How different the perceptions can be: From the ´Heimat´ I hear what a disaster Rio plus 20 is, here most people I talk to think it is a great success. My thoughts you do know. already, more below:
Yesterday I started with a small experiment. I went to the booths of the automotive companies, asking about the role of bicycles in their future mobility visions. Hihi… The personell at the booth can do nothing but explain, in bad English or equally bad Spanish, the exhibits, mostly engines claiming to use less fuel and thus be sustainable. A noteable exception was BMW: I was treated in a very friendly and competent manner and connected to the head of communications, we had some interesting talks to be followed up.
Then there was THE bicycle meeting in the athletes´ park arena. Cornie Huizenga from SLoCaT, a network of networks for sustainable transport, has been reporting about his work behind the scenes to get sustainable transport, and then bicycle mobility, into the wording of the final outcome document from Rio. Sustainable transport was not in, but with the help of the G77 and the US it got in. Bicycling also got in, but Cornie was not sure if it would stay in yet. As you can imagine, I was quite immersed in thinking: Sounds like a great success to have cycling in the outcome document. But what exactly does that mean? Does that create any impact? Or is that one of the diplomatic formalities that are just a big waste of time, for the sake of nurturing bureaucrats? And how do these documents come about, if you need, of all countries, US help in April do put sustainable transport into the outcome document of a conference taking place at the end of June? I would want to know, as a researcher this time. Becoming part of the process would likely drive me crazy. At least I talked with Cornie about the possibility that we will beome part of the SLoCaT network; it will need some follow-up, but we have a good likelihood to become partner, and this would make sense, as far as I can judge now.
The big star of this meeting was Mr. Arrogant himself, Roelof Wittink, head of the Dutch Cycling Embassy. After many futile attempts to catch him, on behalf of ECF and the Rio organizers, we finally managed to talk for a few minutes. Not well spent minutes, because, no, a collaboration with us is not interesting; yes, they are looking for international contacts, but he would only talk about this with Manfred or Bernhard from ECF, not with unimportant Fozzy; and if anybody should report from Rio at the Velo City conference it should be somebody from the Dutch Cycling Embassy. Wow. The Dutch Cycling Embassy is a public-private partnership helping to promote cycling world-wide: They showcased their work in Rio with helping the installation of a public bike system, improvement of infrastructure, and suggetions for job relocation. It is all about business and politics, not about lifestyles and mobility interests. More important than details of their involvement were, however, formalities in the handing over of a final document to a city representative, words of thanks from some governour … a big show that may impress those who like big shows.
I urgently needed something more practical and went to look for really interested partners. The director of environment from the respective Ministry in Benin was very interested to embark on some practical collaboration, complementing our recent friendship with the prince from Benin at our farewell party. In the Emirates, at Masdar Institute there are no more cars but automated people movers and bicycles as the only means of transport (save shoes); a follow-up to use this showcase was promised. The Wuppertal Institute has been launching a global network of innovation and entrepreneurship for sustainability, in which we have discussed, and will continue to discuss, ways for collaboration (I spare you my comments that I think we at the same time need a new way to look at business to make this work out for sustainability). And the German Embassador invited us to showcase some developments in the ´Germany in Brazil´ year in 2013. Lots of opportunities to create impact. I was about to forget Roelof, already…
This is my last report from Rio. For the sake of my own mental and emotional sustainability I will take a few hours off; my plane to Frankfurt will be leaving this evening. There supposedly Alfred has organized some surprises regarding the ride… you will read about this afterwards. And I also will send at least one report from the Velo City in Vancouver.
Off for a Caipi!