BYCS is an Amsterdam based non-profit social enterprise driven by the belief that ‘BICYCLES TRANSFORM CITIES AND CITIES TRANSFORM THE WORLD’ spearheaded by Maud De Vries.
BYCS operates internationally, collaborates and works with governments, businesses and NGO’s to give greater Impetus to Cycling.
BYCS vision is in unison with the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) adopted by United Nations which aims at creating a better future for the people and the planet.
Maud De Vries is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of BYCS and I got into a chat with the social entrepreneur to learn more about BYCS and its global vision.
Tell us about the ambitious mission: ’50by30′ set by BYCS?
50by30 is our mission to get half of all city trips on a bike by 2030. We believe that our mission unlocks massive social, environmental and economic gains for cities. Increasing cycling does not only provide clean, accessible mobility solutions, but we also see that it ensures better mental and physical health, promotes community strength, protects the environment and supports a sustainable economy. We see that cycling is more than mere transportation. It is transformation.
Hence why we always ask ourselves the question:
“Where Can The Bicycle Take Us”?
Many geographies, multi-cultural societies, complex web of policies and infrastructure challenges. With its huge spread, how does BYCS manage to get everyone under one umbrella to work for its mission?
We recognize that not one city is the same. Every city is unique. That is why we believe that applying an ‘Amsterdam-based’ model to the rest of the world is not effective and, will not generate a desired outcome. Our approach is therefore more diverse. By introducing our Bicycle Mayor Leadership Program, people from different cities across the world are chosen to become bicycle catalysts. We make no exceptions and aim to be as inclusive as possible. We believe that every city can benefit from having a catalyst representing cycling progress to unlock this potential.
Our so called ‘Bicycle Mayors’ are the human face and voice of cycling in a city. By connecting these changemakers across a global network – creating greater visibility, sharing ideas, challenges and solutions – everyone is working together towards the shared mission to get more people cycling. We strongly believe in a decentralized network – and just started BYCS India on that note with three amazing ladies running it from Bangalore.
The Bicycle Mayor Leadership Program has appointed over 100 catalytic agents so far under its global network. What are the key achievements made by them which you are proud of?
There is not one key achievement in particular. I think all of the Bicycle Mayor’s achievements are incredible. The simple fact that we now have such an impactful and ever-growing network of bicycle changemakers, each individual putting so much effort into the means of our mission, already says enough.
At BYCS we are incredibly proud to be working together with such a diverse global network of Mayors, every individual bringing new ideas to the table every day. All of them are hard workers that put blood, sweat and tears into making their city (and: cities in general) a safer, healthier and altogether, a better place to live. And the bicycle helps them to reach that goal. I think that’s what makes me most proud.
Bicycle Architecture Biennale (BAB) influences and facilitates in creation of outstanding cycling infrastructure. With two years of its inspiring run and 11 shortlisted projects, what kind of response BAB has been able to generate amongst its participating members?
Most people who want to showcase our BAB projects are often in awe of what bicycle infrastructure and design can change in a city. It has seen to inspire people coming to the showcase to imagine new possibilities for human-centric cities. It also shows that cities that put cycling at the heart of urban design unlock massive social, economic and environmental gains.
The BAB is a relatively simple yet inspiring platform that really shows how cities can improve when it comes to cycling infrastructure. And the responses have always been very positive, see e.g. the guardian article Build it and they will bike: the Bicycle Architecture Biennale . Cities now start asking the architects and companies in the Biennale to help them build their city around cycling.
A delegation from BYCS visited Bangalore in November this year to attend the 1st Bicycle Mayor Summit hosted by India. What were your observations and how would you rate the progress made by the city cycling mayors?
It was a very energetic and inspiring summit, where we all learned a lot. What happened afterwards was the start of BYCS India and many Bicycle Mayors started to find a Junior Bicycle Mayor and look for collaborations, with other Bicycle Mayors, with the government and with new partners like ITDP and Bernard van Leer Foundation, e.g.
How much emphasis does BYCS earmarks on implementation of new technologies and the role of data in-order to accelerate progress of cycling and measure the impact more intelligently?
We are currently working on growing our Impact Index so it becomes more data-ridden and, overall a more reliable tool for people to use, regardless of the city they live in. Now we use open-source geographical, socio-economic and mobility data to succinctly identify and visually represent enormous opportunity spaces that cities can uncover through targeted investment in cycling. But we want to simplify it a bit more; to digitize it so that cities all over the world can utilize the tool and ensure that they can learn from one another and understand where they stand in relation to other cities struggling with similar challenges.
With the advent of digital and social media, we have seen an exponential rise in creative and innovative content being produced around cycling: documentary films, podcasts, vlogs, blogs, cycle logs, cycling photography and some in the humour space. How do you engage with the social media influencers?
Social media plays an important role in marketing cycling worldwide. We see a lot of content on social media every day. And every day new content is being shared. On Twitter we try to be more interactive with this content, and complement others on what they share. But most importantly we try to stay on top of things when it comes to the things that our Bicycle Mayors achieve ‘in the real world’. We always find it inspiring to read or see what they do to grow cycling in their community; we share what they share and try to always endorse their efforts.
We also have partnered up with multiple curators of for example, cycling documentaries i.e. Why We Cycle, and read a lot of cycling blogs. We try to be as supportive and interactive with online content as possible. In general, I would say that it’s always good to acknowledge what’s out there, and recognize the efforts of others.
With the increased decibel levels on Climate Crisis heard and seen in the global forums, the role of BYCS becomes even more significant in prompting the behavioral shift. How are you using this opportunity?
We very strongly believe that now, more than ever, is the time to reintroduce cycling to our cities and get more people aware of its environmental benefits. The climate crisis is happening now; a very real and pressing matter that we can no longer ignore. We have always believed that cycling is transformation.
A transformation that our cities need in order to become healthier, happier and saver altogether. We don’t necessarily “use” the issue of ‘climate crisis’ to boost our mission and vision. We rather touch upon it to make the transition to sustainable forms of transport more pressing and urgent. We emphasize the importance of cycling even more so, and hope to inspire an even wider public by keeping on doing what we do: making 50by30 not a dream, but a reality!
What will be the focus for BYCS in the next 2 to 3 years?
We want to make better use of all the global data, build a very strong decentralized network globally and work with partners to create more impact. I really look forward to this new decade.
In what ways can a company or an individual get involved with BYCS and make a win-win partnership?
In many ways! If you head over to our partnership page you can find how you can get involved either as an individual or as a company (work with us).
An individual can become a Bicycle Mayor, while an organization might be interested in adopting our BYCS To Work program. We created a strong ecosystem, head over to our website: bycs.org or contact us if you want to know how you can help or what you can do with our expertise.
Download the BYCS Social Impact Report: Social Impact Report 2018
Cover image and other photographs by BYCS
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai