It takes a combination of citizen support and top-down vision to create meaningful change in a city. While public focus is usually on what city leaders can achieve from behind their desks, it’s often what they do in the street that makes an even stronger statement.
With more cities than ever before implementing bike-share systems and expanding cycling infrastructure, we had to ask ourselves: are our leaders practicing what they preach on sustainable urban mobility?
As it turns out, many of them are. In honor of those leaders who are walking the talk, we now present five mayors (and former mayors) who bike and what they’ve done to make their cities more bike-friendly.
Fernando Haddad: São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad took office in 2013 riding a campaign promise to reduce traffic congestion and help paulistas move better around their city. This is vital, as time and productivity lost due to congestion take a major toll on both quality of life and the local economy in São Paulo. In his first year as mayor, Haddad has come good on his promise, setting the lofty goal to add 400 km (259 miles) of bike lanes by the end of 2015 and embedding people-oriented mobility in the city’s new master plan. These efforts even helped São Paulo win the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award and the 2014 City/State MobiPrize in recognition of its innovation and vision in sustainable urban mobility.
But Haddad doesn’t just use sustainable mobility as political rhetoric; he lives it. He’s been regularly photographed around town riding in the very bike lanes he championed. In October 2014, he even took Gary Fisher – credited as the inventor of the modern mountain bike – for a jaunt around São Paulo’s downtown.
David Miller: Toronto, Canada
Former Toronto Mayor David Miller is no stranger to helping cities become more sustainable. Miller not only expanded Toronto’s network of bike lanes and supported the establishment of the Toronto Cyclists’ Union, he did so while chairing the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. In this role, he helped cities worldwide implement a range of measures to cut greenhouse emissions, including expanding sustainable mobility measures.
While Miller left office and his role as C40 Chair in 2010 (he’s seen in the video above at the 2009 UN Climate Summit), he’s continued to advocate for sustainable urban communities. In the last year, he’s written in support of the People’s Climate March, on the role of cities in the New Climate Economy, and on pressing urban water issues.
Marcelo Ebrard: Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City has one of the longest running weekly car-free events – Muévete en bici – and one of the most vibrant public bike-share systems – ECOBICI – in all of Latin America. Much of this is thanks to former mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who held office from 2006 to 2012 and oversaw a major expansion of the ECOBICI program as well as the cycling infrastructure supporting it. Picking up where Ebrard left off, current mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera also enacted a new mobility law in 2014 prioritising pedestrians and cyclists over private vehicles.
In the photo above, Ebrard joins a regular organized ride through the heart of Mexico City – on ECOBICI bikes, of course – designed to increase visibility for cycling culture in Mexico.
Ana Botella: Madrid, Spain
In many cities, women are underrepresented in urban cycling, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Madrid mayor Ana Botella. Last year, Botella helped her city implement a public bike-share system, the first in the world that uses a fleet of e-bikes to help riders navigate Madrid’s hilly terrain. When skeptics called into question the safety of the e-bikes, which use small electric motors to give cyclists an extra boost, Botella hopped on a bike herself and rode around the city.
Earlier this year, Botella took her sustainable mobility efforts one step further, announcing plans to ban cars from central Madrid in efforts to curb traffic congestion and improve air quality.
Boris Johnson: London, United Kingdom and Joko Widodo: Jakarta, Indonesia
What could possibly be better than one cycling mayor? Two cycling mayors! The photo above shows London’s Boris Johnson and Jakarta’s Joko Widodo – now president of Indonesia – on a ride through central Jakarta last year.
While Johnson’s reputation as a bike advocate is perhaps more established, Widodo’s track record is equally impressive. After identifying traffic congestion as one of the key issues facing Jakarta, he led by example, making every Friday his own personal bike-to-work day. The ritual has become closely watched by press and everyday onlookers, something Widodo has said he hopes will bring visibility to cycling in Jakarta and encourage commuters to leave their cars at home.
This feature originally appeared in TheCityFix.