CED member advises Russian city on becoming cycle friendly

| December 7, 2015
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Bicycle tour of Almetyevsk for Copenhagenize Design Company. Photo: City of Almetyevsk

The Russian city of Almetyevsk teams up with Copenhagenize Design Co. on one of the greatest transport projects of the 21st century. A complete transformation into the best bicycle-friendly city in Russia.

By Julie Kierkegaard, Copenhagenize Design Company

The desire for life-sized cities knows no borders. When the City of Almetyevsk, in Tatarstan, Russia, decided to embark on one of the greatest urbanist projects of the 21st century, they hired the reknowned Danish consultancy and design bureau, Copenhagenize Design Company to tackle the job.

Despite cultural, linguistic and engineering differences, Almetyevsk – a city of 150,000 – is dead-set on transforming itself into the most bicycle-friendly city in Russia – and in record time.

Copenhagenize Design Co. is tasked with developing a comprehensive strategy for the development of bicycle infrastructure in the city and coaching them until completion of the project. Over 200 km of Best Practice bicycle infrastructure is planned, along with all the necessary bells and whistles that prioritise cycling as transport.

Political backup
There is impressive political will in Almetyevsk. The Head of the Executive Committee of Almetyevsk, Ayrat Khayrullin, is the driving force behind the city’s coming transformation. An energetic man in his early 30s, Mr Khayrullin is well-versed in what it takes to become a life-sized city.

Mikael Colville-Andersen, CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co., was impressed on the company’s first visit to Almetyevsk. “We met a man of passion who had done his homework about what infrastructure is necessary and the societal benefits of cycling. For example, he knew well that bi-directional cycle tracks don’t belong on streets and that one-way cycle tracks on each side of the road were the way forward. It was brilliant to meet a politician who had done so much research”.

Copenhagenize Design Co. visited Almetyevsk in September 2015 for preliminary meetings and discussions with city officials and engineers in order to start planning the strategy. CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen and Urban Planner James Thoem were given a comprehensive bicycle tour of the city by Mr Khayrullin and his team.

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Head of Almetyevsk Ayrat Khayrullin and CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co., Mikael Colville-Andersen with local children who tagged along on the bike tour. Photo: City of Almetyevsk

Good wide infrastructure
Almetyevsk’s greatest advantage is that the city was founded in 1953 and the roads are more than wide enough to accommodate a solid network of Best Practice infrastructure. In the late 1940s, oil was discovered in the region and Almetyevsk was founded at the heart of oilfields that contain 7% of Russia’s oil reserves. The national oil company in the Tatarstan Republic is financing the entire project.

“When I coined the word ‘copenhagenize’ in 2007 I would never have thought that we would be working on doing it with an entire city, from scratch”, says Mikael Colville-Andersen. “This is the bicycle urbanism version of Niemeyer’s Brasilia or Griffin’s Canberra. We hope we make Le Corbusier roll a few times in his grave by the time we’re done”, he adds.

Best practice
Copenhagenize Design Co. was back in Almetyevsk in October 2015 and work on the strategy will take place through the winter, with work beginning in the spring. The backbone of the network – 50 km of Best Practice infrastructure – is scheduled for 2016, followed by secondary roads and residential neighbourhoods the following spring. In addition, a comprehensive intervention of road diets and traffic calming will be added to the project’s ‘to do’ list. All in order to lay the foundations for other urbanism developments that will establish Almetyevsk as a truly life-sized city.

All the established theories and Best Practice about how to design a city for bicycles based on a century of experience will be put to the test in an oil town on the western steppes of Russia.

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