I was in summer 2020 at the reels of a quite unorthodox way of creating of a region wide bike network basd on the nodes. Unorthodox, in the way it was a complete grassroots initiative, with zero budget, and that with sufficient volunteers and support from an active biking community, managed to convince the Brusels region to take over the network, make it official and create the needed signages and management.
My role in this project is the one of facilitator (bringing citizens together) ecosystem actor (discussing with the different stakeholders and policy responsibles), communicator (keeping the different communication channels in sync and up to date), and manager (keeping the network alive, looking for funding,...)
In this article I would like to focus on 3 moments of the facilitation.
This to understand that in your city or region, you could also make use of grassroots intelligence to build a supportive base for a biking network.
- summer 2020: facilitation of the creation of the network and of the physical checking of it; this phase happened completely remote with no physical meetings, except the press conference ( 40 volunteers)
- spring 2021: activiation of the network for a crowdfunding campaign (60 crowdfunders)
- summer 2021: update and verifiying the bike network with volunteers and new release
- autumn 2022: the Brussels Region finished installing the physical signage and asked for support in a volunteer verification. I brought in the expertise and methodology to make involvment a success, with over 45 participants verifying the 250 km of the network in November 2022. And it was finised in november with a great get toghether organised by vsit.brussels, here i met in person for the first time a lot of the volunteers.
With the feedback of the actual bike users, this way of work has had a tremendous advantage:
- there is a soul in the network; and that is felt by the bike users who are keen on discovering hidden gems
- there was no administrative boundary or infighting between administrations at the start; afterwards the administration have facilitated the roll-out and have worked together to adapt some problematic points in the network (eg areas in parks with potential pedestrian/bike conflicts) or suggetions (eg the Magritte museum in Jette that is worth a little detour)
-the tremendous support and slight pressure of a biking community has made that administrative plans and priorities have moved forward
- a true partnership with public sector at large and a great impact now and in the coming years for a transition to slow tourism.