Is the grassroots in attendance?
Certainly, representatives of cycling organizations were able to attend and present. But pre-conference publicity spoke of over 1,000 expected delegates -- the reality is about 200 less, or a bit over 800.
So can these people afford going to Velo-city?
The "Global" in Velo-city Global is somewhat of an exaggeration. At least for now. This is important to consider as ECF director Bernard Ensink has alluded to making the ECF a global organization.
This means that Brussels is not necessarily the most logical spot for an HQ (could be Geneva, NYC - main office of UNEP and UNDP, respectively - or even Beijing for that matter. Or what about South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa?).
ECF's board is from the EU10 countries (aside from two members) -- and this reminds me that the various committees for Vancouver had no representation from the Global South.
Add to that the lack of intent for electronic distribution and an unwillingness of staff to respond to difficult issues, and I think we have an organization that is simply not mature enough to expand beyond the EU. If there are big changes in how the Velo-city Global is organized in Adelaide it will make a big difference (I am thinking of very concrete representation and participation from East Asia).
It is also not clear if a global organization for (mostly) urban cycling is really needed. Participation in such an entity requires financial resources that are simply beyond the reach of normal people who ride bikes... and their leaders. ECF seems to want to play with the big boys and girls, but that runs contrary to the philosophy of many people who are interested in a more modest lifestyle than leaders in other industries (for example the automobile industry). There is really no reason to hold the conference in a five-star venue, or to cater with excess.
This does not mean that expenses should be reduced, only that money is spent more logically. I would bet that many would be happy in a less fancy location if it could mean that there would be high-quality livestream, or just lower prices in general. Many, smaller regional events are in order -- this was suggested by the expert from Colombia.
Separate from the ECF Forum discussion, I wrote to both ECF and Velo-city Vancouver management and suggested some kind of sliding scale based on GDP of origin country, organizational budget and travel expense. Let's hope that idea sinks in, and see what comes out of it.
One last comment on helmets (please see my last blog entry):
Velo-city delegates who received a bicycle for use during the week had to sign a form which read:
'I hereby agree that cycling is inherently a highly dangerous activity, (...) potentially leading to heavy injury or even death'
This can be easily dismissed as a symptom of Canada/USA excessive lawyering, but the lawyers themselves feed into and thrive on the cult of cycling fear in these countries. This keeps modal share low, and helmets popular.
It is easy for me to say it now (not in Vancouver, and after the fact) but would have not accepted the bike if I had to sign a statement like that. Hopefully in the future - e.g. if the helmet law is not overturned in Adelaide by the time of Velo-city Global, though this in part a separate issue - delegates make the same choice if confronted with this situation.
The Free Design - a song by Stereolab
tell us to and not to
demanding more veto
our earthly design
can we be so detached
what crushes our desire
not to be trapped?