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Bicycles transform cities and cities transform the world

Blog Bicycles transform cities and cities transform the world
Velo-city 2021 Lisboa teams up with BYCS, a global organisation that supports community-led changes through cycling. BYCS will be one of the conference’s media partners. In addition, one of their representatives and one of the bicycle mayors from their network will speak at the conference.
Created in 2016, the Amsterdam-based social enterprise, BYCS, works worldwide to promote bicycles as a key factor to transforming urban areas for the better. For them, bicycles are not only an efficient and sustainable mode of transport but a powerful tool to create change in society. A tool to curb urban disparity, to boost public health, to promote local economies, to reach gender-fair cities and to build urban resilience. Their so-called 50x30 mission facilitates a cycling culture where 50% of trips in the city are made by bicycle by 2030. Some may say it is utopian; they say it is bold.

BYCS’s strategy revolves around three key pillars: education, advocacy, and research. Their goal is to make urban cycling accessible to all and to include all in the process. To do so, BYCS adapts its approach according to the different regions where it works.

BYCS currently runs ten programmes and initiatives to accelerate cycling in urban areas. They have a specific focus on youth, with more than 1,500 school children in the Netherlands reached through their different projects for the year 2020. For their Bicycle Heroes campaign, BYCS engaged more than 600 children between the ages of 9-12 in Amsterdam, the Hague and the Gelderland Province to think of how to make cycling from home to school safer, more practical and fun. The best ideas were developed during workshops and then presented to the cities’ officials. Several of BYCS’s research initiatives also focus on children. For instance, in collaboration with the Bernard van Leer Foundation, they study the positive impacts of early childhood cycling through their research project Cycling Cities for Infants, Toddlers and Caregivers. Through its research work, BYCS aspires to impact and contribute to research regarding mobility practice and the shift from passive to active mobility.

Aware that what works in the Netherlands cannot always be replicated in other contexts, the social enterprise favours collaborative work and connects with different global and local movements regarding diverse urban issues where cycling could be a solution. They work in cooperation with local leadership to obtain the best result and make good use of their knowledge and expertise of the local communities. BYCS India Foundation, for example, was founded this year. This regional hub aims at improving the life of Indian citizens through cycling. The Foundation coordinates the Bicycle Mayor Network at the national level and works with cities across the country to make Indian cities more cycling-friendly.

The Bicycle Mayor Network is another one of BYCS’s biggest projects. This initiative was designed to build an ecosystem of cycling leaders around the world, and highlight the importance of civil society in promoting inclusive cycling. The 1st bicycle Mayor was elected in Amsterdam in 2016. Today, the network has 124 Mayors in 119 cities ranging from 11,000 to 22 million inhabitants, in 34 different countries. What does a Bicycle Mayor do? Appointed for a two-year term, they are the face and voice of better cycling in cities. They work together with the inhabitants, activists, and authorities on solving challenges regarding cycling in their city. The network helps them to promote the work of others and sharing advice of best practices and experiences. Through this network, BYCS wants to advocate for the bicycle as the best tool to some of the most intricate urban challenges, to be present on both global and regional scales, and create links with other movements fighting for more human-sized cities.

Lisbon’s Bicycle Mayor is Ana Pereira. For the last 13 years, she has been working and volunteering on defending cycling as both a mode of transportation and leisure. Her mission is to create a strong community around urban cycling in order to make the city more livable, where the car is not an essential element of one’s life. In her interview with BYCS, she said, “I decided to focus on the sustainability and liveability of cites, because it impacts so many aspects of our individual and collective lives, and to do it through the bicycle, as this is an amazingly effective and efficient tool that goes beyond transportation.”

But Lisbon is not the only Portuguese city with a Bicycle Mayor. You will find Mário Meireles in Braga, Tiago Neves in Barreiro, and Vera Diogo in Porto, all of them passionate about cycling and working for safer and more sustainable cities, in short, better cities.

Interested in BYCS’s activities? Hear more about them and their vision at the following Velo-city 2021
1.1: The diversity of cyclists with Alex Baum, Global Networks Manager at BYCS
8.2: Beyond bikelash: from media to social media with Adam Tranter, Coventry’s Bicycle Mayor

By Adèle Saingenest
20th of July, 2021