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Ciclovida: The Cycle of Life, a Sevilla success

Guest blogger: Virginia Tech cyclist Lyndsay McKeever, intern for Transportation and Campus Services at Virginia Tech, is guest blogging from Velo-City Sevilla, Spain.

Yesterday’s Ciclovida, “el cyclo de la vida” or “the cycle of life” in Sevilla concluded Velo-city 2011. And what a spectacular way to end the week’s long conference! Riding along side thousands of Sevilla citizens in the bike parade with a handful of conference goers, we felt nostalgic and part of Sevilla’s rich bicycle culture. European Cycling Federation colleagues Nastja Kocevar and Velo-city event organizers  agreed it was in fact the largest bike parade they had participated in. A few miles loop through the old city center to the scenic Parque del Alamillo (park), the city-wide bike ride claimed the streets over car traffic.

Citizens gather at the start of Ciclovida
Citizens gather at the start of Ciclovida

Ciclovidas originated in Latin American cities and are said to “provide the opportunity to exercise and prevent illness, to recover and enjoy public spaces, to promote peaceful co-existence, respect, social cohesion and environmental awareness, and to help citizens to acquire healthy habits, to improve air quality and to reduce noise in cities.”

With a traditional Spanish start, costumed rollerbladers excited the crowds until police gradually halted car traffic, paving the way for safe cycling through the city. My first large-scale bike parade, participating in the ride was fascinating and empowering. I felt alive. I felt like I belonged. Just as the Sevici bicycles belong to the Sevilla people, I felt like my Sevici bicycle and I were one, celebrating health and cycling.

Gazing into the parade, it was inspiring see citizens biking from all walks of life. Mothers with baby carriages and small children on trikes cycled gleefully along side club cycling veterans and enthusiastic teenagers. Of note was the number of professional and competitive cyclists participating in Ciclovida, something you don’t normally see (especially in the US). One cycling club paraded along side everyday citizens waving their team’s green flag and yelling “una cerveza!” when coming to stops. In Sevilla, competitive cycling evidently has a growing understanding of bicycle mobility as sustainable urban transit.

Sevilla -- family on bikes
A family takes Sevilla’s cycle tracks to the start of Ciclovida

During the conference, the workshop “Urban cycling and sport cycling, linking two worlds” sought to bridge this gap between bicycle advocates for sustainable urban transit and competitive cyclists. The concept holds much potential. Competitive cyclists are often times not connected to the idea of the bicycle as a social vehicle of change or means of sustainable transportation. Serious sport cycling is geared around intensive training, dedication and highly competitive races, but these races could also provide a venue and space to encourage others to cycle.

Not everyone may be capable of Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador’s cadence, but competitive cycling allows a space for conversation. Competitive cycling draws fans who look up to professionals as role models.

If cycling races contained advocacy events throughout the day, professionals could act as agents of change and educate the masses with their extensive bike mechanic knowledge and combined role model status. The very idea of linking the two worlds is being worked on by an Italian PhD cyclist who hopes he can ignite a relationship at a competitive African bike race.

Just think if the League could join up with USA Cycling during the National Cycling Championships that take place all over the nation and started working together towards bicycle advocacy! What a great way it would be to reach thousands of US citizens about bicycling for health, sustainability and our future with a taste from team velocity.

— Lyndsay McKeever

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