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Beocyclization

Beocyclization

Beocyclization (Ser. Beociklizacija) is a play of words merging the name of the city of Belgrade and a verb bicyclization. What I had on mind is trying to make this city as beautiful and interesting place for bicycling, as it is in it's other aspects, for example, architecture or nightlife.

The most recent rapid development that Belgrade has seen is the one after the World War II, when the world saw a good chance in cars as the oil prices were getting low. At that time, New Belgrade, a new part of city was built and it was by many means a magnificent work of urban planning and architecture... And amount of work, of course. It was a city planned after the rules of the Athens Charter, which almost 40 years ago made this entirely new city suitable for the amount of cars it sees today, that itself invited to come. On the other hand, this poses a misfortune for the other side of the city, the old part, adding to that misfortune that it's divided by a river that's slowing down the car traffic. Once that you get on the bridges and to the old part, it becomes horrific to be in a car.

Yet, people still are in cars. They ride lonely and they seem to enjoy yelling at each other, honking and speeding through 30km/h zones of the city. That's what Athens Charter and wide streets of New Belgrade made out of the citizens minds, but not only the citizens. The city government thinks the same, continuously building megalomaniac bridges, widening the streets and speeding up the car traffic, building parking lots everywhere in a desperate attempt to reduce traffic congestion, not realizing that traffic means pedestrians and bicyclists as well, not realizing that they're creating congestion for a majority of people who chooses walking, bicycling or public transport.

But we're not all that bad. We have cycling infrastructure. There, I said Belgrade is quite a nice city. We have infrastructure on the rivers and around the Sava lake, mostly used and suitable for bicycling as a sport. On the other hand, almost entire area of New Belgrade is covered with red stripes of asphalt that lays beside the pedestrian stripe of asphalt, featuring not only barriers to slow down bicyclists near the intersections so the car drivers can enjoy their speeding without giving a damn for anyone, but also poles, holes, fridges, kiosks. And nobody knew who is supposed to maintain this traffic surface! Until Beocyclization emerged.

Understanding that I can file reports on problems in the city and go pass the corridors of municipal and city hall towards the windows where unpleasant, not that rarely rude office women would await me to hand them dozens of problems, each printed nicely on a piece of paper with a detailed explanation of what's wrong. "Dozen of reports? Are you barking mad?" - she said for a first time. But they all get used to it after a few times.

Months later, responses from the municipality started arriving to my mailbox. "We're not responsible" they said, forwarding the reports to somebody else. And not a single response I got in a while, after I realized that only the first one tho whom I file a report is obliged by law to reply. Then, I started filing the same reports to many municipal and city government "servants", until I realized that Secretariat for traffic, currently my favorite city governing body, is supposed to do everything.

After I filed some reports at the Inspectorate for traffic against Secretariat for not maintaining the bicycle paths and started digging through their expenditures over the years, (their legs started shaking and) the first Commission for bicycling in the city of Belgrade got born, with me as one of the representatives of the entire bicycling community of Belgrade and a representative of a newly formed NGO Streets for cyclists (Ser. Ulice za bicikliste).

In a transitional "democratic" state, I had to find the bodies that work properly in order to get those who don't to work. It has just begun and many things are and will be happening. I still file reports, at least 30 a month, but now not only for the sake of bicyclists, but for the well-being of pedestrians and public transport users as well. At least 200 reports has been handed since April 2011.

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Miloš Lazić
Beograd, Serbia

Category: Advocacy and Social Projects

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