Erasmus+ youth exchange “Cycle and the City” (acronym C&C) took place in Kaunas, Lithuania on October 22-30, 2017. Project’s mission was to promote cycling as a healthy, sustainable and fun alternative to car.
Inspiration for the Project
Pollution in European cities, unhealthy lifestyle as well as extensive car usage and traffic jams are just a few of social problems that the EU institutions and separate member states are trying to address. Surely, these issues could be tackled my more cycling, which is still not popular enough in some of the countries. According to European Cyclists’ Federation Cycling Barometer, Poland has been ranked as one of the worst country for cycling, with Italy (except for a few Northern cities) not so far behind. These countries still do not have the necessary initiatives that would promote urban cycling and increase awareness of various related benefits.
On the other hand, there are countries such as Lithuania, which has somewhat improved its cycling rates (among urban population) in the last few years. Of course, it’s a long way to go still.
Fortunately, good practices from elsewhere can be relied upon. Having this in mind, this project is aiming to bring together organisations from the above mentioned countries, as well as states where cycling culture is well established (Denmark, UK & Spain (Valencia)). The general aim of “Cycle & the City” is to make cycling more popular as a mean of healthy, cheap & sustainable transport.
Objectives of the Project
The project set the following objectives:
promote cycling as a means of transport both for leisure and work, and the health benefits that come along;
lobby for the maintenance of a safe, convenient, efficient and accessible cycling network in participating regions;
reduce the actual and perceived dangers faced by cyclists;
appeal to drivers to respect bikes on the road.
36 young people coming from 6 different countries (Lithuania, Spain, Italy, Poland, the UK and Denmark ) gathered to discuss the situation of cycling in each country and to talk about problems cyclists encounter while driving in the cities. Most of the participants already had previous experience in cycling, volunteering or working with youngsters; The participants were students or graduates of different universities in different subjects so the diversity of the background of participants was very wide. The atmosphere in the group was very warm since the first day!
Point of View
of the project’s participant – Edmundas Dabusinskas
Infosession and Current knowledge assessment
We started with some basic questions about bicycles in order to know the situation in our group. Here you can find the results of our evaluation: Current knowledge assesment
Did you know that the invention of a first bicycle is connected with the volcano in Indonesia even if it was invented in Germany? Have you ever seen some strange bicycles? If you are interested in finding something you have never heard before you should check the presentation from the info session here: C&C infosession
Welcome to the Cycle and the City sports bar! We had some great time discussing interesting topics in a non-formal atmosphere with some special snacks and drinks.
Participants had to use their skills to find out interesting facts and figures about the cycling culture in their country. For example: statistics – how many bikes there are in your country? What kind of color of the bikes is the most popular? Are there more men or women who use to cycle?; interesting figures – are bikes used as a public transport? What are the prices compared with other ways of transportation?; examples – ongoing projects (maybe there are holes on the bike roads and somebody grows there flowers? Or maybe there are bike traffics and special roads for bicyclist already?); stories – maybe one of you have done a cycling tour around your country and it is time to share it out loud? Maybe someone else did and there are interesting videos about it?
Here you can find the powerpoint presentations from the countries:
Divided into groups participants had to make a name of the group, team motto, the logo and short-video about them. They got some tasks to do in the city, e.g. to find and take pictures of something (e.g. objects) that represent these words: magic movement, epic ecology, cool cycle, hard happiness, real rush, perfect pattern, Erasmus energy, silly speed, bad bump, playful parking… And they got extra points if all these pictures were linked up (connected) in a nice story!
In the evening participants had a great time getting to know each other by having short one-on-one conversations on different topics.
Coach Potato workshop
This activity was aimed at providing participants with the possibility to notice the reasons people do not choose to ride a bicycle and to try to solve them. A good teamwork and fast thinking was required in order to reach the result. There were four parts of the activity:
1st task – Discussion: what are the main excuses you/your friends/family/colleagues/other people use while answering why not to drive a bicycle? Write down 5 of them;
2nd task – Choose one of the 5 you think it is possible to challenge;
3rd task – Create a strategy of how you would challenge it (e.g. a mobile app, where all the colleagues from the office are participating – it counts your km with a bicycle and the winner gets a day free form work). By this time participants had a start-up group, had an idea about the initiative – time to find investors!
4th task- present it that we would “buy it” – act a commercial; sing a song; make a flyer etc.
Bike rental Challenge
Imagine you are foreigner in the city… Wait a moment – you really are! The task was given to the participants to find and rent a bike in Kaunas and drive as many kilometers as possible in one hour!
We also had a guest speaker from Kaunas Municipality Inga Bendokienė who introduced us with the current situation of bicycling infrostructre in Kaunas, presented „Bike like“ initiative and talked about the improvements that are being constantly made to make Kaunas a bicycle friendly city.
After an intensive program in the morning we had a cozy afternoon lying down on the floor under the blankets, eating popcorns and watching some videos on the topic for inspiration. Here are the links to some of them:
Critical Mass is a cycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month, we went there to promote our public cycling event “Bicycle-car”.
Public cycling event in Kaunas
Have you ever thought how many bicycles could fit into the space taken up by a car? Our participants were riding extraordinary vehicles – bicycles with car skeletons around them – in the streets of Kaunas. The goal of the action was to show that cycling saves space in the city.
Such initiative was done for the first time in the country. And surely, the locals were surprised by the unusual sights in the streets. While some grumbled about the cumbersome objects on the roads, the most smiled and waved.
Sometimes one needs creativity to attract citizens’ attention towards real issues. We were aiming to show how easily car-sized objects can clog the roads. One construction of ours fitted 14 bicycles.
Nearby drivers would slow down and act more careful next to the bikes with car skeletons. Here is the video and some pictures from the initiative:
After the whole week together we shared the memories and nominated each other for different awards, just look at those happy faces:
During the project youth learned about cycling activities across Europe, including the ways they are organized and maintained. They also gathered all the necessary knowledge needed for responsible and safe cycling. On top of that, they learned more about healthy lifestyle and other positive aspects associated with cycling. This is a base for them in becoming “Cycling Ambassadors” in their countries.