The basic direction of the Wroclaw Cycling Initiative is to support cycling policies implemented by local governments. The main addressee of our activities is of course Wroclaw. As our city has already decided to create a cycling city, we are now an ally of the authorities in implementing these plans. On the other hand, we also guard them and ensure social supervision and participation in the decision-making process. Although this has not always been the case, the current relationship with the city authorities can be considered model on a Polish scale. In many cases, we carry out the municipality’s own tasks related to bicycles that the city commissions to do.
Our support for the Municipal Office of Wroclaw consists mainly of active participation in the Bicycle Policy Council operating at the Mayor of Wroclaw. It is currently the main platform for cooperation of cyclists with city authorities. The Council is a mixed body consisting of officials and the social side (representatives of the cycling environment), which is of an advisory nature. The Council has been meeting systematically since 2015 and regularly takes up issues related to various aspects of cycling policy in all its phases, like programming activities (co-creating plans, programming the budget), their implementation (giving opinions on specific concepts and projects) and evaluation (evaluation of the effects of activities). The Council meets regularly, and ongoing working contacts take place over the internet. Mayor of Wroclaw Jacek Sutryk usually attends official Council meetings.
The Wroclaw Cycling Initiative also tries to take care of political declarations ensuring the successful implementation of the Wroclaw’s Bicycle Policy. Thanks to the pre-election Declarations of Bicycle Wroclaw, we try to provide city cycling plans with adequate funding and political support. These actions consist in the fact that during the election, the candidates for the Mayor of Wroclaw undertake publicly to implement the demands of cyclists, including the amount of the budget. In 2014, as part of the declaration, Rafal Dutkiewicz, who was seeking re-election, promised to spend 100 million zl on the development of bicycle routes, and this declaration, to the great benefit of cycling, was honored. In 2018, the current Mayor of Wroclaw Jacek Sutryk made a similar public declaration.
As part of supporting the city’s cycling policy, we are involved in shaping public awareness of this topic. We run the online website rowerowy.wroclaw.pl, as well as social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter, popular among Wroclaw cyclists. We work with journalists, providing themes and commenting on cycling events, as well as participating in cyclic programs, such as „Reaction 24” on Radio Wroclaw.
We also integrate the environment and shape the awareness of Wroclaw cyclists. This is served by the largest unsports bike event in the region, the Wroclaw Cycle Fest. The event has over a dozen years of tradition (under that name has been taking place since 2009) and always gathers a peloton of several thousand cyclists who ride together along the main streets of the city expressing support for cycling changes in the city. The event usually hosts the Mayor of Wroclaw and other important politicians. Thanks to this, they have the opportunity to inform the gathered about the implementation of city cycling plans and make public declarations of continuation of activities in this area or their support for cycling ideas. The Wroclaw Cycle Fest, being a big event, also affects the awareness of all city citizens by familiarizing them with the ideas of sustainable transport and the positive impact of cycling on the quality of life in the city.
The Wroclaw Cycling Initiative also supports the voivodeship authorities by cooperating closely with the Institute of Territorial Development at the Marshal’s Office of the Lower Silesian Voivodship. The cooperation is an expert support for activities under the voivodship cycling policy and a form of implementation of joint events and projects. In the years 2017-2019, we were a partner organization of the large project „The concept of the development of cross-border cycling tourism on the Polish-Czech border”. In 2020, we are a partner of the Lower Silesian Bicycle Festival.
The education of young cyclists is a very important issue that our association deals with. Since the beginning of our existence, we have been implementing projects that are calculated to complement the cycling card training system that is very imperfect in Poland. We are a precursor of training young cyclists in real traffic conditions – how it should ultimately look like. Practical education of cyclists is always combined with encouraging children and young people to use the bicycle every day, telling about its advantages and important role in the city’s transport system.
Our educational activities take place under the slogan of Bicycle School and we have been running it since 2008. Classes with children and young people were conducted by us every year in Wroclaw’s schools. Three nationwide editions took place, where cycling education was conducted in 12 cities in over 300 institutions and covered about 3,700 students. Education took place in the form of lectures and indoor workshops, as well as in the form of practical classes on improving driving on the school premises and on the streets of the city with calm traffic. Conferences and practical trainings for teachers were also organized.
We have ambitions all the time to convince the country’s authorities to reform the Polish bicycle card. We strive to make it a common model for cycling countries and to be obtained by all children during education, but at the same time it was not mandatory. We have developed the assumptions for the card reform program and present them to public decision-makers at national level on every occasion. Until this fundamental change, we try to encourage cities and municipalities to improve it locally. We present arguments and share experience. The training methods we developed were disseminated after the Bicycle School project was completed to other local governments. In cities such as Lublin, Gdansk, Gdynia and Warsaw, thanks to our inspiration and using the methods developed by us, practical education takes place on a large scale (much larger than in Wroclaw) as part of the popular the Bicycle May campaign.
Being aware that not all important matters for cycling can be dealt with locally, and also wanting to share the achievements and experience, since 2009 we deal with activities integrating Polish cycling organizations in various cities of the country. We are an organization that is a leader and coordinator of cycling network activities at the national level with the ambitions to influence the cycling policy of the state.
We raise funds for joint activities of the organization. These are various types of conferences, seminars and workshops, as well as network meetings. During these events, activists of the organization can acquire knowledge and new skills, as well as share experiences and integrate into one vibrant environment. As part of the projects, it was possible to organize study visits to countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and France, where cycling is at a much higher level than in Poland. We also involved city officials (so-called bicycle officers) in our events so that it is possible to share knowledge and establish relationships between them and bicycle activists, especially in those cities where they are hostile. As part of network projects, social reports on local cycling policies were also prepared, so that they could be compared thanks to a common methodology, and drawn conclusions about the cycling situation on a national scale.
The last network project initiated by the Wroclaw Cycling Initiative is „Bicycle Network of Civic Activity”. As part of the activities planned in it, eight major Polish cities also carried out a large social cycling infrastructure evaluation campaign in terms of how users use it. Thanks to the campaign, unique knowledge about how it works has been accumulated, substandard infrastructure common in Polish cities (not meeting the highest standards), whether cyclists use it as intended and whether it affects the increase of bicycle traffic. As part of the project, in 2019 a strategic meeting of Polish cycling organizations took place, at which a vision of further cooperation was created, and goals to be achieved were planned. Also, educational activities directed at school youth, covering eight cities, familiarizing the recipients with cycling issues and encouraging civic activities and activity in non-governmental organizations have started, covering eight cities.