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    May 18, 2020 | 8:30 AM

    Two Wheels and a Big Idea: Young People Are Shaping the Climate Fight

    Climate Realty partners with the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community to train, empower, and equip young people to fight climate change in communities across continents.

    As part of that partnership, and thanks to the generous support of Climate Reality Board Member Rosamund Zander, five $10,000 grants were awarded to five different Global Shaper hubs around the world for innovative projects focused on mitigating or adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis.

    The projects were chosen based on their demonstrable impact on fighting climate change – from their ability to influence policy and procedures over time and be brought to scale (that is, grow and change as needed) to their contribution to the Hub countries’ Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) as outlined in the Paris Agreement and the longer-term sustainability of the endeavor.

    The winning projects take on some of the most pressing concerns in the climate fight, from reforestation in Nigeria and food waste in Ecuador to community solar programs in Romania and youth engagement in climate policy in Australia.

    Man with bike

    Climate Reality recently chatted with two Global Shapers, Stephan den Hartog and Olivier De Schutter (right), about their grant-winning project, Two Wheel Tuesdays (2WT), which seeks to increase the role of cycling during work commutes.

    The Brussels and Paris Global Shaper hubs are working closely together on Two Wheel Tuesdays – and Olivier and Stephan hope to expand the project to even more cities in the near future, a task made all the more difficult by this challenging global moment.

    >> Learn more: Air Pollution and the Coronavirus: The Connection Explained <<

    “Everything began at the World Economic Forum in Geneva in 2018,” Olivier explained of Two Wheel Tuesdays’ origins. “I met Zach, a Global Shaper from Baltimore, who was already organizing these local checkpoints every Tuesday morning. We quickly started to discuss creating a global bike-to-work movement.

    “Back home, I looked into the Brussels hub [to see] who would like to join in this new adventure and this is how I met Stephan,” he continued. “We were both facing the same frustration of congested streets, bad air quality, and road accidents on the one hand and a true passion for cycling on the other hand. So partnering became pretty natural, and we launched the project in Europe. Today, there are more than 10 active members on the project in several cities.”

    Stephan is a “Dutch guy with a passion for music and the environment” who is pursuing his PhD in electrochemistry and engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

    Olivier is from Belgium and works in management consulting. He joined the Global Shapers community in 2017.

    “While working in Colombia, I volunteered with several NGOs working with rural communities and met some Global Shapers on the field,” Olivier said. “It was an international network of young and diverse people all doing amazing things for society. So back in Brussels, I decided to join the local hub.”

    Promoting cycling as a climate action seemed a no-brainer to the pair.

    “It’s a bit stereotypical, but since I’m from the Netherlands, I practically grew up on a bike. I had to cycle 8 km to get to high school every day, and so I am used to taking the bike wherever I go,” Stephan explained.

    Selfie with group of cyclists

    Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephan encouraged commuters during a 2WT.

    Olivier also grew up cycling, though he’d always thought of it more as an athletic activity rather than a part of his day-to-day routine – until he took the leap and began commuting to his office.

    “It was a cloudy Tuesday in October and I would cross the whole city to get to the office. From there, it changed my perspective of commuting. It was faster, more enjoyable, and very satisfying. A new habit was born,” he said. “Two Wheel Tuesday (2WT) aims to make people develop this new habit.”

    Two Wheel Tuesdays (2WT) began with Olivier and Stephan encouraging cyclists at traffic lights during morning rush hour, offering them free breakfast, 2WT stickers, and explaining what they hoped to achieve.
     

    How about cycling in one of the world's most congested city?

    For all the ones who want to make the first step, start on a Tuesday! Not feeling comfortable in traffic? We come at your front door in the morning and we ride together to your workplace. You have no excuses now!

    Posted by Two Wheel Tuesday - Europe on Tuesday, April 30, 2019


    They then sought to increase the visibility of 2WT with social media challenges, and recruited their first intern, who worked full-time on the project as part of her master’s degree thesis on urban infrastructure. The team quickly gained a great deal of insight into urban mobility and began to notice their program gaining some attention.

