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Velo-City — How Sevilla, Spain is becoming a world-class bicycling city

Guest blogger: Virginia Tech cyclist Lyndsay McKeever, intern for Transportation and Campus Services at Virginia Tech, is guest blogging this week from Velo-City Sevilla, Spain. See the conference’s program here.

On Tuesday night, conference goers of Velo-City Sevilla arrived at the Barcelo Renacimiento hotel, collected their Sevici bike share bikes (Sevilla-bici) and jumped on the city’s green cycletracks towards the historic El Real Alcazar palace for the official welcome cocktail. The intermingling of hundreds of international bike advocacy geeks provided a precursor for the start of the conference.

cycle track

Riding the green cycletracks in Sevilla

Sevilla’s flat geography, warm weather, cobblestone streets and a slew of active people running, roller blading and biking next to the Lora del Rio river revealed Sevilla’s healthy cycling culture. Biking along side Andy Clarke, we compared Sevilla’s transformative cycling successes in just a few short years with that of Copenhagen, Denmark, the longstanding cycling capital of the world. Often times in America we are overwhelmed with the magnitude of what needs to be done to increase bicycle mobility in our cities. A bicycle dream world like Copenhagen taking hold in the U.S. is a long way away, however this year’s selected Velo-City in Sevilla, Spain presents real opportunities.

The silhouettes of Andy Clarke and Lyndsay McKeever in Sevilla

Silhouettes of Andy Clarke and Lyndsay McKeever in Sevilla, Spain

“There has been a increase in cycling of 2% in Barcelona and 4% in Sevilla in the past two years”, announced Jesus Huertas Garcia, Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs in the government of Spain during the opening plenary.

Less than five years ago, Sevilla was characteristic of most U.S. cities with heavy car dependency and much air pollution. It had always been said Sevilla was a perfect city for cycling, but it was never conceived possible. No one dared to implement bike policies and infrastructure, until recently when a hard working group of people in town council prioritized urban bicycle mobility. Winning the hearts and minds of Sevilla citizens and helping them overcome fears and reluctance to bicycling was a difficult battle. Through ambitious political will to prioritize bicycle transit as safe mobility, Sevilla has achieved great reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. People now feel bicycle infrastructure such as Sevici bike share bikes belongs to them and is part of Sevilla culture. Today, the city of Sevilla has become a benchmark in Europe on how we can make cycling possible in cities in just a few short years.

Mayor of Sevilla

The Mayor of Sevilla, Spain at the opening session of Velo-City

“Cycling has been a fast level tool that goes well beyond cycletracks. Promoting cycling as urban transportation has been key to leading people to a sustainable world and has transformed millions of citizens who never considered bicycling”, said Mayor of Sevilla, Alfredo Sanchez Montesseirin. “Thanks to cycling in Sevilla there has been an extraordinary change in mindset towards sustainability.”

Sevilla’s successes reveal realistic, attainable goals U.S. cities can also strive towards. We have much to learn from our neighbors across the Atlantic Ocean. During the conference, I hope we can learn from Sevilla’s ambitious bike policies that led to the city’s bicycle transportation revolution.

Here’s a fun video promoting bike share in Sevilla:


— Lyndsay McKeever

Photos courtesy of Lyndsay McKeever

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