info on cycling in Poland
When cycling in Poland, you might find the following hints
driving permit is required to
cycle in public roads in Poland if you are 18 years or older.
Children older than 10 years, unless accompanied by adults,
are required to wear a pass ("karta rowerowa") issued by the school to
certify their knowledge of the Highway Code.
If you ride with children
younger than 10 years on their own bikes, you may take up
sidewalk/pavement and choose to cycle on the LEFT verge of public roads
no pavement is provided (just like pedestrians in such case). Some
years ago all cyclist in Poland were required special cycling permit or
driving licence -
this is no longer the case.
must be fitted with
red reflector visible from behind and position lights in front (white
or selective yellow, whatever that means) and at the rear (red; rear
light may be flashing -
policemen may not be aware of such legal intricacies). All lights must
be fitted to the bike 35 cm above
street level and no higher than 95 cm (do not worry, nobody cares if
you have it higher).
All lights must be visible at night from at least 150 meters. A bell or
other similar warning device is a must. (Perhaps 95 per cent of
bicycles in Poland have no bell nor any similar warning device, and
majority has no lights either).
and cycling is a crime
in this country. Believe or not, you may be sentenced up to one
year in jail just for cycling intoxicated. It is almost the same if you
drink and drive heavy truck (two years in prison). Permissible level is
alcohol in 1 litre blood (0.2 promille). Although nobody seems to care
and in the countryside you may see (surprise!) a lot of freely moving
heavily intoxicated riders,
sometimes police do stop cyclists and invites them for a breathalyzer
test. Rule of thumb: if you have to talk
to police, do not approach them drunk and on the bicycle.
theft: bicycles do get stolen
Use good quality U-lock and trust no one. Most of bikes in Poland get
stolen from inside buildings, where people keep them day or night, but
theft and even robbery happens in streets, too. The problem eases as
you leave big cities, however stay alert and do not leave your bicycle
unlocked and unaccompanied. Bikes left with good locks in the street
sometimes get vandalized.
do not expect the
police to understand (or speak) any foreign language. Reporting a
theft (or any theft, mishap, crime etc.) may well take up to six hours. Or
more. Your possible perfect knowledge of Polish or aid of an
will NOT help. This is not a language
problem. This is an organization and civilization problem. Or corporate
culture problem, if you like.
is notorious for narrow,
bumpy roads full of heavy trucks and speeding freaks. Avoid
national roads and all thoroughfares if possible. Leaving a huge city
in traffic might be a daunting task, especially in peak hours.
Sometimes it is a good
idea to evacuate from a city along rivers, even if there are no
towpaths but just green fields. There are few cycling facilities in
cities in Poland (see below) and if you spot a cycleway sign, beware:
often riding a
loaded touring bicycle on such facility
may pose serious threat. No
kidding. On the other hand, in the countryside almost all marked
trails are just for avid mountain bike freaks on fat knobby tyres, not
Drivers: well, drivers are drivers. If you survived UK, Turkey etc.
you'll probably do fine in Poland. Expect bizzarre overataking
manouvers, with three cars at a time suddenly driving side by side and
each other just inches away.
If you see speed limit sign, expect drivers to speed double the sign
figure. Have fun.
on segregated facilities
may be dangerous: be very cautious at junctions! If you see
green light ahead, a car driving in the parallel lane to your left
too - and may well want to turn right without braking, straight into
you. Drivers tend not to care. In case of all junctions where cycle
road crosses a subordinate street, the situation is very complicated:
the legal point of view, cyclists going staight ahead in the cycle road
(along the road with
priority) do not have priority
over cars turning right (turning off the main road). Cyclists should in
fact stop at every junction
and yield to the traffic. In practice, some drivers do yield to
cyclists and some do not. Look straight into driver's eyes and make
sure he/she sees you before you go.
