“Even if you are fat, but riding a bike, you will live longer than a slim person moving a car” – Hubert Barański, president of the Normal City – Phenomenon Foundation, which implements the project “Bicycle Lodz”, an active participant of cycling in Poland, resembles the words of a global guru urban design and tries to pay attention to all the costs of everyday use of cars.
With the advent of capitalism
There was a need for self-appreciation and emphasis on one’s own position. Car ownership became the determinant of new times. It was a symbol of development, a step forward. Today, more and more people are switching to bicycles. Where does this return come from, replacing four-wheeled and two-wheeled vehicles?
Hubert Barański: I will follow the example of other European countries that we joined when joining the European Union. There, this process is exactly the same as in Poland, although it is much faster with us.
When the old EU countries were hit by the fuel crisis in the ’70s, their inhabitants began to look for new mobility options by putting on bicycles.
According to European surveys, 60% of cars traveling in European cities travel by up to 5 km. Therefore, if we have so many people who want to use the service known as “moving your own car”, then the inevitable consequence is traffic jams.
In this way, something that was supposed to be a value, i.e. freedom of movement, ceases to be so comfortable and reliable. People who live at certain distances from important points of daily travel, such as work or school, face the unpredictability of car travel. All it takes is one accident on the route or a dug up street to make the trip take longer.
Then there is a need to find a replacement for the car?
In such circumstances, there is an alternative to driving a vehicle other than a car. There is of course public transport here, but there are also bicycles whose undoubted advantage is that they are cheap. Anyone can ride a bike.
While in the case of a car there are health restrictions, or people do not manage to pass the driving test, in the case of a bicycle there are no such complications. The bike is cheap and predictable, regardless of the conditions and time of cycling takes about the same.
CASH: And these are the main reasons for switching from car to bicycle?
HB: If I refer to the tests again, then ecological and health considerations induce about 1-2% of people to change the bike. Most cyclists point to the convenience and speed of moving in this mode of transport.
We invest in a bike once. Means of collective communication require constant charges, as well as the purchase of a car and its maintenance. In the case of bicycles, this problem does not occur, just as you do not feel the severe effects of searching for a parking space in the city center.
What are the financial ones?
The common belief is that drivers make up road construction. Meanwhile, in cities and municipalities, all residents make up the construction and maintenance of roads. What amounts are we talking about? Using the example of Łódź, this year’s budget assumes PLN 10.5 million for bicycles, which will allow the construction of 10 km of bicycle paths. This is the same amount that the city will spend on extending one street (Kościuszki Avenue) by 300 meters. Another Łódź example – Trasa Górna, its maintenance consumes PLN 3 million annually.
CASH: And non-financial costs?
HB: I have to mention here the health costs that are difficult to measure. According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, in order to function well, a person should organize 30 minutes of movement a day. People who travel by car must have an additional half hour during the day to get around. If they feel such a need at all, they usually focus on running or a gym, which must be paid extra.