PhD Planning candidate Asya Bidordinova explores policy transfer and mobility in Moscow

Bike lanes in central Moscow

Banner Image: Cyclists after the 2015 Moscow mass bike ride

Walking and cycling have always been my favourite ways of moving around my hometown Moscow, Russia. Back in early 2000s, commuter cycling infrastructure was not part of planning in Russian cities. Cyclists had to use sidewalks and park paths to avoid roads and aggressive motorists. Interested to learn how cities could become more comfortable for cyclists, in 2008 I joined the U of T Master’s in Planning program. Under the supervision of Professor Paul Hess and with support from Nancy Smith Lea, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), and Professor Ron Buliung, I conducted a study on motivators and barriers to cycling in Toronto.

Different modes of transportation – river, cars, tram tracks and a bicycle

Meanwhile, important changes were taking place in Moscow, which in 2010 was ranked the most congested city in Europe. To address congestion, the Moscow government unveiled its new Transportation Program, which among other innovative measures included plans to build bike lanes, install bicycle parking, and promote commuter cycling. Embarking on this reform, Moscow has demonstrated unprecedented openness to international best practices. Cycling activists, experts, and officials visited cities around the globe to study best practices and invited international experts to help develop plans and design cycling infrastructure.

On deciding to pursue a PhD in Planning at U of T under the supervision of Professor Paul Hess, I focus on the reasons for a fundamental change in Moscow’s approach to transportation and cycling. I am applying the policy transfer and policy mobility frameworks which are used to theorize how policies are borrowed and implemented in a different context. I interviewed Russian and international experts, planners, academics, officials, and cyclists from all walks of life. We discussed how ideas (such as bike share programs, cycling infrastructure and events) that they had seen in other countries were implemented in Moscow in both familiar and unique ways

I hope that better understanding of how cycling ideas were introduced and policies have been implemented in Moscow will help understand factors that facilitate dissemination of cycling policies in cities with different planning contexts.

Cycling helps workers maintain the vast territory of Moscow’s Soviet-era ExpoCentre (VDNKh)