DCE Visits Kyrgyzstan
Last week, Erik Tetteroo and Sjors van Duren were invited by the Dutch Embassy in Kyrgyzstan to speak at a conference on sustainable mobility and to host a guest lecture at American University.
The goal is to help the capital city of Bishkek with the establishment of better facilities for cyclists and improve overall air quality. Bishkek is surrounded by fresh green mountains, but over the city itself lays a dirty gray blanket of smog. The air quality far exceeds European standards and can be largely attributed to the emissions from local traffic. Most cars in Bishkek are second-hand import cars that produce high levels emissions. In addition, three-quarters of public transport vehicles are mini-buses, which also produce high levels of emissions. Also, private automobile usage in the city is quite high.
Cycling is restricted to a small group of avid cyclists. There are very few cycling facilities, roads are poorly maintained, and motorists are often reluctant to share space with cyclists. While in Bishkek, Erik and Sjors went on a cycling trip and had multiple conflicts with vehicles. Fortunately, there were no accidents, but the experience was enough to highlight the need for improvements in the relationships between cyclists and motorists.
Despite these challenges, Bishkek has many opportunities to improve. The street profiles are very spacious and provides space to install cycle lanes and paths. There are also many parks and green boulevards where attractive cycling routes can be placed. Furthermore, the urban design is high and compact, thus cycle trips poise an effective mode of transportation. These are all ingredients for building a good bike network.
In order for the city to truly improve its bike-ability, citizens need to pressure politicians to invest in active transportation and also reduce their investments in private automobile infrastructure. We are excited for the future of this city's transportation system.