Gdansk Guide to Cycling

Mar 22, 2016 · 6 min read

Cycling in Gdansk. We do it in a different manner than other cities, but for sure we do it effectively. There is no exaggeration in calling Gdansk “the cycling capital of Poland”. We rely on the best practices and don’t repeat mistakes of others. “The Gdansk way” is to look for the best solutions, shape the future and inspire others.

The volume of cycle traffic in Gdansk has more than doubled in the last 7 years. On the busiest routes million bike trips per year were reached, and the record was 10,000 trips within 24h. And maybe the most important thing: the traffic has risen enormously, but the number of accidents with cyclists involved remained on the same level. They even say, the bigger cycle traffic, the lesser probability of an accident — Gdansk proved this is true.

Gdansk residents are keen to take part in actions encouraging daily biking. Just imagine that 60% of students in elementary schools took part in the Cycling May, an action for daily cycling from home to school in May 2015. The idea behind the project was much liked by other cities and in 2016 the event is expected to take place also in the whole Gdansk metropolis, in Warsaw, Wrocław, Lublin and Zamość.

Other achievement we are proud of is the European Cycling Challenge. In 2015 we won the competition among 39 European cities, with about 450,000 km tracked, winning also the 1st place in the Best Cycling Leaderboard with almost 1,000 km per 1,000 inhabitants. “Gdansk did a great promoting activity among its citizens, but also the other 38 cities worked very well and were the actors of a fun and lively Challenge until the last day” — noticed the hosts of the competition.

There are a few surprising facts about cycling in Gdansk

The mayor doesn’t cycle to get to the office

The Mayor of Gdansk Paweł Adamowicz

This is true that the mayor of Gdansk doesn’t commute by bike regularly. If he cycles, he does it usually for fun. On the other hand, the number of city officials biking daily is increasing and a bike parking in the front of our city hall has to be extended from time to time. What’s the most important, the mayor, as a city leader, has been initiating the development of cycling infrastructure for years. The sustainable transport is a crucial part of the city development. Significant elements of our policy are:

The bike audit, according to the BYPAD methodology, first such a document in Poland and a background for our action since 2010,

Mobility & Transport operative program in the Strategy Gdansk 2030 Plus — the support for biking is an important part of the strategy

System of bike paths (STeR) — a document which went through an extended process of public consultations (640 amendments were proposed), was voted by the city council. It set a goal for the development of bike paths, bicycle parkings and better intra-district connections. Traffic-calmed zones and legal obligation for building bicycle parkings at each new investment are also included in the document.

The set of rules for bike infrastructure, ordered by the mayor in March 2012. In traffic-calmed zones separated bike routes aren’t built, since bikes can move safely on a street, also in the opposite direction on one-way streets. On street where speed limit between 30–50 kmh is set, separate lanes for bikes can be painted, and on streets where speed limit is above 50 kmh, separate bike routes are a preferred solution. All new investments in Gdansk are done according to these rules.

The bike officer and his team has been working in the city hall of Gdansk since 2009. They are responsible for standardization process and implementation of the bike policy. Since 2009 Gdansk has been attending Velo-City meetings.

There is no Critical Mass in Gdansk

There is no Critical Mass, but there is a Metropolis Bike Ride, gathering 10,000 cyclists from our metropolis. In other cities, the Critical Mass can be used for exerting pressure on the city hall, but in Gdansk there is no need for such a measure. City officials and the community of cyclists have found their way to discuss and work out agreements. Cyclists know that their voice is heard and their opinion taken into account, when it comes to new investments. The bike officer acts as a representative of the community of cyclists and pedestrians.

We are closing some bike paths

The number of traffic-calmed zone is increasing, therefore — sometimes we are closing existing bike paths. There is no need for them in places where no traffic participant is privileged.

Testing innovative solutions

There is a so-called „red book” — a nickname for the regulation of the infrastructure minister — which sets technical requirements for streets in Poland. Like other cities, we act within the law, but we are eager to experiment if only possible. Wit Stwosz street became a place for experimentation for new regulations in the field of bike lanes, traffic lights and bike boxes. On 189 one-way streets, 43 km long, cycling is allowed also in the opposite direction. Awareness of safety issues related to cycling is constantly being increased through social campaigns. The results are visible — bike traffic is increasing, but accident rate remains the same.

No bicycle sharing system in Gdansk

Together with the residents we took the approach “first — infrastructure, than — bicycle sharing system in Gdansk”. Now, when the infrastructure has developed and many more people have been biking, we are considering creating bicycle sharing on a wider scale — for the whole metropolis, not only for Gdansk and as a part of Integrated Territorial Investment.

A lot has happened in Gdansk and a lot will happen. Our approach is different than in other big cities in Poland, but it has proven its effectiveness and we are going to continue our way. Let me finish this story with two numbers. Each year thousands of bike maps are handed out (335,000 since the beginning). Daily record of bike trips in Poland was beaten in Gdansk, when in 2014 10,000 cyclist travelled on Jantarowa street along the beach.

Written by: Tomasz Nadolny, Head of Mayor’s Office in Gdansk

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