Category Archives: policy/planning

2020: A Year of Bicycling Backwards

The corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic has had many devastating impacts, from death or long-term health issues for too many, to economic hardship, as well as some supposedly “silver lining” effects. Among the latter, one was an observed trend in a number of places around the world of increased numbers of people bicycling.

Violinist Christian Adam, literally bicycling backwards

For me, however, it has led to an absolute cessation of cycling. In that sense I’ve been “bicycling backwards” in 2020, with respect to what is sometimes called a boom in cycling for many others.

That decision on my part had to do with a calculation early during the pandemic of the small but not negligible chances of my being in an accident of some sort, and then contracting a potentially fatal virus during emergency care and treatment. That in turn comes from years of experience “sharing the road” (including an accident in 2009) and an evaluation of risks on the streets of my current area – East Lansing and Lansing in Michigan.

Cycling boom?

Increases in use of bicycles for transportation and recreational have been reported since the (northern hemisphere) spring in a number of countries and localities. I’ll list a few representative articles below chronologically for reference and possible later analysis, but one factor that I’m paying attention to is how infrastructure for cycling figures in the trend (which I’ll discuss briefly further down).

Infrastructure a conditioning factor

Much as there’s a trend to more cycling, there is also a block where infrastructure is insufficient. It seems that most of the places where we have seen increases in use of bicycles this year are those where bike lanes and paths are relatively safe and their networks well-developed.

There is significant research indicating a correlation between good bicycle infrastructure and numbers of people who cycle.1 And there’s also research indicating that better infrastructure – especially physically divided lanes – favors both more people biking and their safety (as well as being better for car drivers).2 Type of infrastructure matters, as an article about the latter research notes: “painted bike lanes provided no improvement on road safety.”

Numbers in safety?

Also, it sounds like the “safety in numbers” argument has it backwards – the numbers tend to come when cyclists feel relatively safe. So any analysis of the current boom in cycling should dig deeper into where the boom is really happening, and what people’s feelings are about biking there relative to places where bike sales may have been up earlier this year, but actual biking numbers maybe fizzled after the initial enthusiasm wore off.

Although the area of Michigan I’m currently in does have some bike trails that are mainly suitable for recreation, the major effort to provide for cycling here has been in the form of bike lanes demarcated by painted lines and signage. That’s not insignificant, involving sometimes a “traffic calming” measure of reducing a four-lane road to one each direction, a middle turn lane, and bike lanes by the curbs, which can be unpopular with car drivers. It’s a step in the right direction, in my opinion, but still leaves cyclists exposed when for whatever reason the sharing doesn’t work as planned.

In any event, I did not see a noticeably higher number of cyclists on the road here this year.

ER improvements?

As indicated above, my decision not to bike last spring was premised in part on uncertainty about conditions in emergency rooms (ERs) during the early stages of the pandemic. One deals with risks in biking as a matter of course, but this was for me a tipping factor. It may be, with better understanding about COVID transmission and how to slow or prevent it, time to adapt the layout of the facilities, and more availability of personal protective equipment for medical staff and patients, that ERs now are safer in this regard. However, I still wouldn’t want to tempt fate.

My hope is that with the COVID vaccine and chance that we’ll get past the worst of the epidemic and can focus on the more mundane, but important, issues of improving bicycle infrastructure. And I hope to start biking again.

One final note. This past July, my son was out biking and hit a gravelly patch on a turn. He ended up with some pretty nasty road scrapes from the spill, for which I might have recommended a trip to an ER or emergency care facility in normal times. We were able to use a combination of saline solutions, alcohol pads (lucky to find), topical antibiotic, and various bandages over a period of several days, without any infections or other complications arising. (A tetanus booster at the pharmacy, for which he was due anyway, was the only outside intervention.) Thankful for that and that his injuries hadn’t been more serious to start with.

  1. Angela Hull & Craig O’Holleran (2014) “Bicycle infrastructure: can good design encourage cycling?,” Urban, Planning and Transport Research, 2:1, 369-406, DOI: 10.1080/21650020.2014.955210
  2. Wesley E. Marshall & Nicholas N. Ferenchak (2019) “Why cities with high bicycling rates are safer for all road users,” Journal of Transport & Health, Vol. 13. DOI: 10.1016/j.jth.2019.03.004


What happened to the Year of Moderation?

Graphic for IYM2019 used by CAJR.
Source: Tweet by CAJR

The International Year of Moderation (IYM2019) seems to have come and gone without much activity or any fanfare. The reason, as I explored in a previous post on this subject, likely has to do with the fact that those in the Malaysian government who were behind the original idea were taken out of the game by unrelated issues.

