminate the perception of relations between people in road space as relations between members of hostile tribes: the motorists, the cyclists and the pedestrians. If you think about cycling as a sport, you may immediately think about rivalry, speed, helmets, collisions and conflicts.
If you perceive cycling as a tool for every day mobility, you find, that it may mean relax, efficiently invested effort, health and good mood everything that favours reflection, understanding and empathy. Everything that favours good quality of life in modern cities.
I did not come here to tell you what you should do in your towns and cities to achieve the aims of the ECF making more people cycle more often, or, in measurable terms, convert the non-cycling or beginner cycling city into a climber or champion climbing city with at least 15% of total daily trips made by bike.
The rule we need to apply while engaging in the promotion of cycling is to think globally and act locally. The content of any activities that enhance cycling need to take into consideration local conditions and apply tailor made solutions. When I say local conditions, I mean not only physical, geographical or climatic conditions, but also institutional, legal as well as social communication and behavioural aspects. Cycling is not only or mainly about quality of engineering solutions: cycling promotion is about improving the capacity to adopt change change in the mind set. The term applied imaginology was invented by a Polish comedian, who ridiculed the oppressive regime in the 1970s. You will improve your conditions most when you extend your imagination this is applied imaginology in a nutshell.
Source: Alex Sully, BYPAD project presentation. Tczew 2008
When everybody around you claims that you cannot convert a car oriented city into a wealthy, active mobility oriented city with high quality of life, you may use the argument: history has often proved that when everybody thinks that something cant be done, there appears a guy who does not know that it cannot be done and does it.This is recent Gdansk, Pomeranian and Polish history in a nutshell.
Lech Walesa, a man with little formal education but a lot of practical wisdom, did not know, that ther