Cycling for Everyone
Cycling for Everyone

SportUtrecht and DCE at WHO European Healthy Cities Conference

30 November 2023

On November 23rd 2023, The Dutch Cycling Embassy and SportUtrecht presented at the WHO European Healthy Cities Annual Business Meeting and Technical Conference in Utrecht.

The European Healthy Cities Network is a crucial platform for catalyzing change and achieving improved health, well-being, and equitable, sustainable development in cities worldwide. This year’s conference in Utrecht concluded with cities committing to 12 concrete action points for increased sustainability, health, and well-being.

The conference had a red thread of cycling throughout the week as its location was in the heart of Utrecht, home to 420km of bicycle paths and the largest bicycle parking garage in the world. The Municipality of Utrecht has made cycling even more enjoyable and appealing for cyclists as they give priority to the bicycle as a healthy, clean and safe mode of transport. This has created the city to be liveable, attractive, and accessible to everyone.

On the last day of the conference, Annika Peveril (Dutch Cycling Embassy) and Eline Wessels (SportUtrecht) gave a presentation on Cycling for Greater Independence and Safer Schools.

Cycling is a beneficial activity that promotes physical and mental health for people of all ages. However, certain groups in Utrecht, despite the city’s reputation as bike-friendly, face challenges in accessing the advantages of cycling. This includes children in special education who are less likely to experience the benefits of cycling. Despite their eagerness to cycle, obstacles hinder their ability to do so. Special education schools identified a notable increase in car and bus traffic around their premises during peak hours, raising concerns about the negative impact on the school environment. The presence of cars also created safety risks for children, leading more parents to choose car transportation as a perceived safer alternative.

SportUtrecht, commissioned by the municipality of Utrecht, organises cycling lessons at special education schools throughout the city. The aim of the bike lessons is to give children the opportunity to develop their cycling skills, gain independence and encourage more children the take a bicycle to school, thus improving the school commute and environment.

During the presentation, Peveril and Wessels discussed the bicycle’s role as a tool for creating sustainable communities and how cycling lessons contribute to children’s independence and safer school environments. It is essential to ensure cycling accessibility for all individuals, and programs like SportUtrecht’s play a significant role in achieving this goal.

A heartfelt thank you to the European Healthy Cities Network and the organizers for hosting a fantastic conference and emphasizing the significance of bicycles in fostering better, more sustainable cities.

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