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On the road towards the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Mayor of London Boris Johnson promotes bikeshare“Imagine if we could invent something that cut road and rail crowding, cut noise, cut pollution and ill- health – something that improved life for everyone, quite quickly, without the cost and disruption of new roads and railways. Well, we invented it 200 years ago: the bicycle.”Boris Johnson, Mayor of London 
This follow up reflection of my previous blog post has been encouraged and inspired by the enthusiastic response from the worldwide community of cyclists — individuals who depend on and use this very reliable mode of versatile transportation on a daily basis. At one point in the first 24 hours after it was published, the number of views to the initial blog post exceeded 1000 per hour, and it totaled over 200K views. The article has been adopted by the World Economic Forum Agenda Blog and even landed on the Facebook page of the United Nations, with great support from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and World Bicycle Relief. It has been translated into French and Spanish, and a German language version is in the works. The conclusion, based on comments that were made, was very clear: the world still loves the velocipede whether as a form of transport or as an Olympic sports event.
Union Cycliste Internationale President Brian CooksonIn response to the previous blog Brian Cookson, UCI President summed it up well with this reflection, “Cycling is one of the most popular sports in the world, but it’s also a mode of transport for millions, helping to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and keep people healthy. UCI wants to contribute to a future where everyone, regardless of age, gender, or disability gets the opportunity to ride and bike, whether as an athlete, for recreation, or for transport. In ten months’ time, the Paris climate talks will provide the final opportunity to plan for a sustainable future: cycling - a truly zero-carbon form of transport - must be part of the solution.”

