Children as “indicator species,” children as “cargo,” children as “future citizens” and the human rights of child cyclists led the agenda for the last day of Velo-city Global 2012 here in Vancouver.
Velo-city organizers were not simply satisfied with offering a venue for the exchange of best practices on cycling advocacy and facility design, and a venue for passing the torch to the next host city.
The last day was the showcase for the Charter of Vancouver on Children and Cycling, a petition hosted by the European Cyclists' Federation, that is being placed before the global community to be placed on the agenda of the United Nations and similar global bodies.
The charter urges that cycling be included in all discussions about sustainable transportation, particularly with an aim to improving the situation of the world’s children. As well, the Vancouver charter asks that all relevant agencies seek to develop and promote policies and strategies that encourage walking and cycling to school; develop and provide cycling skills and training; and to promote mobility for all ages and abilities.
The cyclists federation sees many of its suggestions as being a perfect fit with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, particularly as regards common standards of living and opportunities for education and development. Essentially, the ECF is calling on the UN to consider cycling as a human right for children.
The cyclists' federation makes a pretty compelling case for bringing children into the equation.
President Manfred Neun led off the presentations, noting a quote from former Bogota mayor Enrique Penalosa that “Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
Neun spoke of childhood cycling as a rite of passage, of a way of connecting with community and making streets safer. He commented critically on the tendency to the “mom taxi” that treats children like something “to be delivered in a container.”
The world is longing for sustainable solutions that good for all levels of income and all ages, he said. “Let them cycle, give them a shared space.”
Paul Tranter, geography professor at the University of New South Wales, argued that children should be considered citizens, not “future citizens.” And as citizens, they have the right to be consulted about the process that creates their community, essentially the participation right that is one of the UN’s charter rights.
Tranter noted that child protection, or child safety, is often “about being placed in a car,” when cycling can expose a child to low-stakes risk that makes the child safer as he/she gets older.
He also won laughs from the crowd by noting that “a lot of parents drive their children to school to protect them from the traffic situations caused by other parents who drive their kids to school.”
Although the petition is targeting agencies, stakeholders and corporations, anyone can sign the petition. It is online here at the ECF website. Institutions can support by filling out the relevant fields. Individuals can support via Facebook or Twitter.