While the European capitals are embracing a spectacular comeback of a bike as transport means, Belgrade is taking just the first steps. Usage of bike in urban traffic is still at the level of an idea since the capital of Serbia does not have enough cycling paths so riding through the center is almost impossible due to traffic jams. Apart from that, Belgrade has not developed bike renting which would be available throughout the city to all citizens.
As for now, the so-called rent-a- bike is available only in Ada Ciganlija, the Sava and the Zemun quays, mostly used in recreation activities.
Parking service initiated a new way to rent a bike last year. For every user of that public transport, the action "Park and bike" enables to become a card user. Thus. At regurlar parking price, a person can take and use electrical bike. However, not all citizens can rent them.
- The main idea of the action is to contribute to car number reduction in the city by replacing a car in traffic with a bike. Last year, the number of users was the biggest in the fall which we also expect in 2013. In June 2012, 32 vehicles have been installed and now citizen have 96 bikes at their disposal. These are electric vehicles, i.e. classic bikes with an electric motor so that a driver could easily face climbs –Branko Arsenijevic from PUC Parking service Beograd said in his interview for eKapija.
Last year, the service was available only at the Sava Centar parking in Novi Beograd and as of April 1, 2013, on two more locations – Ada Ciganlija parking and at the swimming pool Milan Gale Muskatirovic.
Arsenijevic announced they are choosing another location where they will install electric bikes for rent and if citizens are interested, these spots will be installed on other locations in the city.
In Belgrade, last year, 2000 citizens applied for renting bike and according to some information, some 15.000 people in the capital uses bike during the season.
Bike renting - hit in Paris
In Paris, for example, more than one bike is rented every second. The Velib bike renting system has been available in the capital of France as of 2007 and when it appeared it was aiming at bothtraffic jam reduction and air pollution. Although there was a lot of skepticism for the project initiated by the Mayor Bertran Delano, Velib after all succeeded in becoming attractive, both with Parisians and tourists.
A group of six journalists who in early June travelled to France, a journey organized by the French Embassy in Belgrade, made sure that a bike became very popular transport means in Paris. Amongst other things, we visited the company which organizes bike renting and found out how Velib system functions.
JC Decaux installed the first bikes in 2002 in Vienna while today this system exists in 66 cities of the world.
Albert Asséraf, the Strategy and Marketing Manager with JC Decaux, said that in 2007 In Paris, first 10.000 bikes were installed which was an investment of EUR 90 mil.
- We agreed with the City of Paris to fund overall bike renting system and that our firm uses advertising space. Now, more than 20.000 bikes is available in Paris, available on every 300 meters on 1.400 stops. Vehicles can be used 24 hours, 7 days a wekk and they can be rent via bank or subscription card. We are the only one in the world who developed rent-a-bike through bank card so therefore we designed special protection system as well - Asséraf said.
The objective is to provide a bike for as many people as possible for short distance transport which has been stimulate by the first half an hour free of charge. It is necessary, still, to pay certain subscription amount, i.e. daily (1 EUR), weekly (5 EUR) or annual (29 EUR).
The journalists were said that the number of users is constantly increasing. There are 250.000 annual subscriptions now and another 250.000 users are tourists and those riding occasionally. There are 100.000-150.000 rides and as JC Decaux says, interest does not decreases during the winter. At the beginning, they encountered the vandalism problem but eventually the situation improved.
Albert Asséraf said that renting generates EUR 15-20 mil and that the money goes to the budget of Paris but he did not mention how much the company earns from advertising but he said:
- Visibility of our product through a bike is a big thing. Velib brand belongs to Paris. Today, nobody is asking for rent-a-bike but they only say Velib.
Apart from that, Velib slogan originates from two words, "ve" meaning “velo” (bike) and "lib" liberte (“freedom”).
We found out that JC Decaux is planning to expand in the East European cities. They are present in our country through the partnership with the Swiss Affichage holding which acquired Alma Quattro.
The first trouble spot – bicycling paths
Some will say that it is easy for Parisians because they have more than 370 kilometers of developed bicycling paths. But, that was the first step of the city authorities of many European cities which have started preparing infrastructure fifteen years ago so that they would promote usage of bikes.
When it comes to our capital, Belgrade bikers can use 66 kilometers of paths in Novi Beograd and Zemun, as well as the Dorcol-Ada Ciganlija route. The project design of bicycling corridors through Belgrade implies that by 20121 a network of cycling paths 130 kilometers long shouldbe constructed. Paths would connect the city center with Dorcol, Mirijevom, Zvezdara, Vozdovac and Banjica, then settlements Medakovic 1 and 2, as well as with Novi Beograd and Zemun.
One of the most crowded communication trenches in Belgrade- the Kneza Milosa Street, should also get its bicycling path. The plan anticipates paths for bike fans from the Boulevard of Kralj Aleksandar to Mostarska petlja. Bicycling path should be expanded towards Topciderska zvezda, as well as towards the Belgrade Fair, where it will connect the existing ones which curve along the Sava river.
As for now, this plan is only a wishful thinking because the city budget caused that in 2012, not a meter of cycling path was constructed while construction works in this direction have not been planned in 2013 either.
When eKapija asked what the city is planning in order to promote bicycling traffic in Belgrade, the Secretariat for Traffic of the City of Belgrade said:
- It is evident that Belgrade has more bicycles used as transport menas. Depending on availability, bicycling path networks will develop. In the old part of Belgrade, due to limited space, primarily availability of communication trenches profiles, designing options of special areas for bikes is limited. In order to contribute to development of bicycling traffic in this part of the city, the Secretariat for Traffic is expanding the existing and introducing new zones of a slow down traffic enabling safer bike ride and making them equal participants in the traffic – said the representative for the traffic, Bojan Bovan from the Secretariat of Traffic of the City of Belgrade said.
Bovan added that, aiming at affirmation of the cycling traffic, the Commission for Bicycling, has been set up as well as that the email email@example.com has been created where citizens can address their proposals with respect to cycling traffic in Belgrade.
Bovan said that the biking traffic share is a 0.55%. New General city planning plan until 2012, a share of bike users should increase to 5 to 10%.
Promotion of bike as public transport means
UNDP Serbia in cooperation with the Secretariat for Traffic of Belgrade, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Directorate for the Construction Land and Construction of Belgrade, initiated campaign “Let’s ride a bike in Belgrade” aiming at boosting public awareness of biking positive aspects as well as to prioritize this transport means.
William Infante, Resident Representative of the United Nations (UN) in Serbia said in his interview for eKapija, that the Belgrade citizens use bike more often than in the previous years and that the number of those going to work or to school by bike increased.
- The trend is particularly obvious in parts of the city where biking paths already exist, especially in Novi Beograd. This year, the UNDP project will be promoted through two large campaigns which will promote bicycling and educate people in the field of environmental protection issues, such as global climate changes and hazardous influence of gas emission. Of course, education on bicycling would not be complete without traffic safety lessons. Both campaigns will last about a year each with different events and activities.
By travelling by bike 6000 kilometers through Serbia, William Infante proved he was not speaking about bike only as a transport means.