Bike4SDGs: Leaving No One Behind

Mark Twain once said: “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live.”

On the 21 of September UNDP Belarus together with partners launched a one-day #Bike4SDGs campaign. We took around 600 people and set off to the most beautiful forest, one of its kind in the whole of Europe — Nalibokskaya Puscha, to continue our journey towards the successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Cycling is already delivering on these goals worldwide, and the most obvious benefit is what a bicycle can do for the environment, as one of the greenest of vehicles.

But there’s so much more that bicycling can do for people’s health, inclusion, economic growth and fighting inequalities.

Pershai village is the starting point for #Bike4SDGs. Heads of the UNDP and the EU offices in Belarus flag off ministers, ambassadors, Paralympic medalists, children and many determined cyclists with disabilities on the edge of Nalibokski Nature Reserve on a 22km SDGs Road.

It’s a race free ride.

People from one to 70 years old gathered to support the Global Goals in Nalibokski Nature Reserve. Twenty-two km across wildforest terrain in the wind and rain is not an easy thing to do. Nevertheless, cyclists of various nationalities, religions, physical abilities, and occupations were at the start-line courageously gearing up for a challenging ride.

17 teams represented each SDG, and the 18th team comprising people with disabilities featured all SDGs together.

It’s not a race, it’s a ride. We gave the participants various options to choose, so they could enjoy the event in a contest free atmosphere. Those who preferred to ride a shorter distance, could either go to the finish and enjoy a number of UNDP-prepared smart activities, and learn about the SDGs, or join the organised walking tours and canoeing around the Reserve.

Or simply get a free massage for their efforts.

Drone view of the 12 km SDGs Waterway

The picturesque 12km SDGs Waterway on the river Islach welcomed everyone to take up the challenge of paddling down the stream in canoes.

Mger Minosyan is ready for his first boat trip. Jesper Francl, the director of Renaissance Hotel in Minsk, is going to share a canoe with him.

Mger Minosyan made his canoeing debut amongst many others. He has Down syndrome. But it doesn’t affect his desire to live happily, work and sign up for dynamic and challenging ventures. His employer, Jesper Francl, became his companion on the waterway. They joined the 20 other paddlers such as the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Belarus, who managed to conquer the stream.

Active mobility is a human right.

The amazing thing about the ride is not just the fact that the finish line was crossed by so many, including people with disabilities, but it’s the resilience of the human spirit and innovation of human mind — showcasing that people with disabilities can ride a bike or paddle a canoe head-to-head with the government officials, athletes, diplomats and other participants.

Cycling truly helps reduce inequalities. It is an affordable way of taking control of your own mobility and wellbeing.
Forest SDGs Road

Mobility helps to create equal participation in society. Without equal participation it’s impossible to fully achieve the SDG 10 on fighting inequality. This ride changed people, inviting them to look differently at the surrounding world, at each other and themselves.

We reminded everyone that active mobility is a human right.
SDGs riders at the finish

Localising SDGs.

Local initiatives from Minsk and Hrodna regions helped us explain what every goal actually stands for through a big SDGs fair.

Local Cheese-making. Promoting Decent work and sustainable consumption through local development initiatives

Various local initiatives exhibited the results of their work and described their contribution to the goals they support. The Fairground looked like an amazing kaleidoscope of local businesses, environmental and social non-profit organisations that boost innovation at the grass-roots level.

Blending natural scents to make a perfume for the SDGs
National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus

Everyone who visited the grounds got a clear vision that the SDGs deal with matters of critical importance for humanity and the planet. The Global Goals are about our daily life, jobs, education, social inclusion, development of our cities, towns and small villages.

People of all abilities.

If music is an embodiment of the human spirit, it is best expressed by people of all abilities. We held an unprecedented inclusive Forest Concert that left no one behind featuring singers, musicians, dancers and an eco-fashion show.

Children singing at the Forest Concert

Inclusion was a common thread running through the whole show. Performers of different genres and different abilities proved that talent is free from limitations. Prejudice is the main barrier that prevents dreams, aspirations and human potential from being realised.

Wheelchair dancers Anna and Irina together with model girls during the eco-fashion performance
Despite trauma or illness that made us use a wheel-chair, we remain women caring about our beauty and grace, — accentuated Anna and Irina, the international award winning wheelchair dancers, who took part in the eco-fashion show.
Today we not only had perfect access to interesting spots thanks to a barrier-free environment, but also enjoyed attention of stylists and make-up artists, who helped bring out our inner beauty and talent.

UNDP’s #Bike4SDGs ride clearly manifested the mighty power of the human spirit, driving force of innovation, and strength of resilience. The ride is over but we have a strong commitment to continue to roll out this vehicle of inclusion every year from this day forth. So that we leave no one behind in saving our people and our planet.

Inclusive Forest Concert, amazing performances and unforgettable depth of emotions

#Bike4SDGs Infographics

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