If there is no segregated facility, surface is bumpy and
traffic is very heavy, many cyclists just ride on pavement. (This is
legal if speed limit in the street is above 60 km/h, and pavement is
wider than 2 m, you must yield to pedestrians). Cycling on zebra
crossing is an offence - but nobody cares as long as
it does not impede pedestrians, as this is
often the quickest and most safe way for cyclists. Do not do it in
front of a police car.
are allowed on most trains
in Poland. You
need an extra ticket (up to 11 PLN one way for longest possible travel
Poland and usually cheaper; you will receive two tickets - one with
price 0 PLN is control
coupon) and will have to place your bike in a luggage car. You must
off all the bags and extra equipment from the bicycle. Keep the
control coupon to return it to the carriage crew when retrieving the
destination. Make sure the train crew understand you need to pick the
bike from the luggage car at the station, otherwise they may let the
train leave before you get hold of your vehicle. Choose a carriage and
seat near the luggage car and
be aware that train crews change on long
Luggage cars are rare, anyway. Trains with luggage cars are marked in
timetables. In case there is no luggage car (or it is there but is out
of order, closed or not available to the general public - this
apparently tends to happen),
you may put the bike in the last (or first) carriage at the very end or
front of the train next to the entrance. If there are more cyclists on
the train, it may definitely not be a viable option. Train crew may ask
some of you to leave the train in such case and take the next one
(although usually they are
cooperative). Locking the bike to the door
knobs is a good idea, much like dismounting all precious luggage and
equipment. This also makes evacuation quicker. At many destinations
platforms are very low and you will not be able to pull the loaded bike
out of the carriage. On some long distance trains there are new
carriages with extra room for bicycles. As of late 2003, they are very
Beware: you are responsible for your bike and luggage. CAUTION:
on night trains (hotel trains, or InterCity Night etc.) with no other
carriages than sleeping cars and couchettes, bicycles are not allowed.
The night train company oddly named WARS is not PKP (the state
railways) and has own policies on bikes and passengers. Technically,
there is less place in WARS carriages for squeezing bikes in than in
normal ones. However,
small talk with the train crew at the platform may help.
Local trains usually have special compartments for people with bigger
luggage or just bicycles - look for them at either end of the trainset.
(IC Wawel) from Hamburg and Berlin to Wroclaw, Katowice and Krakow has
nice bicycle racks sufficient for at least ten bicycles in one of its
carriages. There used to be a similar season InterRegio train from
Germany to Gdańsk and Olsztyn in northern Poland. Bicycles
are usually not allowed on any buses or coaches, but free
market can procure miracles. Just talk to the driver.
it may be
a detriment, as heavy and long rains may be expected in
Poland in summer. Sometimes it is raining heavily for several days with
no stop. However, you may equally well expect long weeks of really hot
weather, with no
rain at all. It's a guesswork. Bring the raingear
with you. Winters are pretty heavy, with lots of snow - but most likely
you will not be touring Poland in February. See the Living in Poland
part at the very end of this page.
shops are usually well
equipped, with most rudimentary Shimano, Sram and other global
brand parts at least.
Do not expect very big choice. If you need some sophisticated
purchases before your trip, you better do the shopping in Germany on
the way or at your local bicycle shop. Most of cycling merchandise is
low-end mountain bike oriented and if you happen to use 700cc wheels, a
quality replacement rim or similar niche part may be a problem, shops
will have to order the part and delivery may take weeks. Hovewer, if
you need just an instant fix for your problem, you will most likely
no matter what wheel, fork, stem or frame size.
Bike shops and repair shops are closed on Sundays, and on Saturdays
close earlier, usually at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. On weekdays, closing time
varies from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. In some cities bicycle rental is
possible but the quality of bikes often is nil.
community and culture:
most bikes used in Poland are cheap mountain bike clones and the likes.
In the countryside, rusty roadsters and old weird folding bikes are
commonplace. None have reflectors or lights and the bicycle is poor
man's transport there. In larger cities, apart from flashy and
really expensive top-end mountain bikes, you will spot a growing number
of commuter cycles, often old ones imported from Germany or the
Netherlands. In some cities, notably Warsaw, the bicycle messenger
communities sprung up, and alleycat rides are organized from time
time. Warsaw has its legendary Criticas Mass rides, attracting often
more than one thousand cyclists, the largest event of this kind in
Central Europe and probably one of the biggest in the world. It has its
own martyrology, as heavy battle with the police was fought during one
2002 and several riders were arrested. It has become much more
civilized (and bigger) since then. The Warsaw CM is each last Friday of
the month, at 6:00 p.m., Plac Zamkowy (Zamkowy square) in Old Town.
