Amazing city promotional campaigns of our time: “Would you, in Łódź?”

Look! Łódz! Image: screen shot from ad campaign.

If you've spent any time glumly staring at BBC World News – because, say, you're in a hotel room in rural Mongolia, all the bars are closed, and it's the only English language TV station you've got – then you might have noticed something weird about it. Unlike most BBC stations, it shows adverts. And unlike most other TV stations, many of those adverts aren’t for products. Some of them are for places.

More often than not, they're not places you've ever considered going to.

The logic behind this, one assumes, is that the sort of people likely to find themselves watching English language news stations for extended periods of time are disproportionately likely to be those who are travelling for work. Advertising on BBC World News, therefore, is a good way for a city to get its name in front of people who have NGOs/government agencies/investment funds of the sort that would come in pretty handy to an up-and-coming city. 

But it does mean you get adverts like this one for Poland's third city Łódź – a city so lacking in international reputation that the primary purpose of the entire ad campaign is clearly to teach global business travellers how to pronounce its name. (Woodj, since you ask.)

Here’s the clip. It's only 40 seconds long – a series of shots of the town, narrated by an upbeat American actor – so I've transcribed it below, to enable my mockery.  

Would you like to visit Poland’s – even Europe's – longest street of shops, restaurants and bars? 

What I like about this claim is the slight uncertainty in the language. “We think it's the longest commercial thoroughfare in Europe.” “So say that.” “Well we want to, but we don't have the budget to check the entire continent.” “Don’t worry, Piotr, I’ve got an idea.”

On googling, though, Ulica Piotrkowska – the street in question – does turn out to be pretty darn long. It's 4.9km (3 miles) which is a lot longer than Oxford Street. Look:

And this in a city of just 740,000.

So, yes, good reason to visit Łódź.

With a modern shopping complex?

Funny the way this is a bit of an afterthought. I mean, I guess it’s to help them spread the clips out better, but it does just sound like they forgot.

Also, note the use of the word “modern. Here it is:

Modern, see? None of your rubbish.

Would you like to see more festivals than Rio? 

Googling the words “festivals Łódź brings up links to the Łódź Design Festival, the Light Move Festival 2013, the International Festival of Comics and Games, Łódź Tango Salon Festival 2016.... which, to be fair, is a lot of festivals. 

That said, Rio isn't famous so much for the quantity of its festivals as for their size: each year the carnival, the world’s largest, brings an estimated 2m people onto the city's streets. But International Festival of Comics and Games will no doubt be matching that figure any year now.

...relaxing gardens? A famous film school?

Not that famous, if we're honest. Also, I'm not sure “Roman Polanski started here is quite the selling point it used to be. 

...and entertainment all year round?

Would you be surprised how its spelt? You would! 

Welcome to Łódź!

And that's when it becomes clear: as pretty as the cinematography is, the whole thing has been one long attempt to teach you how to pronounce the name Łódź. The campaign revels in the name of “Would you in Łódź? which doesn't even make sense, but does at least work as a pun.


It's easy to mock all this (as you can tell, from the fact I just mocked all this). But on the other hand, it's probably eight years since I saw that ad in a hotel room – and I still remember it. Before watching it again today I would probably have struggled to tell you anything about the range of attractions available in Łódź – but I have never, ever forgotten how to say its name.

Would I, in Łódź? Oh yes. Oh yes I definitely Łód.

If you have seen a brilliant/terrible/brilliantly terrible promotional campaign for a city, please do get in touch. Fills the space, doesn’t it?

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Seville has built its entire public transport system in 10 years. How has it done?

Just another sunny day in Seville. Image: Claude Lynch.

Seville, the fourth largest urban centre in Spain, was recently voted Lonely Planet’s number one city to visit in 2018. The award made a point of mentioning Seville’s impressive network of bicycles and trams, but it neglected to mention that it’s actually their ten year anniversary. The city’s metro opened just two years later.

This makes now an excellent time to look back on Seville’s public transport network – especially because almost all of it was completed in the middle of the global financial crisis. So, is it a good model for modern public transport? Let’s find out.

Cycle Hire

Seville, like any good metropolis, features a cycle hire scheme: Sevici, which is a clever portmanteau of the words ‘Seville’ and ‘bici’, short for bicicleta, the Spanish for, you guessed it, bicycle.

The service, launched in 2007, is run as a public-private partnership. Users can pay a flat weekly fee of €13.33 (£11.81) for unlimited rentals, as long as all the journeys last 30 minutes or less. For the fanatics, there’s a year-long subscription for €33. This makes Sevici cheaper than the London equivalent (£90) but slightly more than that of Paris (€29).

However, the reason why the bike hire scheme has gained particular praise in recent years is down to Seville’s network of cycle paths, snaking around the town centre and into the suburbs. The sheer scale of the scheme, 75 miles of track in total, has prompted comparisons to Amsterdam.

But there is a meaningful distinction between the two cases. First, cycling culture is such a big deal for the Amsterdammers that it has its own Wikipedia page. In Seville, cycling culture is a growing trend, but one that faces an uphill struggle, despite the city’s flatness. Around half of the cycle paths are on a pavement shared by pedestrians; pedestrians often ignore that the space is designed specifically for cycles.

A Sevici station in the town centre. Image: Claude Lynch.

Surprisingly, cyclists will also find exactly the opposite problem: the fact that bicycles enjoy the privilege of so many segregated spaces mean that, if they dare enter the road, motorists are not obliged to show them the same level of respect – because why would they need to enter the road in the first place?

