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    From Energy Efficiency to Urban Mobility: Introducing Participatory Approach to Development of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan for Polotsk

    March 2014 – March 2017

    Interakcia Foundation developed the project and was the lead partner.

    Project partner: Polotsk district executive committee.

    Location: Polotsk, Vitebsk region, northern Belarus.

    Budget: € 334,000; EU’s contribution – € 299,500 (90% of total).

    The project was funded by the European Union under the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development Programme.


    Thanks to the project, the city of Polotsk now has a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). This document is a roadmap to improve the transport system of Polotsk.

    But the most important thing is that this was the first transport project in Belarus that engaged local residents as co-creators and co-implementers. The SUMP was developed in close cooperation with local community members: civil society organizations, journalists, local businesses, and activisits.

    The project was a first step that started a long succession of urban cycling and public transport development initiatives in the region. It also became a foundation for the common Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan for Polotsk and Novopolotsk, which appeared in 2020 thanks to the UNDP’s Green Cities project.

    Why is sustainable urban mobility important for Polotsk?
    In 2010, Polotsk had 300 cars per 1,000 residents. These figures are close to those in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
    In 2010, the amount of city buses in Polotsk was one-third less than in 2004.
    In early 2013, the Master Plan of Polotsk had provisions for exactly zero bicycle lanes, even though bikes as a means of transportation had been gaining popularity among local population.
    Cars are one of the major sources of CO2 emissions. This is why urban mobility planning is an important component of the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan, which Polotsk has been implementing since 2012 as a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. In accordance with this plan, Polotsk commits to cutting CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030.

    Thanks to the project, in summer 2015 Polotsk signed the European Mobility Week Charter and became the first Belarusian city to conduct a European Mobility Week. This festival takes place each year all over the world to encourage eco-friendly modes of transportation, improve public transport, and make cities more comfortable for local residents.


    During the European Mobility Weeks in Polotsk in 2015 and 2016, local residents visited historical sites of the city as part of bike tours and bike quests, discussed transport development, watched movies and listened to outdoor lectures, took part in contests and workshops, and even dressed up for a bike carnival! Mime artists entertained passengers of city buses, and seats in one of the buses acquired new knitted outfits!


    Click here to read more about the European Mobility Week in Polotsk in 2016 (Russian only).

    Project outcomes:
    Polotsk residents were asked to take part in an online survey to identify their city’s main transport problems and suggest possible solutions. The survey was widely promoted by local media, which helped to get almost 700 responses.
    Active residents of Polotsk joined a Public Group on Urban Mobility. Group members included representatives of local civil society organizations, businesses, mass media, and individual community members. The Group made suggestions on how to improve the state of transport in the city and assessed solutions proposed by the city officials and experts.
    Feedback of the Public Group members and other residents of Polotsk was used when developing the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), which became the city’s roadmap to solve transport problems. On 26 May 2017, SUMP was officially approved on the city level.
    In September 2016, the first bicycle lane appeared in Polotsk. The lane is 10 km long. To agree on the route for the lane, city authorities asked Polotsk residents to vote in an online poll and choose the route that the city needs most. This was the first on-road cycle lane in Belarus, clearly marked and separated from the car lanes with delineators.
    In spring 2017, 12 bike racks for parking appeared in F. Skaryna Avenue, Nizhnie-Pokrovskaya street, at Spartak stadium, at school №18, at Energy service company at the Airport district, etc. Public opinion polls were used to decide where to locate bike racks.
    Thanks to the project, residents of Polotsk and its neighbor city Novopolotsk can now use a free Moovit app when they plan their trips by public transport. Moovit allows checking public transport timetable and actual arrival time online.
    The project closed with a large conference on urban mobility, which took place in Minsk on 24 March 2017. More than 20 speakers from Belarus, Russia, Lithuania and Sweden came to Minsk to exchange experiences and discuss plans and opportunities for sustainable development of mobility in Belarusian regions.
    During the conference, the project team presented two publications. One of them gives advice to municipalities on how to plan sustainable urban mobility, and another presents best practices and examples of how to engage citizens in local development projects. Both brochures are available in the Publications sections on this website.