Winter brings the numbers of participants down, but spring and early
summer rides are really worth seeing (and taking part). See CM contacts
northern and eastern Poland, with Gdańsk, Bialystok, Lublin and
Przemysl as the good start or arrival points, as they have
well-connected train stations. Cycling to Białowieża
Primeval Forest on
the Belarussia border is a good idea. Other nice destinations are
Mazury Lakes and the long ride along eastern border of Poland (EU's
eastern frontier of May 1st, 2004 - come and see where the EuroEmpire
ends ;-). Western and north-western Poland is interesting place,
hovewer the cobblestone roads dating back to the first half of 20th
century can be really annoying. Hilly southern Poland may be a problem
- despite gorgeous views, monuments and nature sites. Dunajec Cycle Route (unmarked, what a
shame - and the page is in German only) is definitely worth a ride,
much like the Tatra mountains and Spisz - however, passing the Beskid
mounatins with busy roads can be difficult. No EuroVelo or other
long-distance cycling routes have been marked in Poland yet. There are
some short routes accessible to cyclist in some parts of Poland. You
follow the proposed EuroVelo.org itineraries (see our EuroVelo Poland page here)
with a good map.
working on some good quality cycling routes, and hope to keep you
informed about the progress.
European extras and
bonuses: we heard interesting stories from Polish - Russian
region on the Baltic Sea coast) and Polish - Ukrainian borders. At some
checkpoints there cyclist are not
even though these are open to cars and pedestrians. You have to
hitch-hike with your bicycle or use train. It seems to be sick joke
of Russian or Ukrainian border guards, or just plain bureaucracy.
me know if such things happened to you. Similar problems may arise
when you are travelling with your bicycles on trains from Poland to
Czech Republic or Slovakia (unless you sent them as luggage or parcel).
countries, bikes apparently are not allowed on international or
InterCity trains and you may be asked to leave the train. The
problem does not exist on trains running between Poland and Germany.
in Poland with your
you are planning to live in Poland for some time (work, studies etc.)
commute by bicycle, be careful about the location of the flat you want
to rent. In a number of
cities there are whole districts that are inaccessible by bicycle due
to the lack of alternative routes combined with very bad road surface
heavy traffic in bottleneck parts of the only route. On the other hand,
in most cities downtown areas are pretty cyclable, with a number of
traffic - calmed streets and even a few cycling facilities. Do a
reconaissance first. You might use the Polish newsgroup pl.rec.rowery
to inquire about specific issues (Polish is the
language of pretzel, or pl.rec.rowery, but you may get some positive
directly to your e-mail address). Good idea is to bring a commuter bike
with you - from Germany, Netherlands or elsewhere. And a good U-lock,
too. Oups, one more point:
make sure the bike fits the lift you are going to use when renting flat
at 10th floor. Otherwise you
will have to carry it upstairs. Some lifts in high-rise blocks of flats
are pretty small. Do
not leave the bicycle in the cellar
or any other public/shared compartment. Keep it just at home, unless
is really cheap.
Winters can be pretty harsh in Poland, with lots of snow, ice and
temperatures falling almost to -20 degrees Celsius (or
below, that is below zero Fahrenheit) for some weeks or
days at least.
If you come from Canada, Sweden, Finland or northern parts of the
United States, then you
most likely know how to cope with snow on your bicycle. The Dutch can
cope with anything on their bicycles, much like the Danes. Everyone
else should see the Icebike pages for instructions, or learn Polish here. One
thing worth attention: in many streets in Poland snow is not cleared,
so do not hesitate to cycle on pavement in such case. Often, there is
uneven ice bulid-up under snow and the potholes in streets became icy,
and can be really dangerous. But do not be scared: I somehow
survived all winters cycling daily since 1992 without studded tyres
so I guess anyone can do it, including
When in need of spare parts and your local bicycle shop cannot help,
try to browse Cyklotur internet bicycle shop pages
(in Polish). Prices for many parts are
usually lower than elsewhere in the world and there is plenty of
Delivery takes up to a week, sometimes longer if an item is out of
stock. Have no idea if they speak English, the owner is an avid
bicycle tourist so most likely speaks languages. However, you might
need Polish help as their webpages are in Polish only. Obviously, you
can buy parts online in your own language from many other shops in
other countries including yours, and have them shipped to Poland.