Carte blanche: There are real barriers to everyday biking, but solutions can be found, says Kasia Krzyzanowski.
When I arrived in Luxembourg from Toronto, where cycling is the norm, one of the first things I did was get a Vel’oh subscription and start getting to know the city by bike. Even though it felt completely natural for me to cycle everywhere, I soon learned that I was something of an anomaly in Luxembourg.
I tried encouraging my colleagues and friends to take their bike to work, but only got replies such as “I’ll get sweaty,” “It rains too much,” “I’m out of shape,” and “It’s too scary to ride on the road.” Although many people might ride to the park with their kids on the weekend, no one I spoke to would seriously consider using a bike as their primary form of transportation.
In 2013, I created the non-profit Cycle Luxembourg together with two local cyclists in an attempt to change this mentality by organising events and workshops to promote everyday urban cycling. Commuting by bike is fun, convenient, healthy and much more relaxing than being stuck in a traffic jam for an hour!
But even though I personally feel comfortable riding on the road and don’t mind getting a bit wet from the rain, I know that the excuses I received are real barriers stopping many people from cycling and that they need to be addressed before I can convince them to give it a try. Some can be solved through clothing, some through training or awareness, but the most effective solution to get people on bikes would be safe, easy-to-use cycling infrastructure throughout the capital.
When I heard about CycleHack I immediately felt that it would be a great opportunity to tackle many barriers at once in a way that gets the public involved, so I signed up as a local organiser the same day. A ‘hackathon’ for cycling, the movement started in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2014 and has now spread to over 35 cities. Taking place simultaneously around the world over the same weekend, participants work in teams to create ‘hacks,’ or solutions, to identified barriers.
The focus is on creating real prototypes, not just debating ideas, so the event could result in innovative products, public awareness campaigns, detailed infrastructure plans, or even a new route planning app.
Everyone is welcome to participate, whether they’re a regular cyclist or drive everywhere. Friday evening will feature a series of local and international speakers sharing their experiences and end with a public brainstorming session, where everyone can contribute the barriers to cycling they see. Participants will then work on solutions to these barriers on Saturday and Sunday, and present their final prototypes in front of the jury and the public on Sunday evening, with the chance to win great prizes.