In late March, BikeTexas staff attended Velo-city Seville, the premier world event focusing on cycling as a means of urban transport.
“Velo-city Seville was very impressive,” said Fernando Martinez, BikeTexas Safe Routes to School program manager. “There was a lot of information, excitement and excellent organizers, presenters and participants. This is a great group of people who want to see changes all over the world.”
Texas enjoyed a strong showing at the event. Attending thanks to a generous grant from Bikes Belong facilitated by BikeTexas were Dallas City Councilmembers Delia Jasso and Pauline Medrano; Dallas Bike Coordinator Max Kalhammer; Tom Wald, executive director for the League of Bicycling Voters; and planner and former BikeTexas Board Chair Bud Melton.
More than 1,000 international attendees gathered to discuss the conference’s four central themes: the health benefits of cycling for cities and their inhabitants; education as a way of changing urban mobility habits; efficiency of cycling-related public investments; and the impact of cycling on the economy and employment.
Gil Peñalosa, an international expert on livable communities and executive director of 8-80 Cities (and speaker at BikeTexas’ 2011 Shifting Gears policy events), served as master of ceremonies for the event.
“There were a lot of good presentations about Mexico City, Guadalajara and Leon, Guanajuato,” Martinez said. “They talked about bike sharing program, cycle tracks networks and ciclovias.”
Martinez met with Manfred Neun, President of the European Cyclists Federation, and talked about the possibilities of bringing Velo-city to the United States. Neun explained the preparation involved in hosting the event and the steps each city has taken to earn the coveted bid.
The city of Seville, for example established a complete network of cycling infrastructure in just three years, which boosted the number of cyclists from 6,000 to 60,000 daily uses. Seville has become a worldwide point of reference for cities with no tradition of cycling as a means of urban transport, showing that a rapid and efficient change in infrastructure and use is possible.
“Seville has a great bike network,” said Martinez. “The downtown area is the place where everyone hangs out and everyone walks or bikes in that area. Thousands of people of all ages take over the downtown streets. I was very impressed — I’ve never seen so many people every day walking in such a small space.”
During the conference, Martinez and other participants went on a 36-km bike ride to La Via Verde de la Sierra.
“What a great place. There was some off-road trail riding, some paved trail riding and great country views on the hills on La Sierra de Cadiz,” Martinez said. “I took a lot of pictures, I met the president of the foundation and Mellow Johnny’s Eileen Schaubert and I got interviewed by the news crew.”
Texas attendees agreed to attend different workshops and presentations so they could get the most out of the conference and share information when they returned home.
“It will be nice to have a meeting and conference call with all the other people from Texas to hear what they have to say,” Martinez said.