This problem is only compounded by the Mediterranean driving style, one that takes a more cavalier attitude to objects in the road than that of the northern Europeans. While none of this makes cycling in Seville a write-off – it remains the cycling capital of Spain – budding tourists should bear in mind that the cycle paths do not extend far into the old town proper, making them a utility, for the most part, for budding commuters.

Metro

The metro system in Seville consists of a single metro line that travels from Ciudad Expo in the west to Olivar de Quintos in the east. It has three zones, which create a simple and straightforward fare system, based on the number of journeys and number of “saltos” (jumps) between zones, and nothing more.

The need-to-know for tourists, however, is that only three of the metro stations realistically serve areas with attractions: Plaza de Cuba, Puerta de Jerez, and Prado de San Sebastian. Given that a walk between these is only a few minutes slower than by metro, it shows the metro service for what it is: a service for commuters coming from the west or east of town into the city centre.

Some of the behaviour on the network is worth noting, too. Manspreading is still dangerously common. There are no signs telling you to “stand on the right”, so people queue in a huff instead. Additionally, there is no etiquette when it comes to letting passengers debark before you get on, which makes things precarious in rush hour – or if you dare bring your bike on with you.

On the plus side, that’s something you can do; all trains have spaces reserved for bikes and prams (and they’re far more sophisticated than the kind you see on London buses). Trains are also now fitted with USB charging ports for your phone. This comes in addition to platform edge doors, total wheelchair access, and smart cards as standard. Snazzy, then – but still not much good for tourists.

Platform edge doors at Puerta Jerez. Image: Claude Lynch.

The original plan for Seville’s metro, launched in the 70s, would have had far more stations running through the city centre; it’s just that the ambitious plans were never launched, due in equal measure to a series of sinkholes and financial crises. The same kind of problems led to Seville’s metro network being opened far behind schedule, with expansion far down the list of priorities.

Still, the project, for which Sevillanos waited 40 years, is impressive – but it doesn’t feel like the best way to cater to an east-west slice of Seville’s comparatively small urban population of 1m. Tyne and Wear, one of the few British cities comparable in terms terms of size and ambition, used former railways lines for much of its metro network, and gets far more users as a result. Seville doesn’t have that luxury; or where it does, it refuses to use it in tandem.

You only need to look east, to Valencia, to see a much larger metro in practice; indeed, perhaps Seville’s metro wouldn’t look much different today if it had started at the same time as Valencia, like they wanted to. As a result, Seville´s metro ends up on the smaller side, outclassed on this fantastic list by the likes of Warsaw, Nizhny Novgorod, and, inexplicably, Pyongyang.

Seville: a less impressive metro than Pyongyang. Intriguing. Image: Neil Freeman.

Tramway

The tram travels from the high rise suburb-cum-transport hub of San Bernardo to the Plaza Nueva, in the south of the Seville’s old town. This route runs through a further metro station and narrowly avoids a third before snaking up past the Cathedral.

This seems like a nice idea in principle, but the problem is that it’s only really functional for tourists, as tram services are rare and slow to a crawl into the town centre, anticipating pedestrians, single tracks, and other obstacles (such as horse-drawn carriages; seriously). While it benefits from segregated lanes for most of the route, it lacks the raison d'être of the metro due to the fact that it only has a meagre 2km of track.

The tram travelling down a pedestrianised street with a bicycle path to the right. Image: Claude Lynch.

However, staring at a map long enough offers signs as to why the tram exists as it does. There’s no history of trams in Seville; the tracks were dug specifically for the new line. A little digging reveals that it’s again tied into the first plans for Seville’s metro, which aspired to run through the old town. Part of the reason the scheme was shelved was the immense cost brought about by having to dig through centuries-old foundations.

The solution, then, was to avoid digging altogether. However, because this means the tram is just doing the job the metro couldn’t be bothered to do, it makes it a far less useful service; one that could easily be replaced by a greater number of bike locks and, maybe, just maybe, additional horses.


So what has changed since Seville’s transport revolution?

For one thing, traffic from motor vehicles in Seville peaked in 2007 and has decreased every year since, at least until 2016. What is more promising is that the areas with the best public transport coverage have seen continued decreases in traffic on their roads, which implies that something is working.

Seville’s public transport network is less than 15 years old. The fact that the network was built from scratch, in a city with no heritage of cycling, tunnels, or tramways, meant that it could (or rather, had to) be built to spec. This is where comparisons to Amsterdam, Tyne and Wear, or any other city realistically fall out of favour; the case of Seville is special, because it’s all absolutely brand new.

As a result, it’s not unbecoming to claim that each mode of transport was built with a specific purpose. The metro, designed for the commuter; the tramway, for tourists; and cycling, a mix of the two. In a city with neither a cultural nor a physical precedent of any kind for such radical urban transportation, the outcome was surprisingly positive – the rarely realised “build it, and they will come”.

However, it bears mentioning that the ambitious nature of all three schemes has led to scaling back and curtailment in the wake of the economic crisis. This bodes poorly for the future, given that the Sevici bikes are already nearing the end of their lifetime, the cycle lanes are rapidly losing sheen, and upgrades to the tramway are downright necessary to spare it from obsolescence.

The conclusion we can draw from all this, then, appears to be a double-edged one. Ambition is not necessarily limited by a lack of resources, as alternatives may well present themselves. And yet, as is so often the case, when the money stops, so do the tracks.

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