2007-12-07 Iulian Muresan
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Strugle to revive cycling in Bucharest

But for those of you who think 2012 is still a long way off, researchers say that this is not a problem for the distant future but something we need to be getting our heads around right now. Whether we like it or not. During the communist regime in Romania very few people could afford a car. In post-communist Romania, salaries didn't stretch to this type of "luxury" transportation. And now -- just when more and more Romanians can afford their own wheels - can you really tell them to slam the car door shut and get on their bikes? Well, as Radio Romania International's Iulian Muresan points out that you can tell them, but in this case reality just ain’t that easy.

Cycling in Bucharest is only for the "brave"Cycling in Bucharest is only for the "brave"
Exactly two years ago, the local authorities decided to ban bicycles in the capital city. Why? Because there were no bicycle lanes and it's easier to ban bicycles altogether. George Culda is the president of an NGO with a funny name. It’s actually a Romanian proverb: Bate Saua Sa Priceapa Iapa, which would translate as: "Hit the saddle and the mare will get your point".

Soon after that protest the authorities in Bucharest removed the ban. Since then, George Culda and his NGO, set out to make a revolution.

Now the city council has started building more bicycle lanes, but oops. They are building them in the middle of the sidewalk, taking the little room pedestrians still have. They’re only about one metre wide, hardly distinguishable from the rest of the sidewalk – and as I found out … nobody uses them.

The Pitesti petro-chemical plant, 100 kilometers north of Bucharest, Romania, releases smoke into the atmosphere at sunsetThe Pitesti petro-chemical plant, 100 kilometers north of Bucharest, Romania, releases smoke into the atmosphere at sunset
I’ve been standing in the middle of this bicycle lane for a quarter of an hour I guess … and no cyclist has bothered me so far. There is not one cyclist in sight. I wanted to ask them how they liked the lanes the city council has build for them but … it seems I have no one to talk to, there’s just a desperate policeman trying to ease traffic. That’s it. I think I’m giving up.

So if you want to ride on two wheels, you have to take the street in Bucharest. You might end up in hospital, or even six feet under, because drivers are simply not used to having bicycles participating in the traffic. They just knock you down, because they don’t even see you. Drivers don’t think that you’re entitled to a share in the tarmac. George Culda, thinks education and an increased presence of riders out there in the street might be the solution.

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