GB No. 2(21)/96
A book by Marcin Hyła, titled Miasta dla rowerów with the subtitle Nie dla samochodów (Cities for bikes. Not for cars) and sponsored by the Foundation for the Support of Ecological Initiatives, has recently been published. The publication is probably the first one in Poland edited and written in a modern way. Hyła's book breaks from the image of the ecologist movement as something slap-dash or sloven, and it is an easy and nice thing to read. (I do not mean here the excellent work by Korbel and Lelek W obronie ziemi - as it is a book of an entirely different sort.)
Marcin appeared to be an expert not only in the field of bikes and transportation but also in writing. The well designed cover has its poster-equivalent, which should facilitate promotion. There are many good photos (though it is a pity they are black and white) that present what is best in Europe; that is, well organized city centers in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. For obvious reasons, Poland could be shown only in drawings. A good balance in the book makes it a good material to read as well as to study and learn. If it will be appropriately promoted (which will not get done by itself) it should become a significant element in the struggle for a sustainable transport policy. The author should also be praised for including in his work, apart from many suggestive facts of today, a brief history of the bicycle and the city, so that the book has a consistent unity. The character and language is that of the New Age and the suggestions about the magical properties of a bike agree with that style. Also, the logo designed by Ewa Ciepielewska is worth attention: although it does not meet the standard requirements of artistic form, i.e. it is not laconic and compact, it remains, simply, excellent.
Fortunately, the book has flaws - since otherwise my article would be a shear eulogy. In the chapter Kochamy tramwaje (We love trams) a portrait of Jan Friedberg, vice-president of Kraków, appears. Its message is that the only means of transport outside the town is a car and the only route - a motorway. Such a claim fits the actions undertaken by the official, who does his best to make citizens happy by promoting an international motorway; he also believes that the present motorway law is TOO LIBERAL. I do not want to focus on his very person. Instead, I would like to stress that all the countries quoted by the author are of a mature democracy; they are small countries or of strong regional traditions. Only in these countries could a sustainable transport policy have already been developed, as it means investments in public transport and bike routes. In Poland the power lies in the hands of political parties and people who despise democracy and the welfare of co-citizens. Recently, I have read about how the preferences of Warsaw authorities differed from the wishes of the community: the polls among the latter, also the car owners, proved that they favored limiting car transport in favour of the public one1. Simply, the ruling class, in Warsaw as well as in Kraków, is more ignorant and blindly following the West than the so-called average people. Furthermore, for the power-holders, the West means a made-in-the-USA fanfare, not democratic Switzerland or (how abominable!) social-democratic Sweden. To complete the information mentioned by Marcin, China has recently started to dismantle the bike transportation infrastructure and equally determinedly and certainly more effectively than we Poles, tried to show that " Chinese are able to". At the same time, our miserable elite, in their efforts to gain cheap popularity, act in such a schematic way that only, thanks to the inertia of the Polish "green", their bunkum has not been exposed. Flirting with officials la Friedberg will end in building bike routes that serve as parking places for cars, which already takes place in Kraków, or ones that seem to originate from a practical joke. If we want to develop a pro-social transportation policy in Poland, the present city presidents should be kept far away from the issues as well as any official, regional and governmental, posts.
They should also be kept away from pages of good books, as their presence there looks like a blot on a beautiful letter. And Marcin's book can certainly be compared to one.
reprinted from Zielone Brygady, Sept. 96
transl. M. Maciejewska