How can a group of activists cook up a biking culture? A bike kitchen in Bratislava has some ideas.
The Slovak transport system is traditionally car-based. Bratislava suffers from intense traffic and air pollution; the best alternative, bicycles, count for only 3.5 percent of trips in the city.
Bratislava lacks cycling infrastructure, but even more fundamentally, it has lacked a bike culture: a group of people who believe in biking as a way to get around, and community leaders aware of the improved safety, public health, street life, tourism and economic growth that better cycling conditions could bring to the city.
Team Bratislava sought to establish a local core of bike advocates to build awareness of cycling as a smart, fun and healthy alternative and to advocate for recognition of the needs of cyclists in Bratislava’s transportation policies.
The main goal of Team Bratislava’s project was to extend, professionalize, and diversify the activities of an existing bike community congregating at the Bike Kitchen. “Cyklo kuchyňa” is a community center run out of a container in a parking lot just south of Bratislava’s historic center. Weekly meetups from which the space took its name bring together anyone interested in repairing their bike, sharing a meal or just hanging out with bike-friendly people.
Over the course of its involvement in the Actors program, the Bike Kitchen was able to increase its event offerings, adding weekly workshops on cycling and bike repair, coordinating community participation in rides like Critical Mass and operating the world’s first low-cost, open-source bike sharing system. Spurred by a growth in members, the Bike Kitchen organized the country’s first biking conference and activists have begun participating in local municipal election campaigns. The trainings offered by the Actors program helped Team Bratislava increase their expertise and success in advocacy.
For anyone wanting to launch bike sharing in their community, Bratislava’s Bike Kitchen offers its app software freely online.
The regularity of programming and the open organizational structure in which anyone can join, host an event and be a leader contributed to success in building the Bratislava biking community. The non-hierarchical internal organization makes the community stronger and more sustainable. As the Bike Kitchen leadership put it: “Allow people to do what they are good at and broaden your impact.”