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres ride Ghanaian bamboo bikes United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres also recognized the potential of the bicycle as a low carbon alternative when they took a spin on Ghanaian bamboo bikes as a side event at the COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland in November 2013. The Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative showcased the bicycles, which use locally grown bamboo. The strong, but lightweight bamboo bikes can be used for multiple purposes and in a variety of terrains. They were introduced as a non-polluting, affordable form of transportation as well as a way to create employment opportunities for rural women. Young women with little or no education are trained in Ghana to manufacture and assemble these bikes. The beneficiaries are also instructed on how to use bamboo waste materials to manufacture charcoal briquettes that also help to address energy needs.
As an attendee at several Olympic and Paralympic Games in a number of different capacities and as participant on several different levels at other global sport events, an idea has come to mind related to cycling that might appeal to the organizers of future global sports festivals. How about implementing bicycles as an option for local and internal transportation at these events? Instead of using only mopeds or golf carts, why not consider cycling as an option to promote health and demonstrate a focus on the beauty of universality of this sport. Has there ever been a bikeshare station at the Olympic Village? Or, among the Olympic venues? I have not seen one.
Wouldn’t it send a great message if UCI President Brian Cookson, IOC President Thomas Bach, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had the opportunity to bike together in the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro?  World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Y. Kim could accompany them, and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, could pace them. That would leave a simple and effective legacy for cariocas to use for their daily transport needs.
Another opportunity for bike lovers will come up during the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC COP 21 in Paris in December, 2015.  France is second to China with the highest number of bikeshare stations, and its capital, Paris, has a computerized system Vélib that includes 1,230 stations and a fleet of 18,000 bicycles. Wouldn’t it be a great if delegates from all over the world were to receive a free pass to use the bikeshare bicycles in their welcome packet? It would give them a chance to not only talk the talk about climate but also to ride the ride for positive climate care during the final Climate Summit.
In this effort to reenergize a global focus on bicycles and bicycling, I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a new generation of bike lovers from the UCI, World Bicycle Relief, and my own colleagues from Connect4Climate and the Sport4Climate initiative. These new and young advocates are proving to me that there is an enthusiastic ray of hope for cycling and the use of bicycles to create change. Their contagious passion for bicycles rekindles my own love for cycling as well.
As for us at Connect4Climate, there will be plenty of biking around the world with our global communication initiative Sport4Climate that showcases how community of sport can get involved in tackling one of Earth’s most formidable foes: climate change.  Sport has a universal appeal, and cycling is one of the most important pillars of the Olympic Movement. On our touring calendar, the stages will include the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, COP 21 and, obviously, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where we want to be an active part of the Olympic relay carrying the flame and enlightening the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony. We will also make sure that the mascots Vinicius and Tom will wear the Connect4Climate bracelets.
Even the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympic Movement, was an avid bike rider, and affectionately called his bike “Nini.” He immensely enjoyed bicycle riding among other sports activities in his lifetime. Wouldn’t it be great if the global cycling community could follow de Coubertin’s lead and once again realize the joy and benefits of cycling? Just recently the creator of Connect4Climate, Lucia Grenna, nostalgically revealed her trustworthy “Bianchi” as her top choice for transport. It is obvious that things are looking up for Cycling4Climate!
Many of us simply underestimate the uniqueness, longevity, versatility and simplicity of the bicycle. Besides its obvious roles as an environmentally friendly form of transportation and enhancer of health, there is also something very special about bikes. The synergy between the bike and the rider is such that it promotes mental relaxation, encourages excellent opportunities for leisure, and enhances social interaction. It also helps the rider gain a greater awareness of his immediate and/or local environment.
The popularity and practicality of the bicycle are without question vital links to help lessen worsening morbidity trends attributed to pollution. This is especially true in areas where rapid urbanization and motorization are taking their toll. China is a prime example of such trends as the bicycle and rickshaw have been a traditional mode of mobility for decades, but not anymore. In 2004 there were just 10 million private cars in circulation in China; by 2020 – just 5 years from now – there is forecast to be 150 million. While we in the West are beginning to return to the bicycle, millions of others are forsaking their bikes for cars. Reversing this trend could be of huge benefit to our future climate and the health of our cities - but only if we act now.
Every year, air, water and land pollution causes roughly 8.9 million premature deaths worldwide.  Most of these deaths occur in developing countries. This represents 13 percent of all deaths around the world. While pollution poisons our air, water and land, it is also toxic to our bodies and economies by exerting higher burdens for cost of healthcare, lost productivity, as well as a diminished quality of life. If we invest in the proper infrastructure, bicycles can be used more and will help in many ways to foster a greater renaissance of mental and physical health and wellness.
There are those who see the bike as just a form of recreation or kids play. However, it’s a major form of transportation for hundreds of millions, and could be for billions. A third of US carbon dioxide emissions are from transport, yet half of all car trips are just 5 km or less. Such a distance takes only 15 minutes to ride on a bike. Of course cycling may not be practical for every trip by everyone, but if people are mindful of the option and if there are better facilities and a supportive culture, cycling could offer a zero-carbon alternative to the car and save billions of tons of CO2 in the coming decades.
Sport has the potential to be an influential if not the most influential element in the environmental movement. It has the potential to be more influential than politics and more influential than business. Sport has the capacity to transform the way people view the planet and to encourage them to be advocates for environmental change. I believe that the cycling community can and should be a strong leading voice from the global sports industry about how we doing something so simple can benefit our health and the health of our planet. This is especially important as we travel the road to Paris: COP 21.

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First photograph of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson biking courtesy of Greater London Authority
Second photograph of Brian Cookson by Graham Watson courtesy of UCI
Third photograph of UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon courtesy of COP 19 Warsaw, Momentum for Change


Submitted by Jhancy Diaz on

I cant believe how much poultion is occuring around the different nations. Its amazing how many countries around the world are try to di the change. They want to make the world a better place. They are expanding their critiera and their knowledge on what can be done. There are many countries around us that are making the change them selfs. Such as riding their bikes to lower the amount of disasters that are occuring in the nation. It's incredible how even the own president of all these organizations are also motivated to do the change. You can make a change in your own back yard as long as you have that motivation and energy to be a change and make the world a better place .

Submitted by Christian Bowman on

This article while holding cycling up to a pedestal actually achieves very little. This article repeats itself and, gives no new ideas on how to achieve the goal and has a feel good aim that is mostly wasted. The article as it stands seems to most likely be to drum up interest towards cycling while informing readers that people do cycle places. If they read the article where it was originally posted on cycling for climate, then surprise they most likely all ready cycle

Submitted by Edson millan on

The recognition of the bicycle to help combat against climate change is remarkable. Elite figures and organizations can definitely help out the cause. With the increase use of the bicycle, climate change can definitely be something to slow down. Climate will not be completely beaten, however, with the right initiatives it can definitely be slowed down. I hope this plan to combat climate change through cycling succeeds.

