World Bicycle Forum 2015

News released on: 
Mar 4th, 2015
Citizen's OpeningVolunteer OrganizersVolunteer OrganizersCharlotte, Bikes Not Bombs' International Programs Coordinator, is in Medellin, Colombia, to attend the World Bicycle Forum (Foro Mundial De La Bicicleta). As one of the organizers of the Forum, Charlotte has spent months on video chats with volunteers from around the world, sorting through the hundreds of workshop and talk proposals and recruiting speakers from all disciplines.  At the Citizen's Opening she welcomed 6,500 participants:

Welcome everyone to the 4th World Bicycle Forum.

To start, I want to thank everyone who is here attending this event, because you are who make the forum what it is. Thank you to people who traveled here from another country, people who biked all the way to Medellin, and to the paisas (people from Medellin) who opened their city to us. Thank you everyone for forming part of this incredible event.

I also want to recognize the work of all the volunteers who organized this event – the largest urban cycling conference that has ever happened in the world. The volunteers who organize this are really what make this event so unique – an event organized by citizens, bike lovers, and visionaries who want to build cities for all. Please, applause for the volunteers who make this event possible.

This event carries a big name just by the fact that is contains the word “global” in its title. To be a global event doesn’t just mean that there are people here from almost every continent (we’re only missing Australia we think!), the word “global” signifies the impact that this event has on the construction of a global cycling culture. Of course, culture extends over the whole globe, it crosses borders, it jumps languages, and we can see in this space, here right now, that we, as an international group of cyclists, interact with one another through our shared understanding of bike culture.

And because this event helps to construct a global bike culture, it is so important that we understand the history, philosophy and construction of this event in order to understand the type of culture we’re creating here. So thank you Livia and Alessandre for talking about the history of the forum in Brazil, to help us to understand more about this event in it’s fourth edition.

So what makes the World Bike Forum different from other bike meetings? Well, of course, there are the obvious parts. First, it is free to everyone, which is such an important part of making this a diverse and inclusive event – it’s not just experts that arrive here, it is anyone who is interested in biking. This is important because we want to build a diverse and inclusive bike culture, so we need to make sure that this event reflects that. Second, this event is organized by volunteers and global citizens. We organize this because we want to be the change we seek in the world. We organize this because we want to build bike culture from the bottom-up.

But for me, one of the most important parts of the philosophy of the forum is that we invite people from every sector to be here, which is incredibly unique. In other places activists, artists, politicians, or the private sector all have their own conferences – but here, at the World Bike Forum, we invite everyone to come together to sit down and talk at the same table.

Sometimes we have the tendency as human beings, to close ourselves off into our own circles and to only interact with people who have the same mentality and opinions as us. When we do this, we loose the ability to have productive and respectful conversations with people whose opinions vary from our own. This is why spaces like the forum are so important. We need to take advantage of the fact that in this space a politician, an artist, and an activist will sit down together to talk. Through these conversations we help to construct a global bike culture that is inclusive and represents the diversity of cyclists that we are.

And this is how we get to our message of this forum – Cities for All. It’s important to note that it doesn’t say ‘Bikes for All’ or ‘Sustainable Transit for All’ because we wanted a more universal message.

In the last World Bike Forum in Curitiba I came away with a very powerful message that was – these types of events and encounters, of course it’s about the bike – it is what brings us together, but it’s not really about the bike. Our goals transcend biking. As cyclists, the bike is what we know and it’s our method, but we try to use it for a social change that goes beyond biking. We use bikes to try to construct cities for everyone, not just in terms of mobility.

I hope that you all enjoy this event. I hope that you learn something new. I hope that you interact with people who have a different perspective than you. I hope that you leave this event with new inspiration of how you want to change your community, and with new energy of how you will organize and build cities for all.