The cold Russian winter is over and we already enjoyed some sunny days. The perfect weather to get on your bike. But is it possible to do that in Moscow? Oh yes, it is!
Of course, Russians love their cars, but the number of cyclists is increasing, especially in the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Obviously, bicycles are still a minority, but a clear change is slowly taking place. For example, more and more new cycle paths can be seen in the centre of Moscow. In former times, cycling was seen as something you did with your friends or family in the park on weekends, but today it is no longer so rare in Moscow to cycle to work. Although an expensive new car is still considered a status symbol in Russia and the other post-Soviet countries, nowadays you can also see well-dressed and well-earning people riding their bikes through the city.
This change was helped to get off the ground about 10 years ago, when Moscow got a new mayor, who found the enormous traffic jams in the city a nuisance, and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared during a visit to Copenhagen that he would find it great to see as many bicycles as there also in Russia’s big cities in the future. Meanwhile, the bicycle infrastructure is growing and several cycle paths have already been built. Of course, this is not yet comparable with European cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but it is at least a good start.
A special association sees itself as the lawyers of cyclists and drives motorists off the roads every few months with thousands of cyclists: The “Let’s bike” environmental group organises bicycle parades, whose number of participants is now in the high five-figure range. The parades are intended to show that Muscovites need a larger infrastructure for bicycles and that the bicycle can be very well integrated into everyday life. Many parade participants now cycle to work and see the city from a completely different perspective.
Actually, “Let’s bike” has launched a national cycling day together with the Ministry of the Interior, which now takes place in over 100 cities. And that’s not all: The “bike to work” campaign of “Let’s bike” enables cooperation with more than 500 companies. Employers are in favour of cycling events because they are good for the working climate and cyclists are both more productive and healthier. Another event organised by “Let’s bike” is the Bicycle Congress in Moscow. For years, politicians, urban planners and activists have been discussing there what needs to be done to change something, since the bicycle situation is particularly dependent on infrastructure and political will. As you can see, “Let’s bike” plays an important role in Moscow’s cycling culture.
What also plays an important role for the development of cycling culture in Russia is digitalisation. Nowadays millions of people use various apps to call taxis or rent bicycles and scooters.
So: If once again one or the other road is closed and the next metro station is not easily accessible because of it, your navigation system shows a gigantic traffic jam and your taxi app presents you both the double travel time and the double costs, then test the bicycle rental via VeloBike. This is a special bike rental program for which you can register either on the website, with the app or at a terminal. But I recommend the app, because it even shows you the next rental station and how many bicycles or e-bikes are still available there. After registering with your name, email address and mobile phone number, the system will send you an SMS with your personal PIN code. It is even possible to add your Troika card to make the app easier to use.
Select your bike, press OK and log in with your username and password – or use the registered Troika card. Then you’ll hear a beep and the journey can begin! On the way you can see your timer and the current mileage by clicking OK. If you’ve borrowed an e-bike, you’ll also see the battery level there. You can use the pull-out lock with the PIN code to secure your bike if you want to take a short break.
There are 430 CityBike stations throughout Moscow with a total of 4300 bikes, including 260 e-bikes. The stations can be found around the metro, near parks or on tourist routes. If you want to rent a bike but didn’t install the app, you’ll always find an electronic terminal next to the bikes. After your tour, you don’t have to return the bike to the same station (unless you borrowed an e-bike), but you can simply push it into the lock at any station and press OK. A message should then appear on your mobile that the return has been confirmed.
What’s especially worth mentioning: The bikes are not all the same and you’ll find something for almost every taste. There are some with large pedals, with side stands or centre stands and the height of the bike saddle is adjustable. Bicycles with a twisted saddle should not be rented, as this shows users that the bike needs to be repaired.
Of course, renting bicycles is not free of charge. The price of a bicycle in Moscow is 150 rubles per day and 600 rubles for a whole month. Only for rides up to 30 minutes. If you want to ride your bike longer, you can add another 30 rubles to the deposit. After two hours it’s 100 rubles, after three hours you’ll have to pay 450 rubles and so on. After more than 48 hours, you’ll be fined 30,000 rubles. Before each rental, 1000 rubles deposit will be stored on your Visa or MasterCard and returned to you after the rental.
Now you know the bike culture in Moscow and you already know where and how to rent a bike. But how do you find the perfect route for every taste? You have two options. The first is the app Bikemap. This allows you to find the perfect route for you. With the help of filters you can choose if you prefer long or short routes or if you rather like the best rated routes. The routes will then be displayed with the number of kilometres and even the average gradient along the way.
Or you can use the second option and follow the routes that I’ll present to you now.
The first one is quite long with 29 km, but protect you from the main roads, because it goes along the river Moskva. The tour starts at the Nagatinskaya bank, where you can already see some of Moscow’s highlights, and then cross the river over the Novospassky Bridge. Cross the Ustinsky Bridge to Red Square and the Kremlin bank. Passing the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, you cycle to the Lushniki Stadium and the New Virgin Monastery, along the banks of Savvinskaya. After following the directions of the Smolenskaya and Krasnopresnenskaya metro stations, you’ll reach the skyline of the impressive Moscow City.
The next route with its 12 km is clearly shorter and especially worth mentioning as it is even more beautiful and impressive at night than during the day. The tour starts on the Taras Shevchenko bank in the direction of Moscow City. Past one of the “Seven Sisters”, the Radisson Royal, you cycle along the Bereshkovskaya and Vorobyovskaya banks to the Sparrow Mountains. Once there, it’s worth taking a short break, because there you have a breathtaking view of the sparkling Moscow and even of all the “Seven Sisters”. The journey continues past the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reach Red Square and the Kremlin via the Arbat.
If your Russian isn’t perfect yet, this shouldn’t prevent you from a nice bike ride. I’ve put together a list of some vocabulary that might be helpful.
- Bicycle rental – Прокат велосипедов
- Bicycle path – Велосипедная дорожка
- Bicycle tour – Велосипедный тур
- City map – Карта города
- City center – Центр города
- Arrival – Прибытие
- Departure – Отъезд
- Restaurant – Ресторан
- Break – Перерыв
- Toilet – Туалет
- Thank you – Спасибо
- Please – Пожалуйста
- Can you help me, please? – Вы можете мне помочь, пожалуйста?
- I need some help! – Мне нужна помощь!
- Where’s…? – Где…?
- Is this the road…? – Это дорога…?
- I’m in pain. – У меня болит.
- Excuse me, … – Извините, …
- Good morning! – Доброе утро!
- Good afternoon! – Добрый день!
- Good evening. – Добрый вечер!
- Goodbye. – До свидания!
Well, do you feel like it? Our students also get on their bikes and cycle to our intercultural language institute Liden & Denz. Together with students from all over the world they learn Russian in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Riga or Irkutsk. For the students of Liden & Denz from Moscow there is a CityBike station directly at the metro station Belorusskaya, opposite the railway station. But also the school in St. Petersburg has many bicycle rentals in the area and even a parking lot for the bikes.
So, if you are travelling in these cities to enjoy the first rays of sunshine on your bike and maybe also to learn Russian, we would be happy about a visit.
And at the end something about me: I also have Russian lessons at Liden & Denz every day and in addition I am allowed to do an internship at the school in Moscow. I am 26 years old and live in Germany. If you want to know more about me, have a look at our blog on the Liden & Denz homepage.
I hope to see you soon!