A cycling city is above all a city full of cyclists. They are visible there at every step, and in some parts and at certain times of the day, as during traffic peaks, they even dominate the streets. At every step, in every part of the city you can see bicycle stands and bicycles parked next to them. The number of trips made in cycling cities by bicycle can reach up to half of all trips, but a significant, noticeable and positive impact on the city already has a share of 15-20%. This can be seen in the German cities close to Wroclaw just outside the Polish border – Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin. They are cities in many ways similar to Wrocław.
Wrocław in the area of bicycle development has already achieved significant success, but for now it is only a national success. We have the highest reliably measured share of cycling in city trips. According to Comprehensive Traffic Research 2018, it amounts to 6.3%. Bicycle traffic is growing, it is better than in other large Polish cities that are chasing Wrocław and are on its heels, but still several times less than in nearby German cities, not to mention the European cycling leaders – cities in the Netherlands, Denmark or Switzerland.
It is also worth remembering that the goal set out in Wroclaw’s Bicycle Policy is to reach a level of 15% of cycling in 2020. Today we know that this will not be achieved. One of the reasons is that the records contained in the document, although they gave impetus to a clear step forward, at first they did not cause real actions with the appropriate intensity. Wroclaw’s Bicycle Policy lacked a specific investment plan with a specific schedule and budget that would be adequate to its assumptions.
A cycling city is not only easier cycling or crowds of cyclists on the streets. It is also a better quality of life for residents. Large bicycle traffic is beneficial in general for the three most important problems – air quality, traffic jams in the city and road safety. When many people cycle, there are significantly fewer cars on the streets that pollute the air with exhaust gases. The air is better and we have less noise. Cyclists themselves are resistant to traffic jams, because they ride freely when everything else stands. The bill is simple. Each new cyclist is one car less traffic jam. With heavy cycling, traveling by other means of transport, especially by car, is faster. Not only that, in cities with a large number of cyclists there are generally fewer road accidents. This is probably because the drivers get used to seeing cyclists there, which means that they drive slower and more carefully.
A cohesive system of bicycle routes must be created in the city, which can be used to travel from any point A to point B. Such routes should in most cases be equipped with high-quality bicycle routes, separated from car traffic, and only in special cases where this does not endanger safety (or a sense of security) of cyclists, run along lanes for bicycles, or streets with calm traffic. The other streets must be cyclist-friendly, and all one-way streets should allow bicycle traffic in both directions. The system of main routes for daily driving should be supplemented with a network of „green routes” run through areas free of car traffic, which can be used for both pleasant everyday and recreational driving.
Although the system of Wroclaw bicycle routes looks quite impressive in numbers and on the map, there are still serious gaps in it that hinder safe and comfortable riding. Many important streets in the city still do not have any amenities for cyclists. Some routes in the city center are only equipped with lanes for bicycles on the road, which do not provide cyclists with a proper sense of security. Older bicycle paths no longer meet quality standards, and a large part of the streets in the pace 30 zones are not really calmed down. Traffic lights on important traffic routes discriminate against cyclists who have to wait for their „short green” much longer than cars. Wroclaw recreational routes do not always maintain continuity and it is difficult to travel through them in the city, and a large part of them (unfortunately even the new ones) do not have a paved surface on which one could ride in all conditions and at any time of the year.
In a cycling city, cyclists on the streets are safe. You need to change key three factors for this. One is good infrastructure, the other is the change in driver behavior and the third is the increase in the skills of cyclists themselves. The first change is taking place gradually in Wroclaw. Better roads and other facilities for bicycles are emerging. The second change is also happening, but only to some extent. Drivers are much more sensitive to the presence of cyclists on the streets than before. Many of them let cyclists pass by themselves.
However, the biggest problem reducing security is excessive speed, which is still widely accepted by the public. A driver exceeding speed in a city usually does not see anything wrong with it and is not fully aware of the great threat this behavior causes to unprotected traffic participants. As for the third factor – the ability to safely ride cyclists is still a lot to do. And contrary to popular belief, this is not the most important matter of knowing the rules. Yes, it is important, but more important than it is the practical ability to observe and predict the behavior of other road users, which allows you to predict and avoid most of the dangers lurking in the city of a cyclist.
During the training on a bicycle card, Polish schools do not teach cycling in real traffic conditions. Home does not teach this either, because hardly anyone is lucky to have a cyclist practicing everyday riding who could share his experience. Hence, many people do not have the practical ability to observe and predict the behavior of other road users, which avoids most of the dangers lurking in the city for a cyclist.
To change the bad situation outlined above, you should refer to proven examples from countries that best deal with the problem of traffic safety. Cyclist training should be universal. Every child should have a bicycle card and be able to navigate safely on a bicycle, and also be based, not on theory, but on practice. Like driving a driver’s license, where learning recipes is just an introduction to driving the city.