The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), in collaboration with Destination Fyn, hosted the third edition of the UCI Mobility and Bike City Forum in Odense (Denmark) last week. Experts discussed the key dual roles and responsibilities of cycling – as both a sport and mode of transport – within the wider active mobility agenda.

Cycling leaders, advocates, mobility experts, industry representatives and policy makers were among some 100 participants who gathered in Odense, on the island of Fyn (Denmark), for the Forum. The UCI has organised this event each year since 2018 – with the exception of 2020 due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Present in Odense, the UCI President David Lappartient outlined the role of the bicycle in modern society: “Cycling has provided solutions to challenges such as climate change, public health, traffic congestion and air pollution,” he said. “The UCI is committed to making cycling one of the world’s most sustainable sports.”

The UCI President commended the participants for their commitment, via the bicycle, to a brighter, healthier and greener future, and encouraged them to establish strong connections to continue sharing and developing new ideas and initiatives.

David Lappartient also awarded trophies to representatives of the cities and regions that joined the UCI Bike City network in 2021: Fayetteville (USA), Sakarya (Turkey), Val di Sole (Italy), Wollongong (Australia) and Flanders (Belgium). The network now counts 19 cities and regions, including the island of Fyn (since 2017).

The UCI Mobility and Bike City Forum’s opening keynote speech was given by former professional cyclist Chris Boardman, who described his personal journey in the world of cycling advocacy which, for the past 20 years, has seen him take on key roles such as Policy Advisor to British Cycling, and Cycling and Walking Commissioner – and now Transport Manager – for Greater Manchester. In this role he has played a part in creating safe spaces for people to walk and cycle.

Different panels held throughout the day dealt with topics such as sport tourism, urban planning, climate change and inclusive cycling promotion. These panels were addressed by 14 speakers, all experts in their domain, including representatives of National Federations, event organisers, international advocacy organisations, tourism boards, public authorities, and Non-Governmental Organisations.

Participants received key insights into means to strengthen the positive impact of cycling as both a sport and mode of transport, including: embedding sustainable tourism, social impact and job growth into event planning; the wider human dimension of infrastructure design; tips to reduce barriers to entry into cycling and make cycling accessible to all; the importance of partnerships, communities and cross-sectoral collaborations to enhance engagement and success; the intricacies of infrastructure planning within the Global South; recommendations for the cycling family to effectively affect global transport policy; and how to use cycling as a transformational tool for happier, healthier and human cities, among many others.

Professional cyclist and reigning UCI World Champion for cycling esports Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) addressed the Forum in a closing keynote address: “To create a more sustainable and inclusive culture in cycling, we need to remove barriers to entry for people from other continents,” she said. Ashleigh highlighted the key role professional athletes have in inspiring the next generations to adopt active lifestyles, highlighting the importance of purpose, collaboration, community, progress and fun.

The morning following the Forum, participants benefitted from three different bike tours of Odense’s cycling infrastructures, with representatives of the UCI’s Bike Cities and Regions staying on in the afternoon for a knowledge sharing and sustainability workshop. The Danish city, has firmly placed the bike at the heart of urban transformation, and shared this vision during the site visits.

At the end of the two-day event, UCI Advocacy and Development Manager Isabella Burczak, who had presented on the UCI’s Sustainability Guidelines and Targets during a panel on sustainability and climate change, said: “The UCI was delighted to once again offer an engaging and interactive platform to a wide community of cycling advocates from different corners of the globe. Our expert speakers inspired the room with practical recommendations and impactful examples of projects, pathways and strategies to grow cycling in the most inclusive manner. The additional opportunity to experience Danish expertise in infrastructure planning – whilst on bikes ourselves – truly enhanced the experience for all participants.”