Category: Transport & Technology

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 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!


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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 😉

Art, Cycling and Social Development.

This week has been an interesting week both on and off the bike.

With the arrival of some delightful spring sunshine (early May is perhaps the most beautiful time to be in Kyiv) I have been out on the real-bike almost every evening and Im still not bored of exploring Podil and the islands on the Dnipr.

Off the bike, the transformation of Kyiv continues at a dizzy pace and since Friday I have attended a public debate on the future of public transport, met with a group who are installing electric car charging points accross Ukraine, visited yet another new art galley (exploring the imagery used by people to create ‘imaginary’ nations on undivided physical territories), found a website promoting the top 10 social projects in Ukraine and, this might sound trivial but, I discovered a bike rack outside the restaurant I stopped at for lunch!

Finallly, I learned that there are plans to install a network of public rental bikes – something similar to the ‘Boris bikes’ in London or the grey velo network in Brussels.

In Kyiv, you can be 99% sure they will be blue and yellow.

ITS Ukraine

It’s Friday lunchtime, it’s a beautifully sunny day here in Kyiv and nobody is working because it’s May Day.

Unsurprisingly I’m sitting on the cycling machine and in front of me is a swimming pool full of Ukrainians who have decided to spend their afternoon jiggling and dancing at some kind of water aerobics class.

It’s been a crazy but fun week as we finalised preperations for the launch of the Ukrainian Association of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS Ukraine). See

We had hoped to launch ITS Ukraine this week, but delayed slightly so we could get all the admin in place and finish a few procedural things. Still, we are basically ready to roll and I look forward to getting stuck in to ITS Ukraine when I get back to Kyiv on 13th May after a week in Brussels and the UK.

At 14:30 today I also have a meeting with Fryday’s here in Kyiv who may support our new ‘open mic’ evening that Kyiv.Cool are organising. More on that soon, but if you’re curious about life in Kyiv then head to www.Kyiv.Cool.

OK, I’m done and off for a sauna.

Happy May Day and here’s hoping everything stays peaceful in Odessa today and in the weeks ahead.


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Video: The Pushcha-Voditsa forest tram

The Pushcha-Voditsa tram was described by one online nutcase as ‘the most incredible tram journey in the world’. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is quite cool. It leaves Kyiv and chugs off through some forests before arriving at a small, sleep yet beautiful spa town.

Kyiv trams were built in Czechoslovakia in the bronze age, they are almost always driven by tough looking women, they are cold, they are uncomfortable and they are slow. However, this just adds to the experience.

You can read more about the journey and the town here and view more pictures here.

Misha Glenny – The Greatest European

There are very few people on this planet (if any) who know Europe like Mr Glenny and, although the following recordings are 6 years old, they are every bit as relevant today.   If there was an an honour for ‘greatest European’ Mr G would get my vote….

In the first part: Brave New Europe 1 (click to listen)  MG takes a look at Poland as it joined the EU in 2004…

“In fact, even a cursory dip into Poland’s modern history gives you a clear sense as to why this country nurses some very deep grievances. If Poland is God’s Playground, as the eminent historian Norman Davis has popularised it, then God has tolerated some pretty nasty bullying over the years, especially from those two Flashman brothers from the Upper 4th, Fritz and Ivan. Indeed, the slow and often very painful transformation of Europe from the ancien regimes of absolutism and empire to the age of nation states, democracy and totalitarianism proved an especially treacherous road for the Poles, being alternately dismembered, eaten alive or coshed over the head and then imprisoned in a darkened if poorly manufactured cage.”

“Ironically, in Poland and Hungary, whose peoples fought hardest for freedom, 1989 was strangely anti-climactic. Unlike in Czechoslovakia, East Germany or Romania, there were no theatrical events that represented the unambiguous end of communism.”

“Revolution is like the God Saturn. It devours its own children. And just three years after their uncompromising refusal to accept Soviet-style communism, countless miners, steelworkers and their families were now eking out a twilight existence as the dawn of capitalism broke.”

“However ghastly communism had been, it had subsidised the basics for almost all of Poland’s 38 million people. 1989 removed that particular safety net and as I wandered through the broken down estates where water and electricity supplies were seizing up, I met the victims of Poland’s Brave New World.”

Looking at the situation in Poland now, they have a very very good reason to be proud of themselves. Poland has a stable and effective government and is the only member of the 27-nation European Union to have enjoyed growth in 2009. Living standards for many Poles are still not at ‘western’ levels and probably wont be for a long time but, given their history – it’s an impressive achievement. 

The second part: Brave New Europe 2 he takes a look at the transition taking place in Central and Eastern Europe, the EU as a political project and its capacity to ‘absorb’. 

“This rebirth of culture and creativity is comparable to the dramatic social change that swept away the grimly oppressive influence of the Catholic Church and allowed a modern and tolerant European state to flourish in Ireland. Portugal, Spain and now Greece have all experienced a similar development. But as the Irish, Spaniards and Greeks have already discovered, and the Balts and the Central Europeans are now slowly learning: this embrace into the bosom of Europe brings with it tribulations while latent fears, both irrational and rational, can also rise to the surface.”

…and sets out the following argument on immigration that he re-states in his recent book McMafia…

“The relationship between the new and old Europe is in fact a complex two-way process which brings short-term gains and losses on both sides. But if played correctly, it offers considerable long-term benefits for all of us. As Slovaks, Slovenes and Hungarians become richer, so will their desire to purchase goods and services from Western Europe. The Keynsian potential for growth in the European Union is now extraordinary.”

“There is one towering obstacle that looms – it is not to do with immigration although allow me a brief digression here: Immigration is problem but only, in my opinion, if West European countries continue to regard immigration as the devil’s vanguard. Should xenophobia dictate the EU’s economic policy allowing the development of an entirely non-productive pensioner class but preventing the renewal of its labour force through significant immigration, then in that event our living standards will fall dramatically compared to those in America and in the Far East – and with those living standards, we will lose many of our treasured ways of life that depend on continuing affluence.”

In the final episode: Brave New Europe 3 MG looks at the Balkan ‘Powder Keg’ and one big and unavoidable issue – the EU and Turkey…

“Because the real issue regarding Turkey is as deep as it gets – our European identity. The elephant in Turkey’s living room is Islam. There is a deep conviction held by many Europeans that we are a Christian culture and must remain so. The Vatican made strenuous attempts to say as much in the preamble of the forthcoming EU constitution (although why St. Peter’s which is not a member of the EU has any say in the matter remains unclear). And the Pope’s team found supporters all over Europe.”

“Does that mean that we Europeans must deny the contributions of other faiths to our culture from Alhambra to Einstein? Does this mean that the majority of Albanians should be excluded a priori from claiming to be part of Europe’s heritage simply because they are Muslims. For almost two centuries, the Balkan peninsula was known as Turkey in Europe. Turkish culture is already European – it may be Asian as well but Britain straddles European and Atlantic culture just as Spain has an intimate connection with the Maghreb. There are no easy definitions and those who believe so try, in my opinion, to turn back the wheel of history to a place and time that has never existed – a Europe of clear-cut boundaries.”

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