    Two Wheel Tuesdays have continued to grow and change since. The Brussels and Paris Global Shaper hubs are raising awareness through sponsored posts, challenges, and promotional videos on social media in hopes of breaking any stigma tied to cycling in a city. Through ambassador-driven coaching, they’ve found that they’ve been able to build true cycling-to-work communities in their cities.

    “The most difficult part of our job is to make them do the very first step. Usually, people then discover the magic moment of commuting by bike and eventually make it a habit,” Stephan said. “We heard pretty much every kind of excuse, from ‘I’m scared of riding in the traffic’ to ‘wearing a helmet will screw up my hair.’

    smiling woman

    “We believe there is a solution to every problem, so this is why we launched the coaching program to accompany the newbies from home to their workplace,” he went on. “We also accumulated good knowledge of traffic laws in different countries and best practices from the commuters themselves to share with whoever would like to start biking to work.”

    Fighting for our climate has long been a priority for both Stephan and Olivier.

    “The world is currently in a continuous cycle of unsustainable growth that is exhausting the Earth and needs to be broken. Nature is worth preserving, not only because of the importance of the ecosystem for all life, but also for the happiness and mental well-being of people,” Stephan said. “A world where everyone is happy and in harmony with nature might [sound like] a utopia, but we think it is important to get as close to this utopia as possible.”

    And even in this difficult moment – with the threat of COVID-19 outside our doors – Olivier and Stephan are still working toward a better, more sustainable tomorrow.

    “Just like many people around the globe, we needed to adapt. Most people are locked down at home and biking to work hardly makes sense right now,” Olivier told Climate Reality. “So we decided to focus on our back-office tasks we wouldn’t have time to do in normal time.”

    This includes further development of their website and the creation of another promotional video.

    He continued, “We are also launching a ride-for-fun program, as we noticed many people who would never cycle are now getting started. And we need to make sure this trend will carry on after the lockdown period. Because it’s easier to start cycling on a Sunday before adding the constraints of the commute to work.”

    scenic view of bike near sunset

    To that end, the Two Wheel Tuesdays team is also working on corporate mobility offers to different companies. These rewards-based programs would encourage workers to bike at least once a week through incentives provided by their employers.

    “The goal of 2WT is to have all commuters take the bike to work at least one day per week,” Olivier admitted. “This would mean 20 percent fewer cars on the road, which could be enough to reduce congestion in most of the cities. The side effects would be multiple: fewer GHG emissions, better air quality, healthier people, less accidents, and more free time.”

    DO YOUR PART

    The impacts of the climate crisis may be far-reaching, but as Two Wheel Tuesdays show, innovative solutions exist that can help us improve quality of life right now in communities everywhere and work toward a more sustainable future for all.

    And you are key to making those solutions a reality.

    Discover how you can use your voice and your choices to take climate action with our latest free e-book, What Can You Do? Your Guide to Climate Action in 2020.

    DOWNLOAD NOW

    Taking climate action is a learning process – but no matter your background or skills, you can make a real difference. To put it another way, “To change everything, we need everyone.”

    Learn science-based tactics to starting the climate conversation and having an impact in 2020 and beyond, as well as the ways your choices can help you lead by example, shape climate action in your community, and drive change.

    Download your free copy today!

     

    Two Wheel Tuesdays is one of five incredible Global Shaper climate projects sponsored in part by the generous support and partnership of Climate Reality Board Member Rosamund Zander.

    Before You Go

    At Climate Reality, we work hard to create high-quality educational content like blogs, e-books, videos, and more to empower people all over the world to fight for climate solutions and stand together to drive the change we need. We are a nonprofit organization that believes there is hope in unity, and that together, we can build a safe, sustainable future.

    But we can't do it without your help.

    If you enjoyed what you’ve just read and would like to see more, please consider making a generous gift to support our ongoing work to fight climate denial and support solutions.

    The Climate Reality Project