Interview with Agata Lewandowska, project coordinator, Sustainable Mobility Department Gdynia City Hall.
Why did you start this initiative and how did it get started? Where did the idea come from?
Cargo bikes are a great transportation solution for city dwellers. They are used to transport people (for example children to kindergarten), goods, or shopping. They help to make deliveries in city centres. In Gdynia, for almost 2 years there has been a free bike rental service for entrepreneurs and NGOs (thanks to the CoBiUM project, financed from the Interreg South Baltic programme) and for one year for citizens (as part of the CityChangerCargoBike project implemented under Horizon2020). The bicycles are very popular, and more and more people are considering the purchase of such a vehicle for private use.
Gdynia participates in both of the aforementioned projects due to its concern for air quality, reducing noise levels and improving the quality of life in the city.
What is your vision? What is your goal?
We hope to see more and more of these bikes on our streets, replacing delivery trucks downtown and cars for inner-city travel. As a result, we will live in a friendlier city with a much higher level of safety on the streets.
How are the target groups involved?
The CityChangerCargoBike project is addressed to city residents, and CoBiUM to businesses, NGOs and institutions. All these entities have a chance to use cargo bike rentals, and residents can benefit from a funding scheme to purchase such a bike.
What are the benefits to the environment and society?
Bicycles have been around in cities for a long time and have worked great as a means of transportation. They have been displaced by cars, and in doing so we have lost valuable space, safety, clean air and many other values that affect our quality of life. Cargo bicycles have the potential to replace cars on most urban journeys and thus help take care of the environment, human relationships and our health.
What obstacles did you face during the creation process and how did you overcome them?
One of the barriers is the price of the bicycle (ranging from 5,000 PLN for a non-assisted model and from 11,000 PLN for an electric model), but subsidies of up to 5,000 PLN help support residents in purchasing such a vehicle. Some people are concerned that there is nowhere to store a bicycle with a length of about 2.5 metres, but they can be kept in open air as they are so unique (parts are not standard and they vary from normal bikes) that they rarely become the prey of thieves. It is important to raise awareness among residents about the different forms of transportation in the city, including cargo bikes. The organisation of events and campaigns using this vehicle allowed us to reach a large number of residents.
What impact does your offering have on designing for a circular economy? How can policy/collaboration promote it?
Bicycles are long-lasting, low-maintenance vehicles, and their ongoing maintenance allows for years of use without replacing equipment. Since the cargo bike can replace the environmentally harmful car, encourage active mobility and increase the awareness of the population, it is an extremely important part of the economy. Developing sustainability to minimise harm to the environment and operate with the least use of resources is key for companies and institutions implementing sustainable modes of transportation. Working with many different groups including children, employees of companies, NGOs, allows us to build awareness about transportation choices and their impact on the environment – air quality, the state of the pavement – especially biologically active, noise level or use of raw materials.
If you were a powerful politician for one day, what would you change first and why?
I would increase space in the city for pedestrians and cyclists, improve the quality of their infrastructure – sidewalks, bike paths, prioritise public transportation, and make destinations as accessible as possible by sustainable modes of transportation. All while increasing the amount of green space in the city, including especially tall greenery.
What are you particularly proud of in terms of your offering and its implementation? What are your future plans?
I’m proud that more and more people are becoming familiar with cargo bikes, want to try them and are considering buying them. It’s a sign that in a few years they will be a fixture in our cities. The city plans to have as many deliveries in downtown as possible done by cargo bikes.
What is your key message?
Our offer is for everyone, without exception. It is innovative because it allows you to look at cycling in a much broader aspect. It helps because we care about the environment and our quality of life in many ways. It supports a circular economy because it allows the bicycle to be used as a means of transportation in the city – for many years to come.
Is there a question we didn’t ask that we should have asked?
When can we take a ride?