The World Bike Forum is an annual event where activists, institutions, civil organizations, cyclists from all parts of the globe come together to put a spotlight on bikes. It started in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2011, after a car deliberately run over a group of cyclists. There were 10 editions so far, in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Nepal, and I was privileged to participate in the 6th edition in 2017, in Mexico City.
I took a flight to Mexico along with a group of Brazilian bike activists and representatives of Brazilian bike organizations who instructed me to take a bike with me (big thanks here for . So I got my foldable bike, packed a bag, and headed to my first experience of being part of such a particular event.
I remember inflating the tires on the arrivals hall in the airport and, after studying the routes previously, I left the airport riding my own bike and headed to my hostel at the city center. It was only an 8 km distance. Biking infrastructure is a rare thing all across Latin America. Despite that reality and the fact that I considered myself a beginner in urban cycling, that group of specialists made me feel safe riding along with cars. I will always remember that I got confident with the tips they gave and how they always advocate to 'claim the streets', to make yourself visible and how a group of bikers is safer than a solo bike. That airport ride was my first encounter with Mexico, and along the way, I could already experience the city, its smells, its color, its people.
(Arriving at the city center, Zocalo, Mexico City)
The World Bike Forum had a busy schedule of talks, workshops, networking. I could learn more about the rough reality and difficulties to implement bikes as a safe/viable transport/mobility option, especially in Latin America, and we learned a lot about best practices around the world.
(Overview of the main event area)
(Pedestrian perceptions workshop. Photo: @carlosta50)
As far as Mexico City is concerned, one of the achievements is the closure of an important avenue to cars on Sundays. On this large space you can see all kids of people biking, some stations where you can pump of fix or bike, and a group of people who teaches kid how to bike. It is definitely something you should do if you go to Mexico.
Paseo de la Reforma Avenue on a regular Sunday. (photo: @carlosta50)
From all the activities that happened that week, the ones that I will remember the most were the 'bicicletadas', the bike rides.
This video shows the 19 km route between the University (UNAM) and the city center, an important route in the city. The bike ride shows a route that is mostly not bike friendly, riding amongst cars/trucks with few separated cycle lanes.
(Tracking my bike activity during the event)
Lessons learned? My deepest admiration for all these people behind these organizations who are trying really hard to promote the usage of bicycles everywhere. There is still a lot to do. But the seed is there!