However, even the United Nations agency invited by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to “facilitate the observance of” IYM2019 – the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) – makes no reference to it in its official communications (a search of its website yielded nothing). It is telling that the UNAOC Action Plan 2019-2023 mentions “moderation” in the exactly the context of the UNGA resolution declaring the Year, but it also does not include any reference to the Year itself. A statement attributed in a tweet last September to the UNAOC High Commissioner, Miguel Moratinos,  uses wording about moderation much like that in their Action Plan (p. 6):

A do-it-yourself IYM2019?

So it was apparently left to independent organizations to mention or use the theme of IYM2019 as they saw fit. For example, the image  from the Nigerian Centre for the Advocacy of Justice and Rights (CAJR) displayed at the top of this post seems to be an expression of hope from early in the Year.

Another small example is the Facebook page I noted in the previous post on this topic: “2019 as the International Year of Moderation.” It’s still active, although with posting articles not specifically about IYM2019 (which practically don’t exist).

A story about a conference in Qatar last February, “Empower 2019: Youth as Agents and Catalysts for Peace,” related the theme of that event to IYM2019.

It was also of interest to note attention to IYM2019 on the Muslim World League‘s twitter account (but not on the MWL website), in connection with some activities of its Secretary-General,  Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa. One example:

I’m not aware of any other examples, but don’t expect that there are too many.

UAE’s Year of Tolerance

It turns out that the United Arab Emirates declared its own “Year of Tolerance” (YOT) for 2019, with the purpose “To highlight the impact of tolerance, and to expand the scope and opportunities for communication and dialogue.”

It bears mentioning here since (1) YOT and IYM2019 share a concern with countering extremism, and (2) YOT was given specific attention by the High Representative of UNAOC, the same agency that was invited to coordinate IYM2019. (It would be very interesting to know more about the thinking of both UAE and UNAOC about these two concurrent observances and their relationship.)

And in their broader senses, tolerance and moderation are sister virtues.

Moderation as a virtue

In my previous post I suggested that “moderation” is a subject broader and deeper than just anti-extremism. And therefore, that an observance dedicated to moderation might also address several other contemporary concerns.

So it was of interest to come across a column that took a similar tack, in a February 2019 issue of the Indian newspaper, The Hindu. Under the title “The Year of Moderation,” its author, Sachin V.K. Jadhav, mentioned several benefits he saw in moderation. One example was the role of moderation in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12, “responsible consumption and production.”

Could we use a Year of Moderation in this broader sense – or even a Decade – as we grapple with many problems of our own creation? Beyond that, could International Years be conceived of systematically to draw attention to virtues we need to cultivate in order to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead of us?Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

International Decade of Indigenous Languages!

In these waning weeks of the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019), on a day that happens to also be observed as Arabic Language Day,  the UN General Assembly ratified the resolution of its Third Committee (7 Nov. 2019), which includes a declaration of an International Decade of Indigenous Languages (IDIL), 2022-32.

The proposal for an IDIL, which was originally suggested for 2020-30, has been working its way through the UN system for several months. It was discussed on this blog in a posting this past August, and again mentioned in another post last month.

The two-year lead will leave time to prepare and organize for the decade.

I’ll take the opportunity here to provide links to UNESCO’s “Strategic Outcome Document of the International Year of Indigenous Languages” (15 Nov. 2019), which mentions the then proposed IDIL, and an article discussing that document.



“MEI,” “MIEL,” or “MINEL” languages?

As the proposal for an International Decade of Indigenous Languages moves toward consideration by the UN General Assembly,1 I’d like to return to an old discussion about ways of referring to a broader set of languages – including but not limited to those called indigenous – that in some ways face similar challenges. I’ve long felt this could be useful in discussing equitable approaches to language policies and multilingual planning.

Overlapping categories

I first looked at this issue in the early 2000s, seeking a way to refer to the many languages that are not dominant in terms of numbers of speakers, or advantages in policy or technology development. One encounters several different terms used to describe one or another grouping of these languages depending on the context, but none of them really applied so broadly. So an idea I had was to blend some of the main ones into an acronym.

An early try was “MINEL,” originally for “MINority & Endangered Languages.” It was immediately apparent that MINEL could be expanded in more than one way, such as Minority, Indigenous, National, Endangered, and Local.2 I actually created a Yahoogroup by that name in 2005,3 where for a brief while I reposted news about languages in this super-category.

There are other possible formulations, such as MIEL and MEI, which I’ll get to below. but first here are the elements of MINEL, elaborated:

M – minoritized

Regional Library of Bizkaia, Bilbao. Photo: Mary Linn, Smithsonian (Sustaining Minoritized Languages in Europe)

“Minoritized” is not a term I used originally, but it absolutely fits in this space. With specific reference to languages, while minority properly refers to a numerical relationship (fewer speakers than a majority), minoritized refers more to a power relationship (disadvantaged status, often as a result of prejudices and/or intentional policy). Many, but not all minoritized languages are minority languages, and vice-versa, but the terms are not equivalent.

