Velo City 2017
This year the annual Velo-city conference was recently held in the Netherlands and was the most well attended to date, with 1,500 eager advocates – perhaps no surprise considering its location.
With its key themes of governance, infrastructure planning, social impact, health and bikeconomics, there was something for everyone in the broad international church that is cycling advocacy.
The conference program managers posed three questions for the week;
- WHY should we promote cycling – themes included people, social impact and health
- WHAT should we do – looking at urban planning, infrastructure and bikenomics
- HOW can we do this – focussed directly on governance
Each year, this event showcases much of the new thinking around cycling policies and cycling advocacy and it’s clear that the common international “language” adopted by policy makers continues to develop.
Terms like smart city, livable city, vibrant city are currently all the rage. Four years ago of course, it was the dawning of the ‘place makers’, who are now called ‘place managers’!
In this context, several keynote speakers rose to challenge the lens through which many policy wonks see their world.
Keynote Leo Bormans threw a stake in the ground…“The use of the term ‘livable city’ is meaningless…we don’t talk of ‘edible food’ as some dreamlike nirvana. We rightly assume that our food IS edible.”
Fair point I say…
While the value of ‘happiness’ as a construct is rarely considered at a policy level, it is something that is ultimately and intimately felt by each of us. A representative of the Bhutanese government shared that country’s thinking on why GNH (gross national happiness) is a better measure of their country’s progress than GDP (gross domestic product).
With the Happiness Lens being a recurring theme throughout the week, a quick Google showed Australia ranked #9 in the 2017 Happiness Index report. Whew!
Cycling advocates are getting very good at quantifying the economic benefits of getting more people on bikes. Prior work by the federal infrastructure department highlighted a whopping $21 net economic benefit to the nation from an average 20-minute commute.
For the 220,000 South Australians that ride weekly, their significant economic contribution to the state continues to be largely ignored by local and state governments when prioritising infrastructure investment.
As we have previously reported, the European Cyclists Federation has been undertaking some very detailed analysis on ‘bikeconomics’ and resolved that the total economic benefit to the EU is EURO (Nat I cant find a EURO symbol – please insert if you can)513billion per annum.
Professor Bas Bloem’s work in Parkinsons Disease research was a highlight. While I had seen his video before, I continue to marvel at how a man unable to walk due to his Parkinsons is easily able to ride his bike. You can see it here
His research continues to look at how cycling can be used as a diagnostic tool for Parkinson’s disease.
The benefits of cycling are truly broad and serendipitous.
Perhaps the biggest theme of the week was that of bike share. As we have previously reported, bike share schemes are exploding across the globe as cities find innovative ways of getting their populations moving more efficiently and cost effectively.
Much discussion was around the disruptive innovation of app-based, un-anchored and un-licensed bike share schemes that have swept through China, Singapore and now onto our shores.
A reported 15,000 of these bikes have landed in Melbourne. The company concerned has no existing licencing arrangement with the state government. To date, the state has chosen to take a “wait and see” approach. Melbourne’s local councils, on the whole, are concerned about the negative impacts that a floating share system may have on the urban landscape.
So it’s all eyes on Melbourne for the next six months…!
There is no doubt that ‘disruption’, in all its forms, is now a daily part of our lives and that ‘transformation’ is an inevitable outcome of that disruption.
The key question is: Will that transformation will enhance or decimate the fabric of our cities?