The Polish city of Krakow dates back to the 7th century. It has a lot of history and there are a lot of places in this ancient place that have remained unchanged for centuries. However, there are also places that have changed a lot in recent years. The signs of these changes are becoming more and more visible, such as the abundance of cars on the roads for example.
Lukasz Franek, director of the Krakow Public Transport Authority, says there are now 700 cars per 1,000 people and the city was not built for so many cars. “We just don’t adapt to these cars. Our streets in the historic part of the city are not as wide as in Warsaw, Wrocław and Poznań,” he adds.
With nearly a million inhabitants, the city now has an air quality problem and pollution is combated on all fronts.
Pollution control initiatives
The city has now put in place a deliberate policy to push private cars out of the center and some streets are only open to residents, cyclists and scooters.
Krakow has one of the largest bridges in Poland for pedestrians and cyclists.
It has also launched a system of electric public bicycles as part of the EU’s Low-Carb project. We met one of the townspeople, Marek Rybarczyk, who regularly uses the public bicycle system. He’s happy with the price because “they’re free,” he says with a smile. But more seriously, he thinks they’re located in convenient locations, and he likes the fact that they’re electric.
The changes in the organization of traffic in Krakow have their opponents. These are mainly entrepreneurs from designated own transport areas. In these areas, deliveries of goods to restaurants and shops are only allowed at certain times and customers are not allowed to drive there at all. Entrepreneurs say this has a direct impact on their income.
Izabela Bobula is an entrepreneur from the Kazimierz neighborhood, where these restrictions are in place. She tells us that “when people buy a lot of things, they prefer to drive somewhere where they can buy everything in one place and they don’t have to carry their purchases in bags or in carts.”
Authorities in Krakow say they are aware of this and while they have no plans to change the path to cleaner air, they admit they will only take further action after consulting with locals .
These consultations are expected to take place towards the end of the year or early next year. According to Andrzej Kulig, deputy mayor of Krakow, “discussing urban mobility issues is crucial” for the mayor. He further states that they don’t want to do anything from top to bottom because they want to work with the locals.
A time for discussions
The climate for talks was facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. When many residents started working remotely and fewer cars appeared on the streets, the air quality in Krakow showed immediate and significant improvement. everyone was in favor.
In some neighborhoods, Krakow wants to implement the idea of a city in 15 minutes.
The goal of this initiative is to have everything people need within 15 minutes on foot or by bike. For this, the authorities would need the green light from the inhabitants of the city.
This story is part of Mobility week on Euronews. From September 13 to 17, 2021, we explore the trends shaping the future of transportation and personal mobility. See more stories here.