Cracow, a cycling milestone
26 maja 2014

mala fotka
Bicycles parked outside a polling station in Cracow

On Sunday, 25th May 2014, inhabitants of the city of Cracow in Poland voted in a referendum on cycling infrastructure. As many as 85.2 % votes (175,033) were cast for more cycling infrastructure, with only 14.8% (30,398) against. The turnout was 35.96% and the results are legally binding.

This was the first referendum of this kind in Poland (and likely in the world too, with probable exception of Switzerland known for its direct democracy). The landslide outcome may change policies not only in the city of Cracow but throughout Poland as well. It shows the real aspirations of the urban population in Poland and confirms significant pent-up demand for cycling in this country.

Cracow has had a long tradition of cycling advocacy dating back to at least 1993. 145 kms of cycle tracks and lanes exist (compared to 1200 kms of roads), but most districts are not connected. Bottlenecks hamper safe and comfortable access to the downtown area. Local cycling advocacy Kraków Miastem Rowerów believes only 10% of inhabitants have a real choice between car, public transport and the bicycle. Only later this year, after 20 years of campaigning cycle tracks will connect downtown Cracow and the Nowa Huta district. The referendum outcome will speed up the construction of cycle facilities and shift funding towards cycling.

Current levels of cycling in Cracow are around 2% (late autummn/winter 2013, possibly twice as much in spring to autummn season), with more than 5,000 cyclists travelling daily through Rondo Mogilskie (Mogilskie Roundabout) in May 2014. Recently, authorities announced allocating 200 million zloties (50 million euro) in cycling tourist routes in Małopolska region, of which Cracow is the capital.

The results of the Cracow referendum should be seen in a broader context of national policy changes such as a more cyclist-friendly Highway Code (2011) or a new initiative by the President of Poland that makes it easier to proceed with constructing bicycle tracks on river levees (2014).

Cracow is the second largest city of Poland. It has about 800,000 inhabitants and its universities add about 200,000 students to this figure. Car ownership is 617 per 1000 inhabitants. The referendum included three other questions: on Winter Olympic Games 2022 (30% yes, 70% no), metro construction (55% yes, 45% no) and additional CCTV monitoring (70% yes, 30% no). The official results (in Polish) are published here:

Marcin Hyła

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