Cycling in Ukraine
Cycling as a form of recreation has been rapidly increasing in popularity in Ukraine. Residents of rural areas have been riding bicycles to get around for years, but the culture of mountain biking and fancy bikes has only appeared recently in the big cities. Now Ukrainians can buy famous bicycle brands like Giant, Trek, Specialized, Scott, Kelly's, Merida, Kona, Gary Fisher, Univega, and others (sites in Russian and Ukrainian only).
At the same time, few if any Ukrainian cities are properly equipped for serious bicycle traffic. There are almost no bike racks anywhere, curbs are rarely sloped to accommodate bikes (or people in wheelchairs!), and there are no bicycle lanes. Nonetheless, the cycling movement in Ukraine continues to gain momentum and is beginning to exert some influence on local government to provide better conditions for cyclists. Without doubt, this interest in cycling comes from the Europe-wide movement towards environment-friendly living and active recreation.
Biking in Ukrainian cities
Ukraine's bigger cities are not very cyclist-friendly. Heavy traffic and unfiltered car exhaust make biking in central areas unrewarding, to say the least. In provincial capitals and smaller towns streets are often just as wide as in Kyiv, but with far fewer cars, making it much more practical to get around by bike. Even so, there is usually nowhere to lock your bike, which means it is nearly impossible to take your bike to the store or to work.
At the same time, even in large cities there are outlying areas that are ideal for cycling, since there is so much public (government owned) land in Ukraine. Kyiv in particular has a multitude of large parks and wild areas ideally suited for biking, and there is at least one firm that offers bike rentals for quite decent prices (site in Russian only). Bicycles can be rented for many days at a time for trips out of town. Here's a list of places to bike in and around Kyiv:
RECOMMENDED AREAS FOR BIKING IN KYIV
MAXIMUM LENGTH OF ROUTE (APPROX.)
|Hidropark Island||Some poor cement pavement, sandy and dirt trails, no hills||10 km|
|Trukhanov Island and Park Druzhby Narodiv||Some poor cement pavement, sandy and dirt trails, no hills||24 km|
|String of parks on the west bank of the Dnipro (starting at Europe Square (Yevropeyska ploscha) and continuing south to the Botanical Garden||Mostly paved footpaths, some dirt trails, hilly (up to 100 m altitude change)||12 km|
|Holosiyivskyy (Goloseyevskiy) park and forest and Pyrohiv (Pirogovo) park||Unpaved footpaths, hilly (up to 100 m elevation gain/loss), ideal for mountain bikes||20 km|
|Vinohradar and Puscha-Vodytsya forest||Unpaved forest roads and trails, almost flat, easy to get lost without a guide (wooded area is essentially completely wild)||40 km|
|Left-bank wooded areas extending from Brovary to the Borispil highway||Mostly unpaved roads and trails, flat, occasional developed areas||35 km|
Biking in the Ukrainian countryside
Once you get away from the big cities and the main highways, cycling in Ukraine's countryside is a real pleasure. Traffic is usually light, road pavement is fair to tolerable, and Ukraine's wide open areas provide plenty of views of forests, steppe, farmland, and rural life.
Cycling in Crimea
Crimea is a wonderful place for cycling trips of one to ten days or more. Popular start-off points are the train stations in Simferopol, Bakhchisaray, and Sevastopol. The most interesting routes are in the hilly and mountainous areas at the bottom of the Crimean peninsula, between Sevastopol and Feodosiya (200 km apart). This section of Crimea is crisscrossed by paved and unpaved roads and is full of stunning scenery (see huge Crimea photo album).
Cycling in the Carpathians
The fact that Ukraine's Carpathians have been inhabited for centuries means that there are paved roads through every valley that has settlements. Automobile traffic is generally light except for the most important roads (the highways between Stryy and Mukacheve and between Ivano-Frankivsk and Khust). Unpaved forest roads add many more possibilities for mountain biking, but the condition of roads is hard to guess just by studying the map, and signs for hikers and bikers are virtually nonexistent.
It is easy to find a place to spend the night in the Carpathians, as many families offer rooms (often with few conveniences), and there are private pensions in the larger towns and tourist centers.
Principle start-off points are Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Uzhhorod, or—closer to the mountains—any of the train stations along the Lviv-Uzhhorod line: Stryy, Skole, Slavsko, Volovets, Svalyava, Mukacheve. More on travel in the Carpathians here.