november 6, 2018
Moscow Department of Transport is killing the Moscow Bike Parade
Cycling in the Russian capital is in danger. Parade's founders are looking for support.

Instead of creating a long-awaited cycling infrastructure, the Moscow Department of Transport (Deptrans) announced three bicycle parades with an "updated concept, improved route and concert program" for 2019. To do this, Deptrans is planning to provide financing from the city budget for the organization of the bike parade for the first time in 6 years of event's history and also to remove the event's creator, Let's bike it! project, from co-organizing it. Let's bike it! team claims that this decision will harm both the bike parades and other cycling events held in Moscow. For example, the future of such initiatives as Winter Bike Parade, Moscow International Cycling Congress and National Bike to Work Day is not certain now.
Moscow bike Parade was invented in 2010 by Let's bike it! project, an informal civic society organization, in the times of the mayor Luzhkov's administration. The idea was to show that there are many people in Moscow who would like to move around the city by bicycle. Getting approvals from the city took almost two years. The first bike parade was held in 2012 and gathered more than 8 thousand people, being in the top of Twitter, blogs and all leading Russian media.
Among the participants of the first Bike Parade in Moscow was Maxim Liksutov appointed as the head of Moscow Department of Transport several months before.
Moscow Department of Culture was a partner of the second bike parade, however it was striving to become the one and only organizer. Let's bike it! did not accept this and started cooperation with the Department of Transport, that at the time was just beginning to deal with the cycling topic. Deptrans was planning to hold a bike parade in Gorky Park for 1000 participants for 1 million rubles, when Let's bike it! suggested them to become co-organizers of the Moscow Bike Parade with more participants and sponsorship funding.
In 2016, the first disagreements started to emerge in cooperation with Deptrans. They wanted to "improve" Moscow Bike Parade. The event was made on sponsorship funds, but at some moment "5 million rubles for improvement" appeared. It remains unknown where did they come from. But we know exactly what it was spent for: there were a tele-bridge with two other cities participating in the National Day of Bike Parades, t-shirts for VIP guests, balloons with the logo of Deptrans and creation of a "viral video" (because Let's bike it! videos were "not interesting enough").

At the same time Let's bike it! was constantly forgotten to be mentioned in the press releases.
Viral video that cost 700.000 RUB (according to the budget) gained just 310 views.
Video of the same parade made by Let's bike it! gained more than 20.000 views.
Deptrans forces Let's bike it! to change the main sponsor and starts removement of the coorganizer
To cover part of the expenses of the VI international Winter Cycling Congress in January 2018, Let's bike it! agreed to Tinkoff Bank's proposal to make them the title sponsor of the Moscow Bike Parade in May, i.e. to include the name of the Bank into the title of the event. In December 2017 we got approval of this idea from our contact person in Deptrans (see original screenshots).
Many different people new about the title since December and the Facebook page with clearly visible title, that got 190 thousands view by May, was created at that time as well.
The world is full of examples of how to include the name of the title sponsor in the name of the event. For example, big marathons in New York and London. This type of cooperation gives a chance to organizers to make a more vivid event that could become the hallmark of the city without demanding of its investments.
"You understand that if you don’t cave in, you won’t be allowed to do anything in Moscow, don’t you?"
In the end of April, two weeks before the event, when all souvenir production of the cost of 2 million rubles was produced, Deptrans made Let's bike it! remove Tinkoff Bank from the main sponsor and replace it with the governmental VTB Bank. "You understand that if you don't cave in, you won't be allowed to do anything in Moscow, don't you?", — told Deptrans.
The Night Bike Parade in August 2018 gathered more than 30.000 participants. However the commission responsible for closing the roads for cars (takes place in Deptrans) took decision not to block the road for the parade completely. As a result, cars were moving towards cyclists along Noviy Arbat street at a speed of 80 km/h. It is not a surprise that many participants felt unpleasant and remained unsatisfied. This was exactly what Deptrans promised to improve at the three bike parades with "updated concept" in 2019. The problem was created and then successfully solved to raise image of Deptrans!
Because of the decision not to block the oncoming traffic of cars, taken by the commission headed by Maxim Liksutov, satisfaction with the bike parade fell down by almost 30%.
Before the Autumn Bike Parade 2018, for the first time in 4 years of cooperation with Let's bike it!, Deptrans forbade the city news agencies to publish news about bike parade without the approval of Deptrans' press service.
Beginning of November a representative of Deptrans Alexander Grivnyak met Let's bike it! and announced that the city is not interested in cooperating in any other cycling event and just wants to hold bike parades. Let's bike it! team was suggested to think about proposals on how to remain a partner but without any decision-making rights.
What will happen if bike parade will be held by Deptrans
During 6-year history of bike parades, the City of Moscow started and threw:

  • VeloBoulevard (the city did not allocate the budget due to the crisis of 2015);
  • Car-Free Day in the Boulevard Ring (reasons unknown);
  • Bike parade "Lady on Bike" (budget problems);
  • ...and development of bicycle infrastructure in general

The same future awaits the Moscow Bike Parade. And in the nearest future, the city will spend millions of rubles on the event, which was held for 6 years on sponsorship money.
The technical specification will be written and contractor will be defined through a contest. This will most likely be an organization that has never had anything to do with bicycles. Pure numbers in the specification will not explain ideology and concept that are an integral idea of the bike parade.
Bike parade will lose its team — a pillar that helped it survive through all the challenges. For almost the whole organizing team it is a social volunteering work, additional to the main work or study. If the city does not allocate the budget for the parade at some moment, Deptrans will just stop holding it. It is the idea-based, convinced team that will continue to do it even if some problems with sponsorship arise. The history of the bike parade has repeatedly proved this. Thus in the official National Year of Volunteering the city kills one of the brightest volunteering projects in Moscow.
Let's bike it! will have to abandon a number of activities or stop its work completely. Partly based on the sponsorship funds raised through the bike parade Let's bike it! holds the National Bike to Work Day and Moscow International Cycling Congress, translates and voices documentary videos, makes publications about people who move around Moscow by bicycles, develops a system of motivation for cycling, supports bicycle organizations in other Russian cities.
We are confident that Moscow Bike Parade has to remain "public", not a feast but an action, a campaign that shows the request for cycling infrastructure. We claim that the aim of the Department of Transport is to create a safe and comfortable urban environment which provides space not only for cars, but also for people who have chosen active forms of mobility; Its goal is also to provide support to the organizers of cultural and sports events and the safety of their participants, and not to entertain them with concerts through taxpayers money.
The full story with additional materials is available in Russian —
For additional comments, please, contact Let’s bike it! team: