Polish Language Blog

Riding a bicycle in Poland – what do you have to know? Posted by on Aug 31, 2018 in Culture, Regulations

We usually take our bike from the garage or basement  when we notice that the temperature outside is warm enough not to freeze us during the ride. Other times we do it when we decide to change our lifestyle and start living a healthier life by doing exercise – a bike seems like a good idea for a start! To me all reasons are good!

I love to ride my bike with my my husband and kids:) We explore beautiful places around where we live, get exercise and often bring a little lunch/snack with us and enjoy it while taking a break!

Check out this post  – riding a bike is definitely a way to relax!

What is your favorite way to spend time off? How Poles spend their days off?

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Poland is a country where people love to bike, but there are few things you should know about.

First of all, if you’re an adult you don’t need any kind of permission to ride your bike on the streets. However, if you’re less than 18 you technically need a so-called “bicycle card” (karta rowerowa). In order to get one you need to pass an exam about the rules of the road. It is an easy test – don’t worry:)

Bicycle (rower) must be fitted with red reflector visible from behind and position lights in front (white or selective yellow) and at the rear (red).

Drinking and cycling is a crime in Poland. 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 a car or truck (two years in prison). Permissible level is 0.2 ml alcohol in 1 litre blood (0.2 promille).

However bizarre it may sound, the law is strictly enforced. In 2012, Dutch journalist Mr Bert van der Linden visited Krakow to cover the Euro 2012 championships. As a Dutchman, he naturally got himself a bike and pedalled into town. After a few beers, he set off to cycle back to his hotel. He didn’t make it. Instead, he was handcuffed by police and spent a night in jail after failing a breathalyser test. The affair became well known in Poland and stirred understandable uproar in the Netherlands, where nobody cares about cycling after a beer or three (or do they now?).

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Another thing to worry about: bike theft (kradzież)! Bicycles do get stolen in Poland. 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.

One last thing I wanted to mention is that bikes are allowed on most trains in Poland (good news for all of you who like to travel to far destinations). You need an extra ticket (up to 11 PLN one way for longest possible travel across 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 take off all the bags and extra equipment from the bicycle. Keep the control coupon to return it to the carriage crew when retrieving the bike at your 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 trips.

I would love to hear stories about your biking adventures in Poland! Please share them in comments below:)

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. Edward Pindral:

    I only know a little polish but I think “taking a brake” should read “taking a break”

    • Kasia:

      @Edward Pindral Hello Edward! I corrected it – thank you for noticing!

  2. Robert:

    How do you spell “thank you” and “you are welcome, or there was nothing to it” in Polish ? I can say the expressions but I don’t know how to spell them.

    Is there a Polish equivalent for these names: Robert, Louis or Louie, Emily, Barbara ?

    What does “apolonia” translate to ?
    Bob Sadowski

    • Kasia:

      @Robert Hello Robert! Thank you is spelled “dziękuję”, you are welcome is “proszę bardzo”, there was nothing to it would be “nic się nie stało”. The last one could have different forms though, depends on the situation.

    • Kasia:

      @Robert As for the names: Robert (Robert), Louis (Ludwik) or Louie, Emily (Emilia), Barbara (Barbara). Apolonia is just an old traditional Polish name (it’s one of my daughter’s middle name!)