Interview with the World Cycling Alliance steering board member Klaus Bondam: Active transport has enormous potential
Klaus Bondam is a cycling advocate who is making his mark on the active transport sector both in his home country, Denmark, and internationally. He is the Director of the Danish Cyclists' Federation and has now been appointed to the steering board of the World Cycling Alliance - an initiative of ISCA and NowWeMOVE partner the European Cyclists' Federation. With the start of the Journey of Hope cross-border cycling tour unfolding on the Danish Cyclists' Federation's doorstep, we took the opportunity to ask Klaus why he believes cycling is such an important mode of transport, how he believes Danes can improve their cycling etiquette and what the World Cycling Alliance's ambitions are going forward.
Why do you see an event like the Journey of Hope as being important and what are the messages you see coming out of it?
Klaus Bondam: I think every event that moves around, active mobility, is very, very important because it is one of the challenges in our society is facing these years: How do we, as human beings, become more active in a time where more and more of us are sitting down at computers. That activity can be recreational cycling, going on longer trips as we see here. We are very strong at here in Copenhagen and Denmark, where you have a lot of everyday cyclists, people who go to work every day by bicycle, kids who go to school on the bicycle, parents who cycle together in the city. So I do hope that events like this create both national knowledge that we are actually quite good at this in Denmark, and we do have an expertise that other countries can benefit from, and hopefully other events where other countries get inspire by what we’re doing in Denmark. Now of course, this is also an EU-funded project, so we, the Danish Cyclists’ Federation and also the European Cyclists’ Federation – where we are founding members and also in the World Cycling Alliance, where I’m on the steering group – we are very happy that politically it seems that there is a rising understanding of the contributions that cycling can make.
You talk about how Denmark can inspire other nations, but what could Denmark learn from other nations like this when they come on this sort of international tour? Are there things that Denmark can still learn?
Klaus Bondam: Yes, of course, because we do in Denmark have some issues with behaviour on the bicycle path – people not paying enough attention to each other – and I think that is one thing we can learn from the rest of the world, and basically being a bit more observant of other people and saying “excuse me” and “please” a little more. That’s something we’re not very good at in Denmark.
You mentioned the World Cycling Alliance, what are the ambitions for the alliance and what sort of work have you already been doing?
Klaus Bondam: Like the European Cyclists’ Federation it’s a political organisation, so it’s about lobbying policy makers and decision takers to implement cycling as a part of our daily life. And especially at a time when we see, at least in Europe, the number of cars going up and up and up, we do face some big challenges with CO2 emissions, public health and all these kinds of things. But I think probably the most interesting work of the World Cycling Alliance is basically linking the benefits you can have from cycling to the fulfilment of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, because we actually do see that cycling can contribute to 11 out of the 17 SDGs. For example creating resilient cities, helping to reduce poverty by creating affordable modes of transportation, such as peasants going from the countryside into the city selling their things, delivering services, and all these kinds of things.
And the Danish Cyclists' Federation has also run its own campaign in May, the Bike to Work campaign. How did that go? How was the response?
Klaus Bondam: We’ve done that for years in Denmark, since 1997, I think. So it’s an old lady. It’s going well. I’d say it’s a very integrated part of office life in Denmark. A lot of offices participate in that campaign. The good thing about it is that it does create new cyclists every year. We know that from service people, who are not used to cycling who actually start cycling.
So there can be more people cycling, even in a cycle-friendly country?
Klaus Bondam: Yeah, yeah. But I mean, for example, in Denmark 30% of all car rides are 5 kilometres or less. So there’s still enormous potential to use.
And do you have a message for the Journey of Hope team?
Klaus Bondam: I think the message is look after yourselves and look after your co-cyclists and please do spread the good and happy message of cycling because for me, honestly, it is really hard to find anything bad about cycling. The good thing about cycling is also that it’s basically for everybody. It’s for young people, old people, small people, tall people, big people, skinny people. For myself, I’m not a good runner because it makes my knees hurt. But when I’m on the bicycle, whoa – I can do it!
Interview by Rachel Payne, photo by Maria Lourdes Gonzalez