EMW recently extended its reach thanks to the appointment of a new national coordinator in Belarus. The domestic campaign formally got underway on April 27 when the local UNDP office hosted some 20 or so mobility campaigners and experts from Minsk, nationwide and internationally to hear tips and suggestions on how to implement a successful campaign.
During the session a number of proposals were also tabled including a mobility forum with town council administrators, a number of whom who had already been introduced to EMW the day before at a seminar for cities on sustainable mobility hosted by the Belarus Transport Union (BTU). With an eye on the campaign launch in September, UNDP agreed to take these proposals forward.
The capital, Minsk, offers much potential to realize sustainable urban mobility - wide streets could accommodate bike lanes, dedicated trolley bus or car-pool lanes, and it offers pedestrians wide sidewalks, many of which include bike paths already. "But residents love their cars and although the fleet is modern, ownership levels are already close to those of Germany," said Dzmitry Babicki of the Belarus Transport Union. The noise, however, is a real problem and speed reduction does not appear to be on the agenda for the city's wide thoroughfares.
Nevertheless, there is plenty to be optimistic about, with a third metro line under construction for the two million strong city while the practical application of cargo bikes aroused keen interest amongst local campaigners. One would also be hard pushed not to argue the city is a prime candidate to replicate a bike sharing scheme such as that seen in Belarus's former capital, Vilnius.
The good news is that the country is no stranger to EMW, with Minsk, Polotsk and Novopolotsk having signed up in 2015. "Although there's clearly room for improvement," notes Anton Rodnenkov of Interakcia Foundation, who said of Polotsk’s 2016 campaign: "More effort is needed in advertising more eye-catching events, especially towards pedestrians and drivers but also towards businesses. We also need to do more to reach out to citizens online.” Polotsk’s 2015 activities can be seen here.
It sounds like the civil society community knows what's to be done. At the same time it expressed its gratitude for the kick-off event and thanks to UNDP for its acting as a bridge between themselves and city authorities. Clearly there is much to look forward to and the European EMW secretariat, which includes the Regional Environmental Center, looks forward to seeing the results.