My name is Ana Pereira. I’m a social entrepreneur promoting cycling as a transformative tool for people, companies and cities. I’ve been working in promoting, defending and enabling cycling for transportation and leisure, both professionally and in volunteering roles for the last 13 years. There’s so much to improve on this world, and it’s easy to feel discouraged at all the things we can’t solve, and to feel guilty for not tackling all the world’s really serious problems. I decided to focus on the sustainability and liveability of cites, because it impacts so many aspects of our individual and collective lives, and to do it through the bicycle, as this is an amazingly effective and efficient tool that goes beyond transportation.
How would you describe your mission?
My mission is to reduce the barriers to cycling and to build a strong community that can cooperate and fight for a better city to live and work in, one where a car is not generally needed or even wanted as an everyday tool, and where people can lead physically and socially active lives. I work towards a vision of a lush green city where the streets are full of autonomous children (not so much of autonomous cars) free to walk to their friends houses or whatever they want, unaccompanied by adults. A city where streets do not equate to danger for anyone.
What are the obstacles and challenges you’re facing in your city?
Even middle class local people can’t afford to live in the city, there’s a shortage of housing options in general, and of options accessible to local normal wages. This lead people to look for homes in the suburbs over the last decades. Now many want to come back, but prices and availability make it impossible for many. This housing issue creates transportation and liveability problems in the city, and makes life expensive and everyday tasks very time consuming for everybody. This impacts people’s willingness to engage in civic work, and makes progress slower, and more difficult. And makes it more difficult to tackle the car’s predominance in the city space, politics and finances.
Along with the issues related to housing (which include lack of safe parking for bikes, of course) we have a cultural and market deficit regarding cycling for transportation, which makes adoption of bicycles as utility tools for everyday mobility slow and difficult.
What are your next steps now that you are the Bicycle Mayor?
I’m going to focus on setting up projects and initiatives that address my 3 major goals:
1) Bringing people together to have fun, to learn from each other, and to do/build stuff together.
2) Reducing the cultural, financial and logistical barriers to bicycle use.
3) Crowdsource data gathering to support cycling policy.
What can other cities learn from your city?
We can share our experience with grassroots advocacy and with luckily having some motivated people on the inside of the city council, and the small wins we’ve had collectively over the years, improving intermodality conditions in public transportation, improving the Highway Code, increasing ridership with bikesharing, improving bicycle accessibility with reserved corridors, increasing cycling’s accessibility, etc. And also, we’re a good case study to the effects of media, the financial crisis, and other factors in increasing ridership in a city where nobody cycled for transport.