The Ecotopia Biketour 2010 travelled ecologically for 10 weeks through England, Wales, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. People came from all corners of Europe to form this mobile ecological activist community, to create one hell of a jam-packed summer project.
After 6 months of organising the route, I was glad when it finally started and I was doing things with people face to face. There was a million things left to organise, but they would have to be done on the way. I said it was so good to be on my bike, with a map and a good sense of direction. Maybe I spoke too soon, because by the first afternoon, everyone was already pushing their laden bicycles up 30% hills, joking how we’d organised a walking-tour, not a biketour! Even though the hills got easier, it definitely wasn’t what I expected. It turned out to be more than an alternative to conventional travelling: It was totally frustrating, exhausting, educational, inspiring and really changed how I think and act.
I admit I was warned. A previous organiser had explained to me the project was designed to be chaotic: you gather people from all different countries, backgrounds, cultures, experiencs, motivations. there’s little common ground. it’s open to everyone, including those who don’t speak English, don’t have much money, don’t have any experience in travelling by bike, living in a community or environmental campaigns. The whole thing tries to run without leaders, even the preparation. During the tour , daily circles make decisions by concensus and everything is done voluntary, including daily tasks and financial contribution. So inevitably, it’s chaos. But somehow it works. It’s the 20th year the biketour has formed, and more people every year come away with energy for changing society.
So many workshops, meetings, games and actions. We went 40-80km on a cycling day, made signs on the roads to show the way, tried to update our website to let the world know what we were up to and dealt with whatever the weather threw at us. Everything was carried by bike and our two little trailers: sleeping accomodation (tents and sleeping bags), kitchen (pots and our self-made rocket-stove) and action factory (leaflets, banner-material, paint). So many activities happening and so much to organise throughout the biketour. For many people, the cycling was the easiest part! I reckon we were all glad to crawl into our sleeping bags each night.
Everyday or so we had new surroundings, a completely different project or event was hosting us: we stayed with squats, farms, housing co-ops, social centres, action camps, festivals, wild camping… and even a church during a conference. People joined the community from a few days to a few weeks to a few months, so the group of people along with the landscape was always changing! Workshops and agreements often had to be repeated, different translations to happen, but it was all part of building the community.
From the first day we were learning things: how to build a rocket stove, how to fix a rocket stove when it breaks when you use it! Not to trust contour lines on maps or the distances on road signs or locals’ directions! That chalk-signs left for others are quick to fade, and that capitcal Bs with an arrow are not always from fellow biketour companions… We were experimenting with screenprinting and continually repairing our bicycles. Vegan meals, compost toilets and squatted buildings were new for most people, and the diversity of participants meant everyone learn something each day. On top of this, the route was planned around mobilisations and struggles for climate justice: in such places we were really involved with issues such as coal mining, oil, highway expansion, migration & borders, sustainable living and carfree cities. We were helping build action camps, organising critical masses and occassionally even gave ourselves the chance to reflect on the tour and to share ideas for next year’s.
One of the best aspects of the biketour was the locals we met along the way. It was endlessly encouraging to see grassroots campaigns resisting destructive and damaging projects, and to meet functioning groups of activists working to create the world they want to live in! And within the biketour community cycling along, there were some amazingly cohesive moments when everyone had been pro-active. The day we cycled from Neerlinter, in Belgium, to Maastricht in the Netherlands, everyone arrived at our host’s very late and completely soaked from the rain, but all eager to share the food they’d found that day. Some people had collected berries and edible plants growing wild; others had collected fallen apples and pears; potatoes left behind in a harvested field; asked for bread at the end of the bakeries’ working day; reclaimed the food thrown in the bins by supermarkets; gathered produce at the end of a vegie market and the leftovers from a jazz festival. I was impressed by our resourcefulness and the collective group thinking. I was also hideously shocked at the amount of excess our society produced.
it really changed my thinking
Let’s say it out loud: it radicalised me and motivated me. I fully realised that we don’t need to wait for other people to change or do things for us. We don’t need to buy things that we want to use; that we can find, grow or build them ourselves. We can share our knowledge and experiences, listen actively to other people and I certainly hope we can step up and completely change our society, because we definitely can’t leave it to governments, corporations or institutions. We can’t wait for others to act first if we are to stop climate change and manage our resources wisely and share them fairly – we need to create massive social change by building the most urgent movement ever needed.
Get on a bicycle and ride outside the system of endless consumption. Even though it was hard going sometimes, I’m really grateful that I was part of the project because of the huge way it shifted my mind and I made so many good friends! There’s a lot of energy for organising a biketour in 2011 and beyond, so now is the time to put your ideas into action! Find out more on the wiki: