Interview with mayor Astrid Fodor in Sibiu on 17 May 2016

Duration: 20 min

Kloss: How do you get people on bikes in Sibiu?

Fodor: First we had to create bicycle paths. There were no bicycle paths in the city. In the 90s cycling was quite popular, but after the turnaround the number of cars grew very strongly, it was comfortable, people bought cars in the west and less and less people were cycling. The first bicycle path was constructed in 2008. We started building bicycle paths in the most important streets of Sibiu. Currently we have 70km of bicycle paths. In the future we have to take care that they are safe. It is often difficult because we don’t have many wide streets and also cars, parking lots and pedestrians need their space.

Gruszyk: That’s why the structure of the city is perfect for cyclists and pedestrians.

Fodor: Yes perfect but you have to consider the attitude of the Romanian population. Using a bicycle as means of transport is not common. It is much more comfortable for Romanians to use the car. If it would be possible they would even go only 10m by car. The car is intensively used in Romania. Therefore campaigns are necessary to explain the people that it is much more environmentally friendly to go by bike. We are campaigning for years, also in our development strategy we aim for a green Sibiu, that should become a smart city, but it is not easy. The majority of the population is not paying attention to it. There are people dealing with this, but it’s not really thriving. Nevertheless the number of cyclists is growing, but incomparable to the number of motorists. For Romanians the problem is not cycling, but parking lots for cars. We try to convince the population for alternatives, but this is not possible in one week. It is hard to keep the Romanian population away from car driving. With all the kids, mother-in-law and dog, it is just more comfortable for the whole family…

Kloss: Is there a strategy…

Fodor: Yes of course there is a strategy, the mobility strategy, we will complete in 2 months. The mobility strategy is focusing on using alternative mobility patterns. We will see if this will work. Safe bicycle paths are important. We need a bike sharing system, free for children and pensioners.

Kloss: Which is the biggest mobility group? Motorists, public transport users or pedestrians?

Fodor: What makes me glad is that the population is used to use public transport. But after the turnaround everybody wanted to drive a car.

Kloss: Are there mobility split data?

Fodor: For sure from the public transport company.

Kloss: This would be a good basis for argumentation and setting goals.

Gruszyk: Only if you know the status quo you can set goals.

Fodor: Sibiu should be a green city.

Gruszyk: Sibiu is a gorgeous city, but unfortunately cars are dominating the cityscape. Initially this city was not built for cars.

Fodor: Among the German population the bicycle was very popular. It is easy to come from the west and give advice to a country that has a completely different mentality.

Gruszyk: Why can’t the post-communist countries learn from the mistakes of the western countries?

Fodor: Every country has to make its own experiences. Every administration is doing what the own population wishes for.

Gruszyk: But the administration also has to look forward.

Fodor: Of course, fulfilling the wishes of the citizens is the main thing, but we also have to look into the future.

Kloss: Are there efforts to reduce the number of cars in the city centre?

Fodor: There are talks to extend the car-free zone on two squares and two – three streets in the old town, with the consent of the citizens. This is not ready yet.

Kloss: This is also good for the local economy. Studies show that cyclists spend more money at shopping.

Fodor: I am 100% convinced, that local business would benefit. We are struggling with the mentality of the population, that should leave their car at home to go to the city centre. And not come by car and park where it’s not allowed. The many cars are covering the historical town.

Kloss: It needs awareness and infrastructure.

Fodor: When awareness is developing we can adopt the infrastructure.

Kloss: Would it not be possible to do both? F.i. with a bike festival…

Fodor: Yes there are such initiatives. The municipality is financing this and is contributing very much that the bike gets used.

Kloss: What is the future of urban mobility in Sibiu?

Fodor: Cycling and public transport. I wish a subway for Sibiu. Sibiu would be much more beautiful if the historical town would belong only to pedestrians and cyclists and not to the cars.

Kloss: In my opinion it is quite „simple“ to free a city centre from cars, because there is tourism and a beautiful old town, really challenging are the suburban areas because these are much more car-dependent and have longer ways. The shorter ways are in the city centre. Very advantageous are bicycle highways through the whole city. We got to know someone here who is proposing a bicycle highway along the river Cibin.

Fodor: There are several NGOs dealing with this this, and a construction company for ecological transports …