Submitted by Tatianna Rogers on

Bicycles are surely the best way for transport. It is healthier for us as well as the earth. I think every should use bikes to get around. I'm glad more people are getting involved. The more people get involved the more it becomes a global phenomenon

Submitted by Trevor on

I say just keep pushing the campaign to cycle as much as you can. Those who will want to do it will and those who won't won't. It's a great idea to put bicycles at events to get to and from different parts of the event as supposed to a golf cart. People do like bicycles in certain situations. As I have said before though people love their cars. The switch will only be made by people who see benefits from using a bicycle.

Submitted by Simi Molina on

Wow. It's amazing how quickly the word gets spread. I remember reading the first article and thinking to myself that it was going to take a while to get those tweets up and it was going to take a while to see the results. But man the word is being spread quickly. My biggest concern at first was that it wouldn't be fair to those who are disabled and cannot ride a bike, but I like how that was addressed in this article. Makes me realized that yes this is a big step to helping the climate. I love how Connect4Climate is also very passionate about this. One step at a time we won't be just talking the talk, we will be riding the ride one bike at a time.

Submitted by Kayla S on

I appreciate how this article offered more examples of the power of bicycles. I found the ghanian bamboo interesting because I think the world is in need of an eco-friendly bicycle. The fact that the bamboo bicycles create jobs for Ghanian women is also a plus. Pollution is a very serious issues and those in underdeveloped countries suffer the most. It is important that we all take action against climate change and one possible solution may very so be bicycles.

Submitted by Marhani Palupi on

I really agree with this article. Nowadays, cycling is considered the way of recreation or kids plays. Not many people consider cycling as the way to be healthy and for saving our earth. Cycling actually really brings us to the bright future, for ourselves, for society and of course for environment. I encourage myself and my friend,my family to be part of this action. When every one in this world, this country love to get involve of this act, I am sure our earth would smile and be happy.

Submitted by Amin Oskoui on

It is true that bikes are an efficient way of transportation in a city or if the only other means of transportation is walking. It is even a health benefit and leads to decreasing pollution. But how can we use such a thing while there are so many people who take commutes that are several miles. Should they get up earlier to get to work or should they continue using their cars? Bikes are w nice solution for healthy efficient transportation but they cannot benefit everyone.

Submitted by Maricruz Esparza on

There are several groups and worldwide organizations that have taken the initiative to support cycling. Cycling is making a huge comeback and has the chance at changing the world. All people need to do is invest in a bycicle which would reduce the use of a car in most cities. Connect4climate will save the planet and its message has spread with the help of others. It is only a matter of time until everyone is cycling because they realized its the greenest and most efficient means of transportation.

Submitted by Jimmy Vu on

It is cool to see a bike made from bamboo. That just goes to show that a good quality bike doesxnot need to be made from costly things. As for the uci president I stand by what he is saying. I believe that everyone should learn how to ride a bike. Also it helps out your health and the environment.

Submitted by Rova 34324 on

Everything is a matter of perspective. As far as we know, bikes might even be the new cars of the next generation. In a world with "better facilities and a supporting culture", why would any sensible human being say no to such a green alternative? I appreciate the fact that the article points out that "cycling may not be practical for every trip by everyone". I would also like to point out that establishing the appropriate facilities and supportive culture for those bikes would still take decades and decades. We would have to reverse the actions/changes of what centuries of a car-loving society has done. Impossible?
Maybe, maybe not.

Submitted by Adam Vasquez on

Bikes is a good way to go to improve our planet. It doesn't realese any greenhouse gases and people who ride it are getting a good exercise. That bicycle that is made out of bamboo sounds amazing. A bike that is cheap and afordable for everyone. The bamboo bike can be used in multiple ways and in different ways.

