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Donate your bicycle to support aid workers in Ukraine

2 December 2022

On 24 February, 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine. Despite months of bombing and violent attacks, the people of Ukraine continue to show incredible resilience. The EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK National Coordinator for Ukraine, Lesya Loyko, shares some of the central challenges that Ukraine faces as a result of the immense damage to its public transportation infrastructure, and how you can help.

Among the many consequences of Russia’s invasion, mobility and people’s ability to get around have been severely impacted. What impacts have you seen?

In the very first period after the war started, public transport was immediately stopped because it was unclear how the shelling or bombing would happen. The enterprises responsible for running the services for public transport were afraid of what would happen if people were in trolley buses or trams. Also, the role of public transport changed: many buses were mobilised to transport people from areas under shelling to safe places. Green corridors were organised and about 50 buses were just transporting people [to safety]. On the other hand, the subway - also public transport - was being used as a shelter, especially in the capital city. Each night people moved to the subway, so it was open 24 hours.

When the situation improved a bit and stabilised, public transport began again, but was facing challenges due to fuel shortages. Unfortunately, many fleets were just hit by missiles and bombs and transport enterprises lost buses, trolleys and trams. For electric transport, the network has also been destroyed and there are kilometres of it that will need to be rebuilt. Mayors understand the importance of public transport and are really investing every effort to get it up and running again. There were periods in some cities that transport was free of charge so that at least people could get to medical centres and so on.

In spite of all the challenges you mentioned, you still had some towns and cities participating in this year’s EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK. How was the effort to engage them? What did they focus on?

I noticed that, interestingly, the activities that were organised were patriotic. For example, in the City of Lviv there are two great initiatives. One is ‘Bike, Friend!,’ which is very moving because they try to find local people who bike and connect them with internally displaced people fleeing the war. Lviv got 150,000 new people as a result of the war over a few months. This initiative is trying to connect these people so they can share bikes. Another one is a social bike sharing scheme for internally displaced people. If you are registered you receive some support from the state and those who have registered as internally displaced can apply to get bikes brought from Europe. Then you can rent a bike for a week and return it so someone else can use it. Sometimes people’s cars are damaged or they have had to leave [their home] with two bags, maybe a cat or dog. They have what they brought and that’s it.

Also, some cities implemented permanent measures. It was a challenge because we have a law now, because of the war, that states that municipalities can only spend money on repairs because all of the money is being collected for the army and people. So even if our municipalities did permanent measures like the improvement of pavements or small things, like street crossings, it was also important.

It seems that the bike is now a critical tool for Ukraine.

When all this chaos was happening the bicycle was the saving means of moving for some people. It’s at home, it’s easy to use, even for escaping. I know cases where they would put two bigger bags on a bike and escape, using them as carriage transport. Those NGOs who were actively promoting bikes before the war continue to do so. For example, in the capital city Kyiv, a bicycle count is organised twice a year and they even managed to do it earlier this summer. For this event, people physically go out to certain streets and count how many bicycles go through in the morning, in the evening, on a working day, weekend day, etc. Actually, the numbers didn't drop. People continue to use bicycles despite the danger. Now there is a national campaign Vision Zero - meaning zero deaths on the road - and one of the messages behind this [for us] is that people are killed in the war so let’s put some effort in to ensure that people are not killed on the road. The situation is difficult, but at least the people I know are enthusiastic and want to make the country even better than it was before the war.

You helped launch a campaign called #BikesforUkraine with six NGOs. Can you tell us a little bit more about it and how people can support it?

This campaign is meant to help those cities who have suffered most from the Russian invasion. Cities where the infrastructure has been destroyed, where people have left and neighbours or relatives in need are stuck in the city and it is difficult to reach them. #BikesforUkraine is about collecting new and old bikes, spare parts, donations to support volunteers, social workers, medical workers, those who are really the helping hand for people who are in a desperate situation. These bicycles are distributed among organisations within the cities that help other people.

How one can help: it’s easy. We are a coalition of six NGOs that started this initiative and anyone who would like to help Ukraine in a good, humanistic, positive way can contact us. We have contacts that we share and we can explain more about how the campaign works.

If someone has a few bikes and would like to send them to you, what should they do?

There are hundreds of ways this can happen, but let’s give an example of Freiburg (Germany) which is a sister city to Lviv. Freiburg already organises different kinds of support like medicine, food, and mattresses and is sending this to Ukraine. Knowing this we can go to Lviv and ask them when the next shipment from Freiburg will come. Then we could say, would you please pick up three bikes for us?

To organise the donation, drop off or delivery of bikes, fill out this form.
For more information about the #BikesforUkraine campaign, visit the website: here.
Contact for more information.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.