Oradea is a medium-sized city in Western Romania. It has a population of more than 220,000 and covers a total of 38.5 sq-km. Oradea has large industrial districts, as well as significant historical sites, tourist and educational centres. Economic development in the area is influenced by the proximity to the Hungarian border, with both rail and road linkages. The effects of economic and transport development over the last two decades have exacerbated the conflicts between transport and the environment. The extent of motorized transportation had a considerable impact on urban life quality and led to calls for measures to improve the situation, especially in the denser populated areas. Influencing the travel habits of inhabitants towards more environmentally friendly transport modes, especially cycling and walking, is a real challenge because, for most people, cycling is still a leisure mode of transport, a sport or an activity for children. So far, cycling has not been properly promoted. It does not benefit from dedicated lanes, being considered unsafe.
The major objective of the project was to improve urban air quality by lowering the pollution levels generated by car traffic in the city of Oradea. The project aimed to influence the mobility behaviour of citizens by encouraging more sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling and walking, and by convincing the population through an extended campaign that travelling in an eco-friendly way is better and more convenient than travel by car. Other objectives stressed the need to create a living example of the way bicycles can help tackle traffic problems in a medium-sized city and to disseminate the experience to other Romanian cities. The aims of the project are closely tied in with the prospect of sustainable development as set out in Agenda 21.
The project achieved the following results:
- 150 bicycles were used; out of them 45 are equipped with GPS;
- a bicycle tracking system was installed, which also allows identification of bicycles in traffic;
- A lighted board that informs Oradea inhabitants on the level of pollutants generated by urban traffic was installed;
- twelve bicycle sheds were placed;
- six kilometres of bicycle lanes were created.
There is no evidence yet of an achievement of the major project objective, i.e. improving the urban air quality and reducing noise caused by the car traffic in Oradea. The beneficiary noticed a slight change in the behaviour of the inhabitants but also stated a low level of awareness. It mentioned that environmental protection issue was not a priority for a major part of the population in comparison to economic and social problems.
The conclusion of the beneficiary is that the project marks the starting point of a long process. Some progress was noted, however:
- Urban planners are taking into consideration the space needed for bicycle lanes;
- The municipality’s investment plan includes an extension of the bicycle lanes;
- The number of bikers is increasing;
- The Oradea Police initiated a procedure in order to correct the oversights of the Romanian Traffic Regulation.