Prescott College students attend Velo-City 2011

Charter of Seville offers cycling as the solution to transport problems

At the conclusion of the Velo-City 2011 Conference, which was held last month in Seville, Spain, the “Charter of Seville,” was put forth to persuade those Ministers of Transport who will attend the International Transport Forum (ITF) in Leipzig on 25-27 May that cycling is a viable means of transport.

The charter offers highlights and conclusions from the 17th international conference on cycling policies, or Velo-City, as it’s better known.

For Americans attending from Prescott University in Arizona, the “Charter of Seville,” and the message of the conference will hopefully land much closer to home. The American group’s organizer — Sue Knaup, who serves both as the executive director of a bicycle advocacy non-profit, called One Street, and a Prescott College professor — noted that the Prescott and Seville are not all that dissimilar. “Both are inland historic tourist destinations with universities and surrounded by rural areas, so I recognized the diverse population,” said Knaup.

While Knaup told BikeRadarthat Arizona, notably Phoenix and the surrounding cities, have become more “cycling friendly,” she still thinks that there is a lot that still can be done.

“Phoenix and neighboring cities have a lot of work to do to become bicycle-friendly because of poor land-use and transportation decisions from decades before,” she said. “But their efforts are truly heroic and they have come a long way with their installation of bikeways.”

There is also hope that the students may have learned something about the fine art of diplomacy, as the Prescott City Council has been seen by locals as being “blatantly anti-bike,” for almost the past decade.

“Sometimes they have held a simple majority, other times nearly the whole council,” said Knaup.” Either way, the result has been the same. They have halted every inch of proposed bikeways. These council members shun any models from Europe saying, ‘We aren’t in Europe. This is Prescott.’”

Knaup says that have shunned any models from closer afield, such as Phoenix. She says, the city council’s rallying cry has been, “We aren’t in Phoenix. This is Prescott.” However, the so-called “new blood” that is coming in, as well as Prescott citizens who are demanding safer streets for bicycling could result in change.

“The great bicycling models from Amsterdam, Seville and Phoenix will play important roles in the near future,” she said. “The students from my Prescott College course The Bicycle: Vehicle for Social Change are learning how to make such changes even in hostile environments. This trip and their presentation are only pieces of the larger campaign we are developing through the course to bring bicycle improvements to Prescott.”

So while it still has a long way to go to become Amsterdam, Seville or even Phoenix, the thinking from the cycling community is that everyone is finally in the right gear to get there.

“I sense the tide may be turning,” said Knaup. “For One Street, this means the development of a replicable model for turning communities from hostile towards bicyclists to honoring bicyclists.”

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