World Bicycle Forum inspires global action to strengthen cycling culture in cities
Last week, over 4,000 people gathered for the fourth World Bicycle Forum, the largest global event focused exclusively on cycling mobility and activism. City leaders, NGOs, businesses, and engaged citizens met in Medellín, Colombia from February 26 to March 1 to discuss the challenges that cyclists face, solutions for building cycling culture, and how to make local economies more dynamic and cities more livable.
This year, experts from WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ urban mobility initiative, EMBARQ, and the Cycling Embassy of Denmark co-hosted a workshop on how to make cities safer by design for cyclists. This means planning and designing urban streets that serve cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists equally. Building on EMBARQ’s local experiences helping cities grow sustainably, the workshop emphasized how robust pedestrian infrastructure, traffic management strategies, sustainable street design, and integrated transport systems contribute to cyclists’ safety.
Cycling lessons that are locally inspired, globally oriented
Urban cycling is a powerful driver of sustainable, healthy, and equitable cities when proper bike infrastructure and policies exist. In addition to generating zero emissions, the benefits of cycling include flexible mobility, increased physical activity, and greater connectivity to mass transport. A century of auto-centric urban development, however, has resulted in car-dependent cities that are segregated, gridlocked, dangerous for non-motorists, and polluted.
Expanding cycling infrastructure and promoting cycling culture can reverse this trend. But first, cities need to overcome a key obstacle to promoting bike use: safety. The benefits of urban cycling can’t be realized if residents don’t feel safe using bikes to move about their city.
Many cities represented at the World Bicycle Forum—Almaty, Kazakhstan; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; and Curitiba and São Paulo, Brazil and more—are taking bold steps to improve bike infrastructure. While this is a step in the right direction, often the ‘first generation’ infrastructure in cities previously lacking bike facilities misses key design features that can make cycling safe and attractive. For instance, cycling networks that are segregated from cars and pedestrians—yet integrated with public transport—offer riders a high level of protection, while reducing vehicle speeds improves safety for cyclists and motorists alike. These structural changes complement shifts in behavior—like helmet use—to make cycling safer by design and reduce the risk of crashes.
EMBARQ is working in cities worldwide to improve road safety and establish cycling as an integral and primary form of urban mobility. With research and projects centered on community cycling in Brazil, safe access to mass transit in India, bike sharing in Mexico City, and bike infrastructure design in Turkey, EMBARQ is helping cities boost urban cycling and expand sustainable mobility.
To further improve road safety and scale up sustainable mobility, EMBARQ is also preparing to release a set of urban design guidelines in the coming months. Called Cities Safer by Design, the guidelines provide evidence-based urban design recommendations for improving pedestrian and cyclist facilities, implementing traffic calming measures, and designing safe mass transport corridors. Learn more about making cities safer by design in this video.
Read more about ideas for building cycling culture from the World Bicycle Forum on TheCityFix