Wrocław is one of the finalists of the 8th Award for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP Award), which focused on the theme of safe walking and cycling. Among the three finalists out of the Brussels Capital Region (BE) and Kaunas (LT), Wrocław presented a SUMP, which introduces a strategy for walking and cycling in every aspect. The fourth-largest Polish city was chosen as the administration provided a holistic plan which shows a clear paradigm shift in the transport policy of the city. Furthermore, the Jury of the 8th SUMP Award was impressed by the ambitious goal of zero road fatalities, as part of the road safety aspect of the SUMP plan.
The Polish city, which was selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2016, is attracting around five million visitors each year with its UNESCO World Heritage city centre, a significant factor for the city’s economy and transport. Thanks to its 130,000 students, which account for around 20% of the entire population of 650,000, Wrocław has a great potential to become a cycling and walking city. Currently, 41% of trips are done by car, 28% of travelers use public transport, 6% are cycling and 24% are walking. The city administration aims to reach a 70% share of non-car travels by 2028 which is an expected increase of 11% in comparison to today’s numbers.
Even before the framework of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan was created, Wrocław took some preliminary measures to promote investment in cycling infrastructure. From 2007, a ’bicycle officer’ has controlled all infrastructure investments of the city related to cycling. The position also functions as an advocate for non-motorised transport. In 2010, investments in cycling were integrated into a political framework with the city’s first cycling policy. Even though non-motorised transport had already been part of the Wrocław agenda for a decade, larger changes could be made after the finalisation of the city’s North-West bypass, which drastically reduced the amount of through-traffic. This opportunity was used to create new pedestrian areas and to open up spaces for cyclists and pedestrians. This time was the starting point for Wrocław to enhance its efforts to set up political frameworks for sustainable urban mobility.
A larger study supported this endeavour. The ‘Wrocław Master Plan’ in 2018 identified standards for walking infrastructure and opportunities for cycling paths, like the banks of Wrocław’s five rivers, which provide the perfect space for calm, non-motorised travel. Other political tools were used to enshrine the importance of cycling and walking in the entire voivodship (region); thus, specific improvement standards were defined for cycling (2005), walking (2018), and accessibility (2019). This framework facilitated cooperation between the city of Wrocław and the surrounding areas.
Thanks to the existing political frameworks, Wrocław was able to set up a core group of stakeholders, including young and senior citizens, municipal police officers, transport operators, and minorities, who provided input concerning the focus of the local SUMP. After an initial brainstorming stage, 81 possible actions were identified, which were reduced to 40 actions by a selection of stakeholders.
Even though actions focus on the city of Wrocław, a cooperation with the neighbouring municipalities took place as many commuters are using the private car to get to and from the city. Therefore, several coordinated actions were taken, including the extension of park & ride, as well as park & bike facilities near the most frequented inbound routes to Wrocław. The cooperation is not even limited to the surrounding municipalities, but includes coordination within the entire voivodship, taking into consideration standards of cycling paths.
Larger ongoing projects include revitalisation of existing footpaths and roads used by the inhabitants of Wrocław. The development and expansion of an old footpath along a train line helps to increase accessibility for cyclists, while providing more comfort to existing users. The same applies for the beforementioned walkways along the Oder river and other streams. After demolishing an old foot-bridge above a street, new bike paths, new pedestrian crossings and tram stops offer better connection and accessibility, especially for citizens with reduced mobility.
Wrocław has had some quantifiable successes related to public transport, walking and cycling since the introduction of their SUMP in 2018. Based on a city bike rental system, which was initiated in 2011, the city has extended the number of bicycles up to 2,000 in 2019. The extensive offer was well-received by inhabitants and tourists, with 1.1 million bike rentals taking place in 2018.
Whether users have rented or own a bike, a safe way to commute to and from the city is vital to enhance the number of trips by bicycle in the modal split. Cyclists can already use a network of 420 km of cycling path, which will be extended up to 600 km in the next five years, guaranteeing that 72% of Wrocław’s inhabitants live in a 30-minute cycling distance of the old town. Specific measurements range from the closure of gaps in the network up to larger projects, which connect the city centre with large housing districts. In these areas meeting places and common spaces are being enhanced by planting vegetation.
Wrocław is also adapting an interesting combination of new legislation and law enforcement. Specific actions include the liquidation of illegal car parking on green areas in specific streets. This should also be promoted by the successive enlargement of the area with a 30 km/h speed limit, which currently includes 718 km.
Finally, education is another valuable piece of their SUMP. Every year in May, more than 50 schools and kindergartens compete in a cycling competition. The educational institution with the most children commuting to school by bike, scooter or roller-skates wins a prize. This friendly competition should showcase to the families that it is indeed possible to commute by non-motorised vehicles.
Observing the decisions taken in Wrocław, one can conclude that a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan can be executed best if it is based on the existing cooperation between the city administration, socio-economic stakeholders and interest groups and local communities such as districts insight a larger municipality. This might be one of the reasons why the theme of walking and cycling is an integral part of all chapters of their SUMP.
Successful plans combine illustrious ideas of a possible future with clearly defined actions, such as the building of a cycle path to connect large housing districts with the city centre. Having the ambition to define 40 actions to be implemented in a timeframe of just eight years impressed the Jury. The combination of infrastructure developments with creative ideas to increase the outreach to younger residents, as happened with the annual ’Cycling May’ competition, was also considered as very successful.