Month: June 2015

Kyiv Bike Day

A few years ago I joined a ‘bike parade’ in Kyiv as part of the national bike day. Back then a few hundred cyclists met in the centre, did a short tour and then peddled over to Truhaniv Island for a bike-picnic.

It was nice, but not really significant and cycling was still seen as a fringe sport for weirdos or people who couldn’t afford a car.

Since then, I haven’t seen or participated in any bike events in Kyiv, but post Maidan I have witnessed a huge boom in the popularity of cycling and the gradual establishment of a cycling movement which looks set to revolutionise the streets of Kyiv.

I decided to join the fun and so, as a proud new member of the Ukrainian Cyclists Association I decided to join this years event.

It coincided with Kyiv day (yes Kyiv has a day too) and it was the start of spring so Kyiv was quiet and sunny – a great day for cycling.

It was a BIG event! There were literally thousands of bikes. Kreshatik (Kyiv’s main street) was closed for a bike race and everywhere you went there were people-powered pedalling machines.

There were …

  • Kids on bikes
  • Bemused shop keepers, street cleaners and police officers (mostly smoking) and watching the cyclists
  • Vyshevankas on bikes
  • Pravy sektor on bikes (just to make sure that RT.com could label all cyclists as fascists)
  • ‘Normal’ bikes
  • Mountain bikes
  • Racing bikes
  • Touring bikes
  • Flat Lie-down bikes
  • Cruising bikes playing System of the Down
  • Belarusians on bikes
  • People drinking beer on bikes
  • Company-sponsored groups of bikes
  • …and even a man smoking a pipe on a bike!

It was an impressive sight and I was happy to be part of the day. It’s hard not to see this as part of a broader ‘Europeanisation’ of Ukraine (yeah that word is ridiculous but its relevant) and it will be interesting how far and how fast Ukraine moves to support its new cyclists.

Also, there were still a few things missing from the day…

Police on bikes
Bike lanes for bikes
Politicians on bikes
Army men on bikes

So maybe they’ll be ready for next year.

 

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On to Troeshina

Following the crowds down to Truhaniv island, I wanted to see how far I could go along the islands and (if possible) across to Kyiv’s left bank.

This means crossing the footbridge onto the island and then heading north on the road that runs through the island. this road takes to you Moscovski bridge (that name wont last long) and then you cross onto the top half of the island. This top half is even more delightful than the bottom half of Truhaniv and I found myself cycling through meadows that could easily have been in England. Eventually you pass some Soviet era (but cute) holiday camps and if you persevere like me – you’ll cross a little bridge and find yourself on the left bank somewhere near Troeshina. It’s a pretty weird place, even by Ukrainian standards, but its interesting in a village-meets-city kind of way. There were no other cyclists by this point other than a few local dedushkas (old men), but there are paths to cycle on and its pretty easy to find Moscovski bridge again from here (just follow the river).

Bring on bike day 2016!

Ian

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Ukraine’s Parliament gets new bike-racks. 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: SVRU of Bicycle | Association cyclists Kyiv

Let’s see how many MP’s use them

Lviv

As a gift to a very good (and long-time) friend of mine, this weekend we moved 500km West this weekend for two days in Ukrainie’s ‘capital of culture’ – Lviv.

As a man who’s been to many ‘capitals of culture’ (and almost all European capitals) I can honestly say Lviv is one of the most beautiful. It’s not only unique from a Ukrainian perspective bit it’s as diverse, quirky, inspiring and enjoyable as anywhere I’ve ever been anywhere in Europe – including and perhaps even more so than Ljubljana in Slovenia.

For those who know me, you’ll understand the significance of that last statement.

Lviv is special and like it or not, Lviv will be the hottest ‘must see’ city in Europe within the next 5 years.

Despite the war thousands of kilometres to the East, or perhaps because of the war, Ukraine is opening to the world like never before and the world now knows where UA is. For now Lviv and Western Ukraine may be the best kept secret for Poles looking for a romantic weekend away and for those of us in Ukraine, but that won’t last. Easyjet or RyanAir will arrive soon and when they do you’ll all be wondering why you never came before.

This is all the more remarkable for a city which, just 10 years ago was as drab and depressing as any of its post-Soviet neighbours.

Go there!

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Lviv

As a gift to a very good (and long-time) friend of mine, this weekend we moved 500km West this weekend for two days in Ukrainie’s ‘capital of culture’ – Lviv.

As a man who’s been to many ‘capitals of culture’ (and almost all European capitals) I can honestly say Lviv is one of the most beautiful. It’s not only unique from a Ukrainian perspective bit it’s as diverse, quirky, inspiring and enjoyable as anywhere I’ve ever been anywhere in Europe – including and perhaps even more so than Ljubljana in Slovenia.

For those who know me, you’ll understand the significance of that last statement.

Lviv is special and like it or not, Lviv will be the hottest ‘must see’ city in Europe within the next 5 years.

Despite the war thousands of kilometres to the East, or perhaps because of the war, Ukraine is opening to the world like never before and the world now knows where UA is. For now Lviv and Western Ukraine may be the best kept secret for Poles looking for a romantic weekend away and for those of us in Ukraine, but that won’t last. Easyjet or RyanAir will arrive soon and when they do you’ll all be wondering why you never came before.

This is all the more remarkable for a city which, just 10 years ago was as drab and depressing as any of its post-Soviet neighbours.

Go there!

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You are a good joker :)

After bouncing back to Brussels and Oxford for the umpteenth time this year, I’m back in Kyiv and back on the sofa-sized seat of the cycling machine at SportLife in Podil.

