It is our first series of Q&A with the experts. We have three experts from three topics (Biodiversity, Transport and Energy) coming from Serbia. In the second interview our questions about transport answered Zoran Bukvić. Zoran comes from the association Ulice za bicikliste from Belgrade, where they actively advocate for improving conditions and increasing the number of cyclists in traffic and putting the culture of walking and cycling in a dominant position in relation to the car. They are also organizers of Belgrade’s Critical Mass bike rides.
1. Can you please describe the connection between air pollution and transport in the country, specifically in Belgrade?
Transport takes share from 10 – 40% of urban pollution emission in Belgrade, on average it is around 20%. There is also urban noise, which is mostly from traffic (80-90%). Vehicles in Serbia are on average 15+ years old, 80% run on diesel. I think that explains everything. We are a dump site for EU dirty vehicles, and the whole Balkan has a strong car centric culture.
2. What is the situation with road safety and how safe is it to be a pedestrian, cyclist in your city?
Traffic police are mostly oriented towards making the traffic in the city fluent. Drivers in Belgrade are not too tolerant of pedestrians and cyclists, and overall traffic culture is not on a high level. How much this is a matter of finance, resources or political question, still can’t be figured out. I think that even if police had the capacity to enforce lower speed and to charge reckless car drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians and cyclists, it would still be a political issue. Although you would ask yourself why that is a political problem, because everyone wants safer traffic, I would say that officials and drivers also want fluent traffic. And from an old fashion car centric planning point of view.
3. How is non-motorized transportation developing? What is the condition of the railway system?
Currently, the railway is in the process of reconstruction of the corridor from north to south for hi speed trains. Slowly, the country is buying new trains, but it is still far from a massive form of transport. For example, the main train station from Belgrade center has been moved 2, 5 km from the previous location, to a place without public transport lines and connection to points of interest. First planned metro line is missing the main railway station in Belgrade, which tells where the railway is in state plans.
4. What is your position regarding the electrification of transportation?
If we speak about private cars, they still consume space, if we speak about public transport, it is a better option than buses on diesel, but again, we have “dirty” electric power from coal, so we also have to work on that transition to wind and solar.
5. Please share positive examples, initiative and activities in your country!
Serbia is currently developing a national strategy of cycling, and the City of Belgrade implemented a Sustainable urban mobility plan.
Zoran Bukvić, Ulice za bicikliste, Beograd.