Interview of Magdalena Szymanska
Project officer, Active City Unit, City of Gdansk
2019, October 02nd
Could you explain you position within the City of Gdansk’s municipality, and what are the ongoing projects regarding Active Mobility?
I’m currently working for the Active Mobility Unit where we promote- not only active mobility but also sustainable mobility and sustainable development.
We run different projects, most are social campaigns to convince people to walk, cycle, and use soft or active means of transport- other than private cars. We run different social campaigns: for instance, we have one idea that started in Gdansk and gradually spread nation-wide, called Cycling May. For a few years now, each May we convince kindergartens, children, school pupils and also the staff of these educational establishments to travel to school using active modes: bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards, etc. Those living further away are invited to take multimodal combined trips. All participants having completed an active trip receive a sticker they can put in their diary or on a poster- a popular choice in classrooms! Usually, halfway into the campaign there is no more room for new stickers, which goes to show how popular the initiative is and how stimulating it is for children.
Through this campaign we’ve seen that children succeed to change the habits and patterns of their parents because they must leave their car at home or leave it far away from school to enable their kids to travel actively. We also note that this campaign continues after May, in June and onwards. It shows people that bikes are an active transport mode and not only a recreational tool. This is very rational for a city to use bicycles: across the country, 49 municipalities implemented social campaigns that started in Gdansk.
We also run an Autumn Bike Tour Campaign where we mostly involve employers from over 160 companies. We involve them in promoting active travel for their employees, for instance cycling. Each hour spent on a bike is counted and employees can win small prizes, usually some cycling gear that will then be used on a daily basis. We also award the most active companies, divided into 5 different size categories, to motivate employers and employees. Finally, we have a very lively Facebook group where we communicate what’s going on, and we have a large cycling community in Gdansk at the moment.
What’s the main strategy of Gdansk to design an effective Active Mobility strategy?
In the 90s, there was a huge focus on cycling infrastructures, but the data show that the social campaigns change people’s transport habits more effectively, than building new infrastructures does. The city is investing in changing behaviours because it impacts the quality of life of all citizens. Private cars are not something we want to promote and enable; we aim to make them difficult to use in order to give back the public space to people.
And our strategy is working- in different parts of the city we have cycling counters helping us gather the data: within the last years, the number of cyclists and cycling trips increased significantly.
Why do you think municipalities are interested in workshops such as those of the PACTE project?
I think it’s a good networking opportunity. When you network you can exchange good practices, examples- so you basically learn a lot and get new ideas. Also, we recently applied to form a consortium and to be a national certified body for the cycle friendly employers’ scheme and we learn about this event from a colleague of this scheme. This workshop motivates us to work harder and to keep up the good work!