If a bicycle ride around town was just meant to be a pleasure, the Suits on Bikes event wouldn’t make much sense. But behind the event, which Eurobuild has now organised for the fourth time, hides a deeper sense of purpose or more accurately a number of ideas – we want to promote the bicycle as a means of transport that is economical, safe, healthy and ecological – one that is ideal for people commuting to their offices.
It’s good to see that throughout Poland people are giving up their cars and getting on bicycles in ever increasing numbers. These days people ride to work, to the shops, to school and even to go out and meet friends. With more people using bikes not only is the city infrastructure changing to accommodate them but also changes can be seen in and around office and retail buildings as well as warehouses. There are bicycle stands and changing rooms for cyclists, which are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. These are exactly the kind of changes we are trying to promote through the Suits on Bikes event. And with our partners, who invited us to the office buildings that they owned, we can help spread the latest technology, systems and good practices to other modern office buildings in Warsaw. This year our partners Immofinanz and Hines proved especially committed to promoting the bicycle as a means of transport.
The two starting locations for the event were the Warsaw Spire and the Ambassador Office Building, which are in what are probably two of the most important office districts in Warsaw. The group that rode out from ul. Domaniewska to the city centre were testing out what the cycling infrastructure is like and I am glad to tell you that their reports were mostly positive – Służewiec is constantly changing for the better and even the disruption being caused by the renovation of ul. Wołoska is a good sign. When the work is finished we will have a nice long stretch of perfectly smooth asphalt to use as a cycle path. As Robert Buciak from the Zielone Mazowsze society pointed out, when we ride over cobbles we waste a lot of energy and asphalt makes a definite difference to the comfort of the ride. Now those that commute by bike to Służewiec are in for a pleasant surprise, at least along this particular stretch of the journey. Soon a bicycle highway is to be opened – something that could be described as a high-speed bicycle path for those who really enjoy a good workout on the bike. The path will join the districts of Mokotów and Ochota, which should ease car traffic and separate cyclists from pedestrians. But what is important to cyclists is not only the creation of such arterial routes but also the smaller streets that should wherever possible also have separate cycling paths. Wherever this is not possible, such roads should have lanes for cyclists painted on them allowing people to ride safely in the opposite direction to the traffic. One example of such a lane is on ul. Miączyńska, along which my group rode. It’s worth mentioning that the Służew district is soon to gain a new green area, which is currently a post industrial site turned to scrubland. Where once there was a railway siding, a rope park is to be created. One of the reasons why we had decided on the ride going through this district was to see if Służewiec still deserved it’s rather unflattering nickname of Mordor. It turned out that still not everything there can be described as perfect but the way this district of office blocks is being developed is a step in the right direction and everybody should give the place a second chance including cyclists.
The other group was riding from Wola to the centre and they had a rather easier ride – their route was somewhat shorter and the Wola district is well connected with the rest of the city. Besides, moaning was not an option since, for anyone who was going to spend their time complaining, there awaited a harsh punishment at the finish line. They were going to have to pump up all the flat tyres.
Of course the entire event – although it was a challenge – was intended to impart a positive message and for this reason those taking part were posed the question why they liked cycling and then they had to pick out a random pre-prepared answer. The vast majority liked what they had been allotted – that is all except for maybe one man who picked out the answer that he liked the wind in his hair, but … Well maybe the less said the better.
And this year, the enjoyment was something that was of particular importance to the event. That was because the current pandemic is not much cause for cheer. While we were doing the organising, we knew that there was no reason to dwell on this situation – after all you should always look on the bright side. And that is how we came up with the other theme this year for Suits on Bikes. We wanted to examine what new role the bike had taken on as a result of the pandemic. Everyone can see that Covid 19 has changed how the bicycle is perceived – it is almost universally recommended as an alternative to public transport. On a bike it’s easy to keep the recommended 2m distance from other people and exercise strengthens the immune system. We all felt great after our ride and while we had been riding in a tight column with all of us in reflective jackets provided by 7R we were a community that had bonded together over our love of the bicycle. What’s more we had the respect not only of other cyclists but also of those driving cars and and riding on trams. Maybe, we have even inspired some of them to get on a bike themselves.