I – indigenous

Indigenous languages” may be understood more narrowly as languages of indigenous peoples (a category that has a more or less precise definition), or more broadly as a language native to a particular region (that is still used there and has not been imposed elsewhere). I discussed these takes in relation to African languages on my other blog. Regardless of which definition is used, “indigenous” also fits in this space.

N – national

National languages” is another term that can be understood in more than one way. I meant it more in the sense of a language of a nation that is not also an official language – a usage common in Africa (some posts on my other blog include background). National languages in this sense, even when defined in statute, do not necessarily enjoy key benefits (official use in government and education, resources, etc.), and may actually be somewhat minoritized (“somewhat” in the sense that they may be promoted in a small number of programs such as adult literacy, so not entirely ignored). So understood this way, “national” seems to fit.

E – endangered

Endangered languages,” which are languages perceived to be in the process of declining in use to where they are not being transmitted to the new generation and may not survive, definitely belong in this space. It is estimated per various sources that there are as many as 3000 endangered languages.

Based on the numbers involved, plus the fact that potential extinctions are at issue, endangered languages have been the subject of various initiatives.4

L – local (etc.)

Local languages” is an expression commonly used, which in many contexts implies a limited range of use and maybe even a lesser status. I personally see a problem with how it is sometimes used, but include it as a useful way to underscore the intent of the acronym (not widespread).

“L” might also be considered to stand for languages that are “local” in the sense of being less used, spoken, taught, and resourced, per a series of acronyms discussed in the previous post on this blog: LUL, LWUL, LWSL, LCTL, LWULT, LWSLWT, and LRL.

Other fomulations: MIEL & MEI

When I first considered MINEL as an acronym, another option on the table was “MIEL,” leaving out the N for national. The latter is a bit problematic in this context as most people think of “national language” in the other of its main definitions, a single language used nationwide (perhaps quasi-officially). Although this is a sweet acronym, I opted to include the N in respect for how many African countries use the term national to describe many of their indigenously spoken languages.

A sparer but still beautiful acronym, “MEI,” would leave out L for local languages (an amorphous designation), as well as the N. Minoritized, endangered, and indigenous languages can be considered the categories needing most attention.

The purpose of all of this is to suggest a more broadly inclusive designation for policy and action to address challenges common to a great many of the world’s non-dominant languages, however they may be more narrowly categorized.

1. UN General Assembly, 74th session, Third Committee, Agenda item 67 (a) Rights of indigenous peoples: rights of indigenous peoples (A/C.3/74/L.19/Rev.1), 6 Nov. 2019, #24.
2. Several other ideas occurred at that time, such as M for “maternal language” (per International Mother Language Day) and E for “ethnic language” (which I encountered in another context). Neither of these really work in this context.
3. The MINEL Yahoo Group will disappear on 14 Dec. 2019 per Yahoo’s decision to eliminate of group content. The messages will be saved.
4. Of the various initiatives and funds for endangered languages, I’ll just mention the Foundation for Endangered Languages, which is holding its 23rd conference in Sydney next month (13-16 Dec. 2019).


LUL’d awake

Researching some details for a forthcoming post, I ran across a number of acronyms, several of which are used mainly in Europe, describing languages disadvantaged in terms of numbers of speakers (often referred to as minority languages), profile in education, status (official and social), and resources to take advantage of technology.

EBLUL logoThe best known of the acronyms for description of the size and status of languages probably is “LUL” for “lesser-used language.” It is, for example, part of the name of the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages, a once prominent NGO in language policy and planning.

A variant of LUL is “LWUL” – less widely-used language” – and an acronym similar to the latter is “LWSL” – “less widely spoken language.” Without having seen an explanation as such, one imagines the “less widely” formulation is in recognition that a language might actually be “more used” among a small population, meaning LUL would not be completely accurate.1

None of these – LUL, LWUL, or LWSL – appear to be commonly used, even though they all are near to the opposite of “LWC” – language of wider communication – which is a term used in discussions of language documentation and planning.

In fact, the lack of a globally accepted way to refer to languages that aren’t LWCs was part of how I got interested in this topic. I actually used LWSL in an early (2008) posting on this blog and also proposed my own coinage,  about which I will write in a following post.

