The United Nations-sponsored Rio+20 meetings were reportedly a pretty big letdown. In spite of the huge problems our planet and its inhabitants face, we humans seem unable to move together collectively to implement world-changing goals.
Yet if there ever was an ambition that had the power to make all nations' people happier, healthier, and by extension, more prosperous, it is biking. Besides cutting carbon dioxide and air pollutants, biking is just fun.
That's why Mati Kalwill decided to try to proselytize biking to the whole, wide world. The creator of the Buenos Aires culture and activism group La Vida en Bici (Life on a Bike), Kalwill decided a big dream - bicycles for everyone - required a big goal.
He christened his new group Bikestorming, and its modus operandi is: "a collaboration platform to make bicycles the most popular form of urban transportation on the planet."
Kalwill considers that "most popular" just means that people ride bikes more (51% of the time) than the use other forms of transport.
The idea, launched at Rio+20, isn't easy to implement. Kalwill's main tools are art and culture.
In Buenos Aires, a city without any real bike culture historically, La Vida en Bici works on making it cool to cycle.
And it seems to be working.
As Kalwill told Caitlin Donohue in an interview:
"[Bikes] are on every politician’s radar now. In the last year we’ve seen bicycle policy and infrastructure initiatives emerge in very diverse cities such as Mendoza, Rosario, Posadas, and Córdoba –- as well as growing attention paid to bicycles in Buenos Aires’ transportation policy and infrastructure."
Bike activism, Kalwill says, must be as much about aesthetic as it is about actual infrastructure.
I read a tweet recently from a TED conference saying that “in order to be a successful advocate you need to act as an entertainer.” I think that totally applies to our work. In order to get your message across, today you are competing for people’s attention on an (almost) level playground with huge brands that hire a lot of talent. TV is not the main form of media anymore -- it’s social networks. For the first time in history, our generation has the same chance to connect with people emotionally, with catchy phrases and attractive visuals, as any major brand. This is huge. And we need to make the best of it. So if we are ever going to succeed in changing the game, whether it’s in transportation, climate change, or intergenerational justice, we need to make change irresistible.
Of course, Kalwill must know his goal won't be easy, but his idea that culture is the key to making biking cool (in additional to practical, and fun, which it already is) seems smart.