Submitted by Dukhyun Park on

There are several advantages of using bicycle for commute. For example, using more bicycle to reduce traffics during rush hour, and it will help reduce carbon dioxide in atmosphere. Many country spend a huge amount money and time to reduce co2, but it is not enough for catching up current speed of air polluting in the world. May country should consider about global warming, and accept to motivate people to use more bicycle for commute because cycling is easy way to save out land and help many others lives who live in the Earth.

Submitted by fernando ferrufino on

I agree with this article , if everyone starts riding there bicycle to work it will definitely reduce CO2 . as a result our climate will change.
i know its going to be hard for this change since , everyone is so used to their driving their cars. hopefully, countries around the world united and agree in this new change , we may still have time to same our climate.

Submitted by Jessica Aguilar on

I have never been big on riding bicycles. I feel like it is a sport usually left behind along with other childhood games. It is obvious that there are many reasons to want more people to start riding bikes more as transportation. The public needs to be taught more that bicycling is not just a sport but also a mode of easy and free transportation. Kids should be taught to continue using their bicycles even after childhood. It may seem like such a little step to help fight against pollution but it would definitely be a step in the right direction.

Submitted by Yu Xu on

There happens to be a tremendous increase of death during the 21st century. Many factors such as car emissions, air and water pollution. This is a great article that give us a warning to our health and to reduce pollution. To those who often use cars mostly are obese and significant cardiovascular illness. It is important to ride bikes not just to improve our health but to improve the Mother Nature and to reduce the harm caused by pollutions.

Submitted by sherina Mutesi on

I believe that cycling as said in the article is a nice way not only to keep us fit but also to protect our climate. People can easily do errands and travel different places. No more asking for rides! People can be independent. I love the fact that cyling is not just about getting to a certain place but also a great way to form a bond with people in our communities.

Submitted by Michelle Soto on

Like in your previous post, Cycling is everyone's business. It can affect the lives of everyone we come in contact with. Now, I'm not saying that If i start riding my bike for my daily commute that the lives of everyone will improve in the same ways my life will, but if everyone took that same initiative it would help little by little decrease climate issues and reduce our carbon foot prints. Not only if it good for improving the state of health of our mother nature, but it will help improve our personal health. Some people, like my self, aren't always able to have time to exercise or find a form to release stress, but with cycling it can be a form to help improve our state of mental and physical health while helping our planet. Now with the use of other materials like bamboo described above, it facilitates our ways to obtain a bicycle. It's a win win with cycling. We help ourselves while helping others.

Submitted by Connor W on

I agree, the cycling trend should supported as much as possible. I also think that the states should put more money into extending roads to make room for bike lanes everywhere. Many more people including myself would commute with a bike If the trip was not so hazardess with cars zooming by you. Cycling is a great way to lower emissions and keep people in good health. Overall, this article was well written and should be read by many others to get the point across.

Submitted by Cassandra B. on

I very much appreciate the idea of making bicycles out of bamboo, which also creates employment for uneducated women. Not only is it an interesting and creative idea, but it's also very resourceful and an opportunity opener, somewhat killing two birds with one stone.However, as amazing as this is, how durable is the bamboo bike? How much weight can it sustain, and what about in strong whether conditions? I'm very curious as to how far the bamboo bike will influence the biking community and if it will become marketable in other countries. If so, I think it would catch the eyes of those even outside the interest field (such as myself), seeing the determination of those bringing cycling into everyone's life. People want to see how big an idea will go before they become a part of it, and I for one want to see this go as big as possible. With a new invention calling for attention, many events can be held for its honor, sponsoring the health and importance of cycling.

Submitted by Nerine on

I guess most people forget how convenient bikes are. For one they don't need as much infrastructure as a car, and they don't produce emissions whatsoever. Anyone can have a bike since they're much cheaper. In hindsight it makes more sense to just ride a bike or walk when traveling a short distance; unless otherwise.

Submitted by nisha pierre on

I agree bikes are very convenient,i just purchase one recently.It is very beneficial in many ways.

Submitted by Dagem Lemma on

Bicycles need to finally get recognition for their usefulness. Their application in terms of transportation, recreation, and even competition need not be overlooked. I appreciate the appeal for leaders to engage and promote cycling. We look up to our leaders, that's why we've elected them. If we see them give examples of themselves and recognize bicycles' uses, why, then, wouldn't we follow up?

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