08 June 2013

Two Wheels vs Two Feet In Bucharest?

Many of us have an image of Europe as a place where cycling is revered, or at least respected.  Even if you haven't been to Amsterdam or Copenhagen, you've seen images of streets full of people riding to work, to school, to go shopping, or just because they can, wearing everything from fashionable suits to flashy racing gear.

Even in less bike-friendly European cities, one finds accommodations, if not in physical accoutrements, then at least in the attitudes of local motorists and pedestrians--and, sometimes, even the police, who are often recreational or sporting cyclists themselves.

But, believe it or not, there is a major European capital in which officials actually seem to be discouraging cycling.  Or, worse, they seem to be pitting cyclists against pedestrians and motorists--and everyone else in the city.

That place is one I've never visited:  Bucharest, Romania.  Believe it or not, the city's to build bike paths on the sidewalks.  This would endanger both cyclists, for both will have less space than they would have were the bike lanes in the roadway--or if there weren't bike lanes at all.  

Riding to Bucharest City Hall to protest the Mayor's decision to place bike paths on the sidewalks.  From Demotix

As I've never been to Bucharest, I can't comment on its motor traffic or cycling conditions.  However, it does seem as though there is a growing number of commuting  and recreational cyclists--and people who would like to be one or both.

What's interesting is that, according to a poll, 81% of motorists believe that cycling and walking should be encouraged.   Perhaps they're thinking about the study that rated Bucharest the most polluted capital in Europe in 2011 and the second-most in 2012.  I would imagine that even those who wouldn't normally think about the environment could be noticing an increase in the number of respiratory ailments or cancers.  Perhaps those motorists have contracted one or both themselves.

Those same motorists, for the most part, agree that making cyclists and pedestrians share the same ribbons of concrete is a terrible idea--at least for a city that should encourage cycling and walking.  


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