Velo City

A smart-card-operated storage system and an online anti-theft mapping platform are among the big ideas.

If you believe that bicycling can change the world -- or at least a city -- you’re not alone. You’re really, really not alone.

In case you need proof, look no further than Velo-city 2013, an urban cycling conference slated to be held this June in Vienna. The weeklong event will include discussions on kids and cycling, cycling in multicultural communities, the economic benefits of cycling, the science of cycling, the great helmet debate, and much, much more (there's even going to be a bicycle bell concert).

In order to bring people from around the world to this meeting of the city cycling minds, the conference organizers are awarding 30 “Cycling Visionary Awards” to people who have submitted ideas in five areas: advocacy and social projects; science, research, and development; design, fashion, and cycling equipment; urban planning and urban design; and cycling and the arts. The winners will  be invited to present their ideas at the conference. You can vote for your own choices through April 15 at the Velo-city website.

The array of choices gives just some idea of the way that people around the world – especially young people – are using bicycles to make their cities better, or hoping to use them. Here are a few that seemed particularly inspirational:

  • The Bombay Greenway Project, a proposal to enhance the Mumbai railway system by turning it into a verdant bike network.
  • Bikehangar, a smart-card-operated bike locking and storage system that would provide secure parking for 12 bikes where there’s only space to park one car.
  • A cargo bicycle counting system in Rio de Janeiro, where the use of such bikes to solved the “last mile” problem of delivery in crowded city centers could serve as an international model.
  • Bikenapped, an online anti-theft mapping platform being piloted in Boston.
  • Escuela BiciMujer, an educational program for women in Santiago, Chile, which has already taught hundreds of women to ride bikes in a city where only 3 percent of bike riders are female.
  • Auto-Mobile Beijing, a proposal for bicycle transit centers in China’s capital that would restore bicycle culture in a city where the number of bike has fallen from 11 million to 4 million since the 1990s, as cars, congestion, and pollution have proliferated.

Go take a look at the range of ideas and vote for your own favorites. You may come away thinking that the world is already being changed by bicycles, and definitely for the better.

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