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Ilya Kuleshov - activist and one of the initiators of the Parking Park and Zarosli projects

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

When did you first become interested in an ecological lifestyle?

Ilya: I have always liked bicycles as a means of transportation. I love to move around the city, I worked as an architectural photographer and this was also a professional necessity. However, it was inconvenient to carry the bike all the time. I have seen successful cases of organizing bike sharing abroad, but this was not the case in Russia at that time. I went to the army, I had a lot of time there and thought about how to implement bike-sharing in Russia. I have always liked the idea that resources can be spent economically and logically when the same resource is used in several tasks. Based on this thesis, I decided to make a bike rental. I have made arrangements with cafes, shops, restaurants, other establishments that they will issue bike keys to our registered users. So, in 2013, I created the first bike sharing system in St. Petersburg.

How did your path as an activist begin?

Ilya: At first I was a participant in various city projects, later I was only dealing with activist projects. We started the first project with the activists of the “Bicycling of St. Petersburg” community. First, I participated in the discussions, then joined the community council, and now, together with my colleagues, I am fighting for our NCO to become a full-fledged player in the city's transport sector. The main barrier to the activities of activist cycling organizations is unstable funding; people do activism, and then they have to go to work and get distracted. We managed to build the structure of the organization and the fundraising system.

Another project, which was built on the collaboration of various activists, was called "Park In the parking." It was my idea, but I wouldn't have realized it without the team. Olga Mnishko and the guys from the Green Petersburg Foundation got actively involved in the work. We had this idea: any vehicle can be parked on the sidewalk with almost no restrictions, the trailer is also a vehicle and anything can be in it. We decided to plant plants in the trailer, put benches inside and park it. The first trailer appeared on Chkalovskaya, we made it with our own money, and then four more appeared with sponsors' money.

Another project that I participated in was "Zarosli". It is an abandoned shore on the banks of the Malaya Neva on Vasilyevsky Island. A large group of activists is now working on it. I activated this idea through the competition of the City Projects team.

What is your personal motivation?

Ilya: I always want to be where I am most useful. I feel my strength as a beginner, I am not afraid to fit into projects with a high degree of uncertainty. I also like the feeling that I can influence the physical objects in the environment. It is much more difficult for me to work with theoretical concepts, I like to work for a tangible result. I like to see how the physical reality is transformed, so I am engaged in entrepreneurial projects with real estate: I see how it was a brick, but now it is a house, and the house will be like this for a very long time before it falls apart.

What helps you promote ideas and projects?

Ilya: In such matters, where the task is difficult to grasp, it helps a lot to think that I am not doing this alone, and somewhere else there is a person who does the same. My contribution helps them, their contribution helps me, and it all goes up like a snowball. Water wears away the stone, it helps to know that there are other drops and I'm not the only one. Actually, for the same reason I wanted to do the project "The Initiative is Realizable".

I am very inspired by other projects and myself. I am inspired by the guys who made Karpovka (SS - a public space on the embankment of the Karpovka River), because this is a realized case, that is, the reality took and changed. It can be felt, it is good, tangible.

I am inspired by the Spasibo stores that my wife used to design, I have seen how business processes are shaping up, how the culture of buying secondhand is becoming the norm, how a huge number of people donate things and buy them again.

Tell us more about the project "The Initiative is Realizable".

Ilya: This is a project about the stories of people, my acquaintances, who are engaged in activist work. The popularization of information dispels many fears about the system. Many people do projects and it does not threaten them at all, including me. I understood this truth that the system is inert, in both directions - in the direction of improvements and deterioration too. Everyone who sees a new bench thinks: “Since it is standing here, it means that someone agreed on it.” He is afraid to remove the bench, because it is not clear what will happen to him, because he, who removed the bench, will certainly be found... My task is to make people understand that they have the right and opportunity to put up this bench.


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