To coincide with the arrival of the brand new public Nextbike City Bike system in Łódź, IYP decided to hit the streets to test out the new system and explore the northern expanses of the city on two wheels. We started our journey on, where-else, Piotrkowska Street at the 6 Sierpnia Nextbike docking station. We registered an account and picked out a bike in under 3 minutes. We immediately noticed how popular the new bike system has already become as there were only 3 bikes available at this station out of 15 or so available docking spots.
After quickly consulting our trusty IYP Łódź Centrum map, we mounted our three-geared steed and quickly sped north on Piotrkowska Street setting our sites for Manufaktura. As we sped along the busy pedestrian thoroughfare we noticed dozens of other Nextbikes cruising Piotrkowska in both directions (the colourful almond shaped mBank ads on the back make them easy to spot) as well as 4 more docking stations along the way (you can find a full Nextbike docking station map online). It’s really quite amazing how quickly the system has taken off considering bikes were only introduced in May and there have already been over 1 million bikes rented!
After blowing through picturesque Plac Wolnośći (Freedom Square) and cutting through Park Staromiejski, we arrived at the Zachodnia Street Nextbike docking station right outside of Manufaktura. Like many other city bike systems the first twenty minutes of every rental is free and we docked our bike a mere 7 minutes after renting it on Piotrkowska. It wasn’t an accident that we made this our first trip of the day as central Piotrkowska-Manufaktura (or vice versa) is by far the most popular route in the city for residents and tourists alike. It normally takes about 25-30 minutes by foot and even the average rickshaw jockey can do it in only about 15 mins. We quickly rented another bike and did a quick Manufaktura buzz-by before consulting our trusty Łódź City map and charted our course for the north.
We sped back through Park Staromiejski and immediately noticed some flashes of color to our left. We turned north and headed for the Stary Rynek, the old market square, and found an amazingly colorful ribbon installation made by the famous Polish artist Jerzy Janiszewski (designer of the iconic Solidarity logo). After a few minutes we got back on course and headed due west through Park Staromiejski towards Smugowa Street. At the end of Smugowa we crossed Wojska Polskiego and took a shortcut through ParkSzarych Szeregów to get a look at the disturbingly iconic Child Martyrs Monument. We continued northwest onto Bracka and Zmienna Streets to The Jewish Cemetery. Unfortunately we arrived too late in the day (it closes at 15:00 on Fridays) so we were only able to catch a glimpse of some of the impressive monuments through the massive gate on Bracka Street. This is Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery and a great stand-alone destination for a quick bike trip from the centre as it’s only about a 25 minute ride from Piotrkowska (just make sure to check the opening hours first). Our trip, however, was just getting started.
We turned north and crossed the Inflancka/Strykowska Highway intersection and headed due north on Wycieczkowa Street (Excursion Street). We were now officially out of the hustle and bustle of the city centre and had entered the expansive northern suburbs filled with fields and forests. This was IYP’s first chance to explore the vast northern reaches of the city and the first point of interest we targeted was an old landfill that had been filled in and is now the highest point in the city proper. To get to Góra Śmieciówka (Trash Hill), as it’s affectionately known, we took a right off of Wycieczkowa Street after about 15 minutes and turned onto Kryształowa Street. After 5 minutes we then took the first left onto Antoniego Książka Street. From there we could see the large hill to our right and we parked up, found a path and headed for the top of the hill on foot. Ten minutes later we were staring at amazing panoramic views of the city. This supposedly grey and industrial city is actually remarkably green. Indeed, the next stop on our journey was to head for the absolute greenest part of the entire city, the centre of Łagiewnicki Forest, the largest urban forest in all of Europe (if you haven’t noticed, Łódź and superlatives go hand in hand).
We backtracked to Wycieczkowa Street and headed due west on Strusia Street. After about 10 minutes we turned north onto Skrzydlata Street and were suddenly completely surrounded by towering trees. We headed north for about 15 minutes passing many other cyclists (even a few other Nextbikes), walkers, joggers and a car or two. Every once and awhile there were dedicated bike paths jutting off on the left and right. We finally came to a bridge and what looked to be a lake, but was actually the Bzura River. We had reached the Arturówek Recreation Complex, which is a loose conglomeration of snack shacks, beer gardens, campgrounds, bungalows, a ropes course and several hotels. There is even a beach with a swimming area! All of this is smack dab in the middle of this massive forest which gives it a slightly surrealistic oasis vibe. After a refreshing drink we contemplated pressing onward north as there are many other attractions worth hunting down in Łagiewnicki not to mention hundreds of miles of bike trails to explore. Unfortunately the day was getting late and we were still rocking our rental. So with a heavy heart we found an inviting bike path that meandered southwest and we headed back towards the sights and sounds of the city centre.
Roughly 45 minutes later we were back on Piotrkowska sipping a cup of coffee. Our epic four hour jam-packed city bike excursion cost us only 10 zł. As the pictures suggest, we covered some pretty rough terrain at times and the Nextbike was more than up to the challenge. All in all, we were incredibly impressed with Łódź’s bike lane/path infrastructure. For much of the day we travelled on well-paved, well-marked bike paths and cars were actually quite respectful which is not always the case in Poland. Needles to say, IYP strongly recommends renting a Nextbike city bike and exploring the city. Even if it’s just to head to Manufaktura and back, this massive and endlessly fascinating city is perhaps best seen on two wheels.