10 years ago, Carlos Rodríguez imagined a campaign to encourage people to try the bicycle for their daily trips for a month.
The Gijón City Council was looking for something similar, and the 30 Days by Bike campaign emerged from the collaboration between the two.
Today, more than 60,000 people have joined an initiative that is carried out every April and already reaches more than 110 cities in 13 countries in Europe and Latin America.
One of them is Elisabeth Sánchez, from Cáceres, who, thanks to pedaling for a month, got to know a different Madrid: “Your perspective of the city changes, you see it differently, you get to know the streets better, you see corners, small shops... The city becomes closer and more human”.
A few days after the tenth edition starts —this April 1—, Rodríguez (Gijón, 55 years old) celebrates the success of the plan, which consists of participants sharing positive experiences on the networks and being supported by the community.
The project accumulates awards from Companies for Sustainable Mobility, the AMBE bicycle association, the INCYDE Foundation, the Conbici association or the European Cyclist Federation.
The promoter of the initiative points out that success came gradually and has meant "more work and more responsibility".
Carlos Rodríguez, receives an award for promoting the initiative 30 days by bike.
Rodríguez, who left the world of advertising to dedicate himself "body and soul" to the 30-day bike project, defends that if more people pedal "cities with millions of daily journeys will be changed, cleaner, healthier and more sustainable".
Every year between 5,000 and 9,000 people sign up for the challenge, this year 6,000 people have already signed up and he expects at least 2,000 more to join.
Among all of them, a bike will be raffled at the end.
To commit to the challenge is as simple as filling out the form, then it depends on the will of each one to pedal and share it on the networks.
Those who participate?
People who have ever considered riding a bicycle, but are in a moment of uncertainty, want to find out, compare... Although they are also afraid and receive a lot of negative information about cycling around the city, they usually sign up.
“What we are doing with this campaign is
that process, because those people who want to try commit to cycling for 30 days.
With only 21 days of testing, our brain plasticity turns it into a habit, and when the month passes you are already a bike user and can enjoy its advantages as a means of transportation”, says its creator.
Elisabeth Sánchez, 41, signed up in 2016 when she barely knew how to pedal.
"I took it as a challenge, because I was a little afraid of cars, of getting lost... But using the bike for a month made it become a habit for me, and in the end I got hooked."
The woman from Cáceres repeated when she moved to London, in 2019, and took the opportunity to get to know her host city better: “It helped me once again break my fears in the face of a new city.
In London the infrastructures are better adapted for cyclists than in Madrid, the terrain is flatter, and people have years of advantage with the issue of mobility by bike”.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Angie Ángel, a young woman from Bogotá, has been encouraged to follow the plan for the first time this year.
“I normally use the bike two or three days a week when I commute to work and for leisure plans, the challenge is to also use it on the days that I telework to leave the house and do some tour”, she explains.
The woman joins for health and to try to change her routines.
Another challenge that has been raised is to convince her partner to sign up for the challenge with her, although the rain throws him back.
"But you put on a raincoat and that's it," adds Ángel.
All the users consulted agree that good cycling infrastructures and protected bike lanes are needed to encourage people to pedal.
Cathy Pazmiño, from Quito, points out: "There is nothing negative about the bike, but it is important that in the municipalities the local government unite and support with infrastructure, with places to park it, public bike lanes and bicycles."
Cathy Pazmiño and her brother Gustavo Pazmiño on a bicycle.
Pazmiño, 42, did the challenge in 2022: he used to pedal, but stopped doing so due to the pandemic.
“I joined the challenge to resume the use of the bike on a daily basis in Quito and meet other people.
We would get together in different parts of the city to make ourselves visible and there were sponsors who supported the cause and motivated us by giving us water and food for athletes, people felt excited and some of us stayed with this way of moving on a daily basis”, points out the cyclist.
Promotion through social networks
Social networks are very important to carry out this challenge, says Rodríguez: "We ask that those who sign up share their experiences in their networks, thus generating a flow of positive information that accompanies people who try it for the first time .
This separates the first-timers from
and gaslights the small problems that may exist, as in any facet of life ”.
Pazmiño, for example, is shown in his profiles as a cycling activist, because this activity "improvees your health, makes you a strong and vital person and puts an end to a sedentary lifestyle."
A march of the project 30 days by bike, in Gijón.
Sánchez says that she also feels more supported by the experience of other users: "If you follow the challenge on Twitter, in the 30 days you see other people doing the same in your city and in others, and that gives you more impetus to continue doing it".
The promoter from Gijón adds: “Users turn the challenge into a game shared by an entire community that has an epic sense and in which you are getting benefits and reaching goals.
And once inside it's hard to go back."
Angie Ángel, who is about to complete the challenge, is clear that her idea is to document her day-to-day life on Twitter;
in fact, it was through this network that she learned about the campaign, which is joined by people from Spain and Latin America.
The Twitter account @30diasenbici is "a community of happy cyclists" who tweet "intensely" every day of April, according to the promoter of the initiative.
“People write to us, they send us messages like 'thank you very much, you changed my life', 'thanks to you, I discovered the bicycle', 'now I ride with my family', they thank us for improving their health and finding a new way active leisure.
Even people who had problems with substances”, says Rodríguez.
He also points out that hundreds of people continue pedaling after the challenge.
The initiative also focuses on highlighting the virtues of the bike for health.
Last year, they organized a conference with experts to analyze the impact of cycling on mental and emotional health.
María Azucena Begega, professor of Psychobiology at the University of Oviedo, participated in them, explaining: "Physical exercise is good not only at the cardiovascular level, as we all know, but it also promotes brain irrigation and neuroplasticity and, depending on the age and the type of exercise, this means that new neurons are generated and maintain the ones we have”.
The expert tells how physical exercise makes us more resilient even in stressful situations.
“Activities like 30 days on the bike motivate people to keep exercising and it is very important on an emotional level, because you meet more people and increase your social network, which is very good for mental health,” she says.
Support from institutions is the only way to maintain physical exercise in people's lives, warns the scientist.
“There should be more collaboration between doctors, associations of psychologists, town halls to ensure that these activities are a frequent dynamic, from children to old age.
Exercise is a simple intervention, relatively cheap, and does not interfere with any drug treatment,” she adds.
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