Why go to a global climate change summit to talk cycling?

For those that followed my posts from Warsaw two weeks ago I finally got round to writing my professional reflections on the whole experience of the Global Climate sessions over on the European Cyclists’ Federation web site. Click here for the full story.

My previous blog post from Warsaw that showed 12 police vans in a cycle lane clearly struck a chord with the cycling community over there – thanks to their facebook posts it is now my most read post. Now I never expected that. To see the rest of the posts click the Warsaw tab below or right.

Together with our cycling supporters from Poland and Ukraine and our Transport Day livery scarves.

“You couldn’t make it up” cycling moment in Warsaw

Cyclist crossing Warsaw

On my way to today’s transport side meeting of the COP 19 climate negotiations I made a nice discovery.

After a shaky moment or two I discovered a whole network of segregated cycle lanes to the South of Warsaw city centre, eventually heading down towards some the embassies and grand houses on Belwederska. Even a few reasonable junction treatments. Nice to feel welcomed I always say.

segregated cycle lane Warsaw

And at the Hyatt Hotel a very nice security guard spotted me looking lost and guided me proudly to the hotel’s cycle parking. Hey, don’t knock it, this isn’t Amsterdam.

Hyatt Hotel Warsaw cycle parking

However the trip home gave me one of those stupid moments I always remember and will quote for years.

I was riding in the cycle lane when I spotted a van ahead. I grumbled internally and said “it would be ironic if it’s a police van guarding some Climate Summit VIPs”

12 of the buggers no less.

COP 19

I don’t know if they take too well to irony in the Polish Police service. One cop saw my camera and started to work his way down the line towards me so I scarpered.

Climate Ride tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

Transport reality in Warsaw at #COP 19

After yesterday’s gloomy evening cycle into the old centre of Warsaw this morning dawns bright and clear.

And with it my hotel room offers a more realistic perspective on rush hour, and the bold cyclists of Warsaw. A scene we could repeat in so many countries.

COP 19 Cop 19

Road bikes and fixies the only ones out there on the boulevard, although to be fair I have seen that other indicator species the cheap mountain bike on the side streets.

Those riders walk across or use the pavements when faced by these big roads.

But look at all that space – it is certainly possible to imagine that cycling infrastructure could be fitted in here. Tomorrow we can ask the politicians!

Lost in the mists of Warsaw

Warsaw Old Town City Centre

I am paying my first visit to Poland, which is very exciting, even though winter is closing in across Eastern Europe and it is all a bit cold and dark today.

I am here to support some side events at COP 19, the latest round of the United Nations Climate negotiations.We have a Transport Day on Sunday which is attracting some of the world’s top minds in the field to try and address how we reverse the increasing share transport is playing in CO2 emissions, especially in the developing world.

And on Saturday we have the “Climate Ride”, a nice physical act by the city of Warsaw to do something positive away from all the debating chambers, side events, workshops and negotiations that go on non-stop for two weeks. As one of the supporters I am really looking forward to riding with the local bike community.

I got here around lunchtime and after some meetings I just had some time in the gathering gloom to hire one of the Ventrilo city public hire bikes  and orient myself.

It’s not the easiest city to ride – most of my pre-reading on various forums about cycling in Warsaw was awfully fearful about Polish drivers and general cycling conditions. I did get forced almost off the road by a bus in the first five minutes but in true idonotdespair style I was soon in to it, when i doubt I just rode up the broad sidewalks with the other cyclists. (Yes there were a few cyclists – so I truly do not despair!)

Warsaw Old City

The best bit was the calm of the old restored city centre where I shall certainly return in the next few days for a further look round, especially as we start our bike ride in front of City Hall.

I also had to smile a wee bit in the context of my reason for being here. I saw two buildings that are associated with the Climate Change negotiations. The National Stadium is the host for the COP process and the Palace of Culture and Science is a second venue, promoting the COP with it’s hopeful banner “I care”.

Both were shrouded in mist today.

COP 19 Venue

COP 19 Banner

A bit like the COP process for many people, maybe including me. I am deputising for a colleague  who couldn’t make it to this meeting. Fortunately for cycling in the long run he understand this world better than I do, and all the important questions.

Will there be a breakthrough in negotiations that we all believe can reset the path for the future?

Can anybody in the outside explain the five pages of acronyms and descriptions of all the things that are supposed to deliver the changes we need?

I am struggling to know my NAMAs from my CDMs right now, along with all the other key mechanisms for taking action on Climate Change, it is a steep learning curve.

The gain is that I get to visit Warsaw, the pain is that by Sunday I need to be fluent in COPspeak……………..back to the briefing papers.