Velo-city, Ljubljana June 13th-17th
“If we get more men, women and children on mountain bikes, they will start to choose the bike for exploring and experiencing the world”. – Thomas Larsen Schmidt, IMBA Europe President.
For one of the first times since the inauguration of the Velo-city conference, mountain biking managed to steal the spotlight. Thomas Larsen Schmidt, the president of IMBA Europe had the pleasure and honour of representing mountain biking in Europe during a panel discussion on “The Growing Economic Benefits of Cycling Tourism”. Joined by likes of high-level speaker Alessandra Priante, Director Europe, United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the panel explored why cycling tourism can be one of the solutions in making a greener transition to a decarbonised future for the tourism sector. Mountain biking tourism is not without its challenges when we think about decarbonisation of our sector. Often, mountain bikers tend to use their car to drive to destinations when trails close to home are simply not available. To make the ‘greener’ transition, we need decision makers to invest in (among other things) better public transportation options for people transporting bikes, not only locally, but throughout Europe.
While Velo-city is primarily about urban planning and traffic, there’s an increasing understanding that investments in infrastructure must be fortified with efforts to improve the cycling culture to create true cycling cities. The mountain biking community can contribute with efforts targeting kids and more trails close to home, among other efforts. The inspiring stories and the successes told by other cycling advocacy groups is something we can learn from. Building alliances with these traditional cycling advocacy groups can be mutually beneficial. For example, tourism and cycling organisations from unestablished mountain bike destinations such as Malta and Turkey showed an interest in developing mountain biking within their tourism models. Overall, the presence of IMBA Europe at Velo-city was a big win for mountain biking, exposing our organisation to the broader cycling advocacy community and sharing our common goals of getting more people on bikes.