The guy who looks like he’s from Finland is running, as usual, on the machine infront of me and, as usual, he’s wearing two t-shirts a woolly hat and full length leggings. Next to him is a man who’s almost as round as he is tall and in front of the both loads of swimmers are doing lengths in their Speedos and rubber hats.

Having swum in about 10 different countries European countries, I can say with considerable expertise that even something as simple as swimming cones with a fair amount of cultural baggage. Ukraine is no different. This place is Speedo and regulation-heavy up to the point that all swimmers have to visit a doctor and obtain permission to swim. Yeah, it’s pretty weird.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back and after a few weeks of heavy-work and very little cycling I’m looking forward to tipping the balance in favour of more cycling and many hours on the bike on Ukraine’s sunny but painfully bumpy streets.

Next week I’m booked onto a cycling tour to some Ukrainian castle and after that I might attempt to cycle 150k back from Chernigov which is somewhere up-north near Belarus.

Before any of those things we have our next ‘Open Mic’ event (tonight) and as it’s now in its 3rd month it looks increasingly ‘stable’ and therefore likely to continue. This is good news for Kyiv.Cool and for everyone who likes to entertain and be entertained

I may not be up so early tomorrow…

The desperate state of Ukrainian business reform 

As the owner of a small IT company from the UK which has been working with Ukrainian freelancers for the past two years, I recently decided increase my support for Ukraine and commit to opening a local branch of the company here in Kyiv. By doing so, I should, in theory be able to hire full-time staff and pay my share of taxes to support the desperately underfunded national authorities.

It feels like the right thing to do and when I registered my company in the UK a few years ago I had been pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. I did one Google search, made one phone call and sent one email. The next day, my company had been registered.

Of course, this being Ukraine and me being a foreigner etc I expected more than a little bureaucracy, but with so much talk of civil, political and economic reform I was confident that doing business here would be an easier process now than it was before the revolution. Besides this, I also read an article recently in the Kyiv Post about new rules which had been introduced in support of IT and tech companies to simplify registration and encourage them to invest here. This is exactly the kind of motivation I needed.

From this point on and for the past two months I have failed to progress even once millimeter towards opening our Ukrainian office.

Unwilling to pay a local lawyer for basic and public information on how to register a company, I set out to find the info myself. I simply wanted to know: How do you open a small business in Ukraine? and what support is available for small companies wanting to invest in Ukraine?

Here’s what happened…

  1. Everyone’s favourite database, Google failed to find any useful or meaningful information.
  2. The Ukrainian Embassy in London failed to responded to an email request for info.
  3. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (economic section) failed to respond to an email request for information.
  4. The European Union Embassy in Ukraine failed to respond to an email request for information (yeah, we suck too)
  5. …and the UK Embassy in Ukraine responded but didn’t have any info they could provide (other than a link to the same article I had read in the Kyiv Post). Thanks anyway guys.

After two phone calls and two or three more emails (a common requirement when dealing with the EU Embassy in Ukraine) I finally received the first ‘useful information’ from a guy called Boris Filipov who works in the Private Sector Development section of the Embassy- a list of support programmes aimed at Ukrainian SMEs hoping to trade with the EU.

This is almost what I need, and may indeed be useful if I ever manage to become a Ukrainian SME but that’s proving to be way harder than it should be. In fact, it either doesn’t exist in English, it is being guarded as a national secret, or perhaps most likely – it is only available via an expensive lawyer or business association.

All of this is less than ideal.

If the Ukrainian authorities have indeed simplified things for foreign IT companies, then what is the benefit of this if finding info on the new simplified rules is near impossible? (and dear Ukrainian authorities why should I invest in Ukraine (and help save your arses from bankruptcy) if you can’t be bothered to reply to my emails?)

As for the EU and UK delegations, is it really so hard to provide one or two pages of info that would support your own companies wishing to expand to Ukraine? Wouldn’t this be a smart idea and a simple way to ensure that the millions of EUR of aid being poured into Ukraine by the EU (entirely funded by European tax payers such as myself and my company) go to benefit us – your citizens and businesses – as much as it benefits locals?

Has anyone from the ‘competent authorities’ ever setup or run a small business? Are plans being made to change the situation? Time will tell, but for now I haven’t given up on my plans for Ukrainian business success. I will keep searching for information (next stop the various business associations) and when I find it, I will share it here for the benefit of anyone and everyone else who believes in Ukraine and wants to do business here.

In the meantime, here’s the info I received from the EU delegation:

EU support to businessess in Ukraine.doc

And in case you’re curious, here’s how the UK government help foreign companies:

Set up a business in the UK


Update: 

It seems like I’m not the only one having trouble. Since writing this article on Wednesday, I have seen two other articles published this week and both complaining about the same problem.

The first is the Kyiv Posts ‘Doing Bussiness in Ukraine’ leaflet/magazine in which a young Ukrainian entrepreneur complains about difficulties opening a business.

“Ukraine needs adequate procedures for company registration and a fair culture of doing business,” says 23-year-old Pavlo Matvienko, chief executive officer at Chooos. “In Ukraine, in order to register a company you have to wait in long queues for weeks.”

See: http://www.kyivpost.com/media/pdf/db.pdf

The second is an interview with a Danish guy who runs an Engineering company here.

“What legal difficulties did you experience when opening your company in Ukraine?

In Denmark I can go online create a company in 5 minutes with my digital signature. Here it takes 3-4 months, and that’s the problem. But this will get better. If you are in business, your goals are also set on the long-goal horizon. And if you have a commitment to investing in Ukraine, it’s then it’s just things you have to accept. I must admit that I was frustrated when we started, but things managed to work out.”

See: http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/06/04/danish-entrepreneur-now-is-the-time-to-invest-in-ukraine/

 

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