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Cycling cities: re-inventing urban space for all

Blog Cycling cities: re-inventing urban space for all
The covid-19 crisis has shattered all our points of references and pushed us to adapt to a “new normal”. So, why not take this opportunity to make cycling an integral part of this new normal? From September 6 to 9, hundreds of Velo-citizens will discuss this question at the world’s largest cycling conference, Velo-city 2021 Lisboa.
The idea of the bicycle as a central mode of transport is not new. Towards the end of the Industrial Revolution, bikes became affordable for the working class. Consequently, they rapidly became very popular for going to work, school or even on holidays. And just like in the late 19th century, the bicycle could now once again change societies worldwide.

Cities are places with a high concentration of population and economic activities, and as such they have been struck hard by the coronavirus crisis. Cities have often been a hot spot for health epidemics. Such crises have triggered urban improvement in the past. For instance, the cholera epidemic in London in the 1830s led to the adoption of a general sewage system. Why not seize the covid-crisis as an opportunity to re-think the city of tomorrow, where cycling takes a leading role?

As the lockdown forced many to work from home and stay in their neighborhood, a new local dynamic was created. This provided Carlos Moreno with new found inspiration for the concept of the 15-minute city, which aim it is to make work, education, grocery, health, and culture accessible within a 15-minute walking or cycling distance from home. Precisely, in order to move around safely during the pandemic many chose to (re-)integrate the bike in their daily life as it is perfect for social distancing. This covid bike craze pushed many cities to improve urban cycling by creating pop-up cycle lanes or offering bike subsidies for instance.

All these developments suggest that it is time for a different philosophy in urban planning. We need to rethink the way we allocate our street space and must seize the opportunity to rebuild our cities based on the principles of sustainable urban mobility planning that will participate in a dynamic recovery, liveability and in the fight against climate change. To move from thoughts and individual life choices to concrete collective action. It is about re-inventing rather than inventing and being inspired by the historical use of the bike and to combine it with the realities of our time. Cycling not only answers to current pandemic but also the most pressing issue of our time: the climate crisis. To turn the tide on climate change and to enable a green recovery, authorities and citizens must work hand in hand to achieve lasting change. Cycling as the new normal means that every citizen can benefit from cycling.

Rethinking Cities through cycling at Velo-city 2021 Lisboa

Velo-city 2021 Lisboa will feature the closing plenary “Rethinking Cities: Cycling as the New Normal”, welcoming international experts to discuss inclusive and diverse urban environments on September 9.

Meet the speakers:
  • Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General of POLIS since 2014. She declared “We need to put the bike front and centre in the post-pandemic green recovery phase we are now entering. Let’s further accelerate the respacing of our city streets for active travel, something which was long overdue anyway!”.
  • Fernando Medina, the Mayor of Lisbon himself. Through his policy he has been showing strong will and effort in leading the Portuguese capital towards a greener and human-sized city.
  • Carlos Moreno, French-Colombian scientist and professor at the University of Paris 1. Through his research he brings an innovative perspective on urban issues and offers solutions to the current challenges faced by cities, metropolises, and territories. Some of his concepts traveled the world like the Human Smart City, the 15mn City, and the Territory of 30mn.
  • Jeremy Yap, the Deputy Chief Executive for the Public Transport, Policy and Planning, Land Transport Authority of Singapore. He stated that “Over the past years and further accelerated by Covid 19 many Singaporeans have discovered the joys of walking and cycling as a healthy and green form of commute, and leisure. We are leading and enabling this active mobility movement, of reimagining transport not just as infrastructural provision, but as a way to connect people, places and possibilities.”.
  • Elke Van den Brandt, the Minister for Mobility, Public Works and Road Safety of the Brussels-Capital Region (Belgium). She is currently working on Good Move, the Regional Mobility Plan for the Brussels-Capital Region which aims to lower car traffic by 35% and create 5 low traffic neighbourhoods every year. 
  • Zoran Janković, the Mayor of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Ljubljana is quickly developing in a city with a clear vision to create multi-purpose, shared spaces and pursuing the goal of putting the quality of life at the forefront.

By Adèle Saingenest
29th of June of 2021