Booklet/How the Biketour is Organized
Cycling across different countries in a large group visiting projects on the way requires a lot of preparation. Most projects would be totally overwhelmed by a group of up to 50 cyclists arriving without announcement, and people who want to join or leave on the way need to make their travel arrangements in advance, so every single day of the tour is usually already planned several months before the tour starts. In addition, the communal equipment needs to be repaired, completed and transported to the starting point of the tour, papers need to be written printed that contain information that is important on the way, and promotion material like posters, flyers and the website need to be updated and distributed. In times when the Biketour was still cycling to the Ecotopia Gatherings and was thus supported by the big network of activists who were planning to attend it, the tour was sometimes prepared to such an extent that local people cycled each segment of the tour in advance, selecting the best roads and camping spots.
Coordinators vs. Open Group
In the past, the Biketour has often been prepared by one or two “coordinators”. They were keeping an overview over the preparation process and did most of the work. Sometimes there were additional structures like regional coordinators for different parts of the route. Often, we applied for funding to pay the coordinators to be able to work on the preparation full-time.
Usually, it was hard to find anyone who would be willing to take on the huge responsibility of becoming a coordinator. In 2013 though, when the tour was planned to start in Berlin, we received more than 10 applications and had to select two of them, as that was a limitation imposed by the funding that we had applied for. Because this created dynamics quite similar to the capitalist competitive labour market, and because the concept of having two coordinators anyways contradicts the way we usually do things on the Biketour (where we try to share all responsibilities among everyone), a proposal was brought up to get rid of the two funded coordinator positions and instead try to prepare the tour as an open group where many people take on little tasks decentrally and coordinate with each other online.
In 2015, this approach of an open preparation group was tried for the first time, and it turned out to work not so well (one person did most of the work alone). We could think of two reasons for this: Either only few people have the time to prepare the Biketour in their free-time, or the Biketour community is not yet used to the new approach and first needs to learn that it is necessary to contribute before joining the tour. During the tour in 2015, it was very clearly communicated that everyone’s initiative is needed to organize 2016, and now we are about 6 or 7 people working together. Whether we feel like the concept of an open group is working well and how the tour will be organized in the future is still up for discussion.
Decision-making structure / Bt-Org list
In addition to the open General Biketour mailing list and the semi-open participants lists for each year, there is one closed mailing list called Bt-Org. Anyone who is interested in being involved at making decisions about future Biketours can be added to the Bt-Org list, and currently, there are around 50 people on it (although many of them are former coordinators and participants who still receive the e-mails but stay silent most of the time). The Bt-Org list is the main communication platform during the preparation of the tour.
While during the tour, decisions are made by the participants by consensus, it is impossible to check for consensus among the participants before the tour, as it is not even clear who is going to participate. That is why during the preparation of each Biketour, decisions are made by consensus on the Bt-Org list. As there is usually only a small group of people really active on Bt-Org each year and most people are silent, we are currently using the following decision-making procedure:
- Bring up topic for discussion
- At a point where no new opinions have been brought up for 7 days, formulate a proposal and send it around with “Check for Consensus” in the subject, mentioning a deadline of 7 days to raise any concerns
- If no one objects within 7 days, the decision is made
Usually all decisions that have been made by the Bt-Org list can be overridden during the tour by the actual participants. The only exception are the Participation Guidelines. They are the basic values of the Biketour and are rediscussed by the Bt-Org list each year. People who are thinking about joining the tour are expecting and relying on these values to be in place, so they can not be changed even when there is a consensus among the participants of the tour at any given point. Most of the Guidelines are phrased in quite a broad way, so it is up to the tour to decide how to implement them.
Once or twice a year, a meeting (Autumn, Winter or Spring Meeting) is organized where interested people come together to discuss about the upcoming tour and the Biketour in general. The outcome of the meeting is usually a list of proposals that are sent to the Bt-Org list for feedback.
The following things need to be prepared for a Biketour to happen.
Deciding on the route can be a difficult process, as there are circular dependencies. In order to decide on a route, we need to know which projects can host us, but projects need to know at what date we will arrive in order to find out whether they can host us, and in order to predict the date, we need to have the route decided.
The first step is to select a rough region where the tour is happening. It is really helpful to have the region for the next year already decided before the start of each tour, as it enables us to mention it when we talk to people we meet during the tour (so that they can already think about whether they want to join us next year), and it gives the participants a more clear image of the future and thus more motivation to get involved in the preparation of the next year. There are different criteria that can be taken into account for deciding on the region:
- Is there any interesting political movement happening anywhere that we would like to join?
- Where has the Biketour not been for a long time? (Check out the Countries page on the Wiki.)
- Which region is easy to access for people in countries where we have cycled in the previous year? (Often people meet us on the way and want to join us the next year.)
Once the region is decided, a call-out can be sent out that searches for projects that share our values and can host us or are interested in our visit.