Bikes Take Root in the Balkans

by Jola Foto
Spring 2011 InGear

2011springAlbania

Throughout the cities of western and northern Europe public bicycle services have been established that encourage and increase the use of bicycles as healthy and ecologically-sound transport.  Through these services subscribers can rent bikes in easily accessible locations throughout the city and when finished return them to any other convenient station in the network. PASS has long wished to emulate this type of system in Albania and by the end of December, 2010 we will have four stations set up around Tirana, the capital. Tirana Community Bicycle, the first bicycle-sharing program in the Balkans, is an initiative of the PASS organization undertaken with funding support from the Open Society Foundation of Albania (OSFA is a Soros Foundation democratization program for Albania) and a generous contribution from Pedals for Progress, which donated the first 500 bicycles. Thanks to P4P’s contribution, our project was implemented and we were encouraged to advance and expand it.

The city of Tirana, and especially its center, is quite suitable for transportation by bicycle. The downtown area is dense, the terrain is flat, and the climate is mild. The short distances and easy conditions make cycling a fast and practical way of moving in the center of the city, and may be the best means of meeting the needs of the citizens of Tirana.

Given the heavy traffic situation in the center of the city and air pollution from CO2 emissions, we believe that this service will be a valuable contribution to the community. PASS has been promoting the new system for some time before the placement of the public bicycle stations. In the course of our other social activities, and in conjunction with our P4P-supported bike retail shop EcoVolis, we have involved the citizens of Tirana by soliciting suggestions regarding form, logo, and slogan. We have also organized awareness activities with the young people of Tirana. For instance, on September 22nd, a national activity day called “A Day Without Cars,” we distributed over 200 bicycles in the Youth Park, Mother Theresa Square, and the Ministry of Education for the “transport by bicycle” learning activity. In January, we will donate 30 bicycles and organize bike training for the children.

We hope that the Tirana Community Bicycle service will be properly consolidated in 2011, with a targeted number of daily uses of the public bicycles by citizens. By doing this we wish to promote the use of bicycles as a mode of transport for commuting or performing other daily activities and increase their use in our city.

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