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Forum moves to Colombia and what is becoming one of the most bike-friendly cities in the Global South.
Medellín has come a long way in recent years. Once awarded the undesirable distinction of being the most dangerous city on the planet, Colombia’s second-largest city has seen such a radical transformation in just two decades that, in 2013, the Wall Street Journal named it “The Most Innovative City of the Year.”
Beginning in 2014, the city administration has made cycling a top priority. With 249 miles (400 kilometers) of bike lanes set to be constructed over the next 12 years, and the development of EnCicla – the world’s first mixed public bike system – Medellín is quickly becoming one of the most bike-friendly cities in the Global South. It is these efforts that make it the perfect city to host the fourth edition of the World Bicycle Forum, from February 26, 2015 to March 1.
The World Bicycle Forum initially took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2012. The date, February 25, marked the anniversary of an intentional hit-and-run of a group of riders during a Critical Mass event the previous year. Attendees at the Forum got together to discuss ways to make cycling transportation safer and more accessible for all.
In just four years, the Forum has grown into the largest grassroots event promoting bicycling as transportation worldwide. According to Carlos Cadena Gaitán, General Coordinator for the 4th World Bike Forum, the decision to move the Forum out of Brazil was part of a push to make the forum a truly global event, what Gaitán refers to as “out of the Global South for the world.” Organized by volunteers, the Forum invites participants from all over the world to come together to develop urban planning goals and initiatives that position the bicycle at the forefront of global urban transportation.
This year’s theme, Cities for All, focuses on the transformation of urban spaces into safe, equitable, thriving communities for people from all walks of life. According to Florian Lorenz, Program Coordinator for the 4thWorld Bicycle Forum, cycling is key to this transformation. “The bicycle is a social equalizer for the entire world,” said Lorenz. “Cycling is empowering people to access jobs, friends, health and more without having to allocate much money for being mobile.”
With social equality as one of its principal objectives, the Forum is open to the public and completely free to attend, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard. “The forum is open and free of charge not because the topic of urban cycling is ‘cheap,’” said Lorenz. “But rather because it is vital and critical to the success of our efforts that we work together across social strata, scales and disciplines.”
Participants at the Forum include not only representatives of government and NGOs, business leaders and policy-makers, but artists and activists, members of grassroots organizations and citizens groups, and any community member who wishes to contribute to the dialogue.
The organizers expect 5,000 participants to attend the five days of workshops, plenary sessions, and urban interventions. Lorenz said that on top of classic conference and discussion formats, the Forum involves hands-on and interactive workshops that engage participants with tactical social change and noted, “We see the bicycle as a powerful catalyst for urban change.”
A crowdfunding campaign is currently under way to help raise funds for organizational costs.