Status the key to changing perception of cycling as transport

Changing the “low status” of cycling as transport was the key to getting it accepted, Carlosfelipe Pardo, of GIZ in Colombia, told the EcoMobility World Festival in Suwon City, South Korea, this week.

The festival lasts a month.

GIZ is a German firm of economic and civil development consultants.

Mr Pardo stressed the importance of “coolness” in marketing ecomobility and cited Citing Copenhagen’s Cycle Chic Manifesto as an example.

Copenhagen had portrayed cycling as a modern and stylish lifestyle which overturned the perception of bikes as a “low status” means of transport means, successfully incorporated it into its urban transport system and made it into a popular and ecofriendly method of transport.

In addition to unrealistic expectation, Mr Pardo also challenged a narrow definition of ecomobility. “We do not need to see cars as an enemy,” he said.

“It is certainly not the best means but it is an intermediate option.

“An effective transport system needs to be an integral one in which people have the rights and options to choose.”

“We cannot expect everybody to change their habits overnight and be concerned about the environment like hippies.” Mr Pardo said.

“The fact is that most people think about their own interests first, and some people are more stubborn and resistant to change than others.”

Santhosh Kodukula, EcoMobility ICLEI EcoMobility program manager, followed a similar theme in his speech on the promotion of non-motorised transport on the first day of the congress.

“If you can think of another transport that you can take in case the usual one that you take fails, it shows how important integration is to our transportation system,” Mr Kodukula said.    “Integration of transport modes is not rocket science, it is about connecting simple things together.” he said.

Moving away from marketing and integration of transport modes, panellists from the session also presented simple yet innovative ecomobile solutions from around the world, ranging from car-free days, urban beaches, bike sharing and expanding pedestrian spaces to transforming traditional rickshaws in developing countries into modern pedicabs that were  more secure yet affordable to everyone.

Panellists said that how cities defined ecomobility and their choice of green transport might vary depending on their cultures and cities’ development, panelists said.

However, giving space back to people was the key to making cities more liveable because “all trips begin with walking” and walking was still the most common use of transport around the world despite all the mobility technologies and methods available.

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