Phnom Penh's commitment to a greener future was proudly on display on March 3 as thousands took a joyful ride through the city streets for the “Pedal for the Planet 2024” event.

The event, organised by the EU in Cambodia, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, and Phnom Penh City Hall, in partnership with EuroCham, welcomed almost 2,000 cyclists, who gathered at the National Olympic Stadium to begin the ride.

“Pedal for the Planet: It is Time to Change Gears on Climate”, spearheaded by EU ambassador to Cambodia Igor Driesmans, aimed to merge the joy of cycling with a message of sustainability.

Driesmans expressed his enthusiasm about the event, and was optimistic about the possibility of holding the event again next year. 

Initially, the expectation was for around 300 participants, but surprisingly, the numbers were closer to 2,000.

“It's fantastic! Of course, there's a limit to what we can organise, but we keep on seeing people coming in still, so it's great and there will be, I think, more people coming than were registered so we'll just have to handle that,” said Driesmans.

“We're not just here for exercise; we're pedalling for the planet,” he added, emphasising the role of cycling in promoting a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle. 

The early morning start saw a sea of participants, both young and old, donning white T-shirts adorned with the event’s logo. 

“We all know what's out there: climate change, air pollution, water pollution. We want to draw the attention of everybody that we should live more sustainably and respect the environment. That's why the event today is eco-friendly,” Driesmans told The Post. 

He said he views cycling as an exceptionally effective mode of transportation, due to its lack of carbon emissions and air pollution, and personally enjoys rising his bicycle.

The event, returning after a 10-year hiatus, was an overwhelming success, with participation soaring to nearly tenfold the expected numbers. 

Driesmans shared his delight at the turnout, “It's fantastic to see this many people still coming in, it's a testament to the community's spirit and commitment to our planet”.

The 10km route was carefully planned, meandering past significant landmarks like the Independence Monument and Wat Phnom, with a water station established at the EU delegation headquarters to ensure the riders were well hydrated.

Driesmans believes that while the act of cycling might seem like a modest gesture and largely symbolic, it plays a crucial role in raising awareness about climate change. 

He stressed the importance of small-scale events like this one in prompting people to contemplate the broader implications of their actions on the environment. 

The ambassador also touched on the common approach to climate change communication, which often focuses on the negative consequences and potential disasters associated with it. 

Cyclists attend the ‘Pedal for the Planet 2024’ at the National Olympic Stadium on March 3. HONG RAKSMEY

He proposed a shift towards a more positive narrative, with a focus on the actionable steps people can take to mitigate their environmental impact, with cycling a prime example of such a proactive measure.

“I think people should use this as a moment not just to have fun but to reflect a little bit about the future of the planet. 

“We know that in Phnom Penh, and also in Europe, young people are very conscious of climate change and environmental challenges, and I think that's where we need to invest in,” he said.

He pointed out the necessity of sustainable living practices across various aspects of life, including eating, shopping and transportation, to ensure the planet's health. 

“We thought what better way to mark this than to have a bike ride, not producing any carbon, maybe just producing a little bit of sweat while we do it,” he said, “so I just want to say a big welcome to all of you. Thank you for joining us today, and enjoy the ride!” 

Education ministry secretary of state Vath Chamroeun echoed these sentiments, expressing gratitude towards the EU for fostering a partnership that encourages community engagement in environmental conservation. 

He also expresses his thanks to the ambassador for his steadfast support and commitment to the EU biking fest 2024.

He noted Driesmans’ leadership and dedication to their shared objectives, which include promoting sporting activities, cultural exchanges, environmental conservation and sustainable development. 

Cyclists attend the ‘Pedal for the Planet 2024’ at the National Olympic Stadium on March 3. HONG RAKSMEY

Chamroeun also shared his enthusiasm for future endeavours.

“Pedal for the planet, pedal for health. Thank you to all of the participants for your full support,” he said.

Sieng Sok Mom, a civil servant and avid environmentalist, expressed her joy at participating in an event that aligned with her values. 

Having previously joined in 2014, she appreciated the opportunity to support environmental causes through cycling, a sport she enjoys.

“I am happy to participate in cycling for our planet. I participated in 2014, so this is the second time I have taken part in this excellent event,” she told The Post.