In any event, there are at least three other acronyms, two of which are based on the above, which bring in the notion of how commonly taught the languages are. Aside from the first one listed below, the others do not appear to be … widely used:2

  • LCTLless commonly taught language. This term and its acronym are accepted in academia, although primarily in the US, but have an explicit reference to the context of second language instruction. That context will shift depending on who is employing the term/acronym, even well outside what might be considered an LUL (Mandarin Chinese, a language with over a billion speakers, is among the LCTLs in the US).
  • LWULT – less widely used, less taught,3 or least widely used, least taught.4 Some sources indicate that this applies specifically to EU “Community languages,” i.e. official languages of EU member states.5 But at least one source widens the scope to include regional minority and migrant languages.6
  • LWSLWT – less widely spoken, less widely taught. Not clear how current this is. I found only one instance of this acronym,7 but also an example of the expanded term.8 Not clear if this is a cognate of LWULT, or if there is a different nuance in meaning.

As should be readily apparent, the latter two combine LCTL with some aspect of LUL/LWUL/LWSL.

Since all of these acronyms spell out terms beginning with “less,” I should add another to the list: “LRL” – “less-resourced language.”9 This term, and more rarely the acronym,10 is used at the intersection of languages and information and communication technology to refer to a small level of published and digital materials that could be used to develop language technologies for them. (Like LCTL, its use is not primarily in Europe.)

LRLs don’t correspond neatly with LULs. Factors like history, income level, status, and effects of language policies mean some relatively widely spoken languages are LRLs, and some relatively “small” languages are well resourced.

So there you have it – a set of seven  acronyms beginning with “L” for terms describing at least three largely overlapping groupings of languages: relatively small in numbers of speakers, not frequently taught in schools, and not having much in print or digital format. Issues of status – lack of prestige and/or official role – may be (but are not always) crosscutting factors in these.


1. However, the French translation of EBLUL – Bureau Européen des langues moins répandues (and not moins utilisées)- already puts the emphasis on how “less widespread” these languages are.
2. The following presentation slides were helpful in identifying acronyms featured in this post: Luciana Oliveiri, “Language policies at European universities for less widely spoken and less widely taught languages,” 6 June 2012 (via
3. Three sources, for example, all expand it this way: Oliveiri (op cit); a Wikipedia article (accessed 24 Nov. 2019) mentioning the EU Lingua program that used LWULT; and the page on the acronym.
4. European Community Law, Kluwer Law International B.V., 1995, page 285.
5. Wikipedia (op cit) and European Community Law (op cit)
6. European Commission, Comenius School Partnerships, handbook for schools, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2008, page 8.
7. Oliveiri (op cit)
8. Erich Prunč, “Priests, princes, and pariahs: Constructing the professional field of translation,” in M. Wolf & A. Fukari, eds., Constructing a Sociology of Translation, John Benjamins, 2007,  page 45.
9. Another formulation is “under-resourced languages.” There was at one point criticism of these terms analogous to those that moved us away from referring to “less developed” and especially “under-developed” countries, but I’m not sure where that is now – LRL still seems to be current in the field of language technology.
10. See for example at: Zygmunt Vetulani, ed., Human Language Technology. Challenges for Computer Science and Linguistics, Springer, 2011,  page vi; and a 2017 CFP, “Language Technology for Less Resourced Languages (LT-LRL) 2017 Under 8th Language & Technology Conference.”



International Year of Millets, 2023

Early last year I noted India’s proposal to make 2018 the International Year of Millets (IYOM) and its subsequent rolling out of its own National Year of Millets in the same year. Apparently that IYOM proposal, submitted to FAO too late in 2017 to realistically have a chance, has been working its way through the system to where 2023 has been identified as the target year.

Samples of several millets (source:

In December 2018, the FAO Council decided to support India’s proposal for an IYOM, in 2023. The proposal, in the form of a draft resolution (see Appendix F in the Report of the Council of FAO, 160th Session) was supported by the Africa and Asia regional groups, European Union, Russian Federation, China, Sudan, Kenya, Cuba, Austria, Afghanistan, Thailand, Egypt, Senegal, and Mali.

2018, 2019, 2023

When its initial proposal did not go through, India subsequently (in mid-2018) advocated having the IYOM in  2019. That again might not have left enough time to organize such an observation. Also, the 2019 calendar was already pretty crowded with three international years (on indigenous languages, the periodical table, and moderation).

It is not clear what the process was of deciding on 2023, although that will certainly leave adequate time. The next step is getting a formal United Nations General Assembly resolution declaring IYOM 2023 and its objectives.

Millets (not simply “millet”) are several related grains that have been discussed at some length on this blog (see tag millets, plus an archived version of a post from another site). One question is whether the whole millet spectrum will be covered by IYOM 2023 – from sorghum at the large end to fonio and teff at the small end, via all the grains in between that are surnamed “millet” in English (pearl millet, proso millet, finger millet, foxtail millet, and others).