21 Sep 2021

Velo-city is the world’s most important conference series, an essential event for anyone who wants to understand the long-term future of the cycling sector. For over 40 years it has acted as a think-tank, sharing space and celebration of cycling successes – in policy, advocacy and innovations, especially in transport and tourism cycling.

So it is no surprise that VC 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal was a complete sell-out, coming together after a two year break to look at the success of cycling now, and plot a path to even greater heights in the future.

It is also no surprise that more and more of the business community is coming to Velo-city to help them get the perfect insight into the markets of the future. As one first-time exhibitor on the CIE pavilion said “This is not like any normal expo that we go to. It is a real learning experience, you come here to find out what is really going to happen.” 

So for those that missed it, here are five take-aways from the CIE team about the hottest topics at Velo-city.


1. “The cycling revolution is on the way, and it’s going to become stronger, I can promise that.”

There is no complacency about the recent growth in cycling at Velo-city, only increasing ambition. And those were not just the words of the advocates, we heard over and again from mayors, city officials and EU leaders. The Portuguese Government and the city of Lisbon were in the lead as hosts, but there were strong visions from policy makers from areas as diverse as Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Slovenia, New Zealand, Mozambique, the World Health Organization, World Tourism Organization, the OECD and the EU.

There appears to be strong confidence in the words of these leaders that making cycling policies is a win-win, because it is politically more supported than ever and the benefits are visible in quality of life, the environment and local economies.

The opening quote – it is from the EU’s Executive Vice-President and leader of the Green Deal Frans Timmermans, who made it very clear where he stands on the subject – a reason why we call him the EU’s cycling champion!


2. “The more diverse we become, the stronger we will be”

The Velo-city conference theme for 2021 was cycling diversity, with extensive discussions about how cycling moves from a limited pastime and sport to a mainstream form of mobility and transport, broadening the base of participation at every level.

Wider diversity sessions included widening the base of cycling, getting people of all backgrounds to cycle, addressing transport poverty and accessibility. This just highlighted that even the current success of cycling doesn’t include all communities and more inclusive policies mean more opportunities for growth.

A highlight was the Women in Cycling Network session where for the first time in the 40-year history of Velo-city, ten women took the stage in a single session. Launched in February 2021, the network aims to help women working in the cycling network gain more visibility, impact and leading seats in the cycling sector. For the full story click here.


3. “The industry of the future”

Portugal is home to one of the most successful bicycle production industries in Europe, so the message from the President of the national industry association ABIMOTA was confident.

However CIE also got a lot of welcome feedback about the increased visibility of the business sector in support of advocacy movements and extensive collaboration with cities. Historically the bike sharing movement grew up alongside Velo-city, using the conference to explain to city leaders the benefits of their sector and once again our members were here in force.

But the step change in the industries was especially noticeable in the digital services sector, providing software, applications, tools and platforms for cities, advocate and other companies to get better riding conditions, smoother traffic flows, management for shared bike fleets and cyclists insights.

This diversity also showed on the CIE Pavilion where we were joined by bike sharing (Nextbike and Donkey Republic), infrastructure innovation (Geveko Markings and COLAS), digital tools and services (Qucit, See.Sense, Bike Citizens) and consultancy (Bikebusinesshub).


4. Innovation with purpose – tools that actually deliver more cycling

CIE’s Chief Executive Kevin Mayne gave a rousing keynote address on Wednesday morning during a plenary on urban innovation. He called on cycling innovators, especially in digital sectors to come together and create a critical mass of companies that maximise the strengths of the sector.

He contrasted it with old-fashioned thinking in Intelligent Transport Systems that attracts a lot of attention and funding but is still trying to make cars more efficient instead of making the huge changes that we need for climate change and decongesting cities.

At the end of the plenary CIE president Tony Grimaldi and the Vice-Mayor of Lisbon Miguel Gaspar presented the Smart Pedal Pitch winners award to Onsee, a UK-based company that aims to maximise cycle safety through a tool, which records dangerous hotspots for analysis. All the Smart Pedal Pitch finalists were presenting tools to improve cyclists’ journeys and create more cyclists, highlighting the points made by Kevin. For the full story click here.

In addition to business innovation there was a first Velo-city session for Mobility as a Service, high visibility for cargo bikes and even sessions on new ways of advocating for cycling post-COVID.


5. “You have done a good job – but keep up the pressure”

Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director of the EU Commission’s Mobility Department gave this strong endorsement to CIE’s work as a new voice for the cycling industries in Brussels during the plenary on economic development of cycling. However he also made it clear that CIE and our partners like the European Cyclists’ Federation had to keep up pressure on the Commission, the EU Parliament and national governments to keep cycling at a high level in new policies.

That felt like a summary of our whole Velo-city experience. The CIE team appreciated the really positive feedback we got, not only for our lobby work during the COVID pandemic, but the appreciation of the work of our expert groups that are providing new insights and support for the whole cycling movement in areas like market intelligence, connected cycling and cargo bikes.

And then we listened to everyone’s enthusiasm, ambition and energy to do more. Our bike sharing experts had their first face-to-face meeting since 2019, looking for ways for the industry to go faster and further. Other companies and sectors are looking for bold progress on standards, innovation and technologies.

There is no doubt that the whole CIE team came away from Velo-city energized by your passion for cycling and the potential for cycling businesses to be a force for good in the world as well as a great business opportunity.

Thank you – and see you next year!

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