This article was originally pulished in BISA's Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Pedal Update. I attended both days of the conference as one of the BISA delegates.
2ndAnnual Australian Cycling Conference
Janaruy 18-19, 2010
As some of the world's best road racing cyclists prepared for Stage One of the Tour Down Under, delegates and speakers from all over Australia and New Zealand, with special guests from the Netherlands, gathered at the Flentje Lecture Theatre, University of Adelaide, to exchange ideas and knowledge of cycling research, policy and planning.
Building on the success of last year's conference, this year the program was expanded over two days, allowing more time for discussion amongst all the delegates, and more papers to be presented. Much of the conference focused on the future of cycling, enabling a cultural transformation that normalises people on bikes in all aspects of society. Many of the speakers presented papers on the more practical aspects of improving cycling infrastructure, to enable this transformation.
The Conference was opened by the Minister for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure, the Hon. Patrick Conlon. Mr Conlon, who has recently become a regular bicycle user, outlined some of the measures the State Government is taking to support cycling.
Distinguished Speaker Ian Lowe demonstrated in his presentation why the bicycle is such an important part of our response to climate change and the planning of a sustainable society. The reasons are well known to most of us – bicycle use dramatically lowers the costs of energy use, pollution, poor health and fitness, traffic congestion and infrastructure maintainence, as well as having zero carbon emissions after manufacture. It is important for bicycle users in the community to keep pressuring their politicial representatives to invest in cycling to the level it merits.
Guest Speaker Dr Ineke Spape from the Netherlands gave an inspiring presentation about how to achieve a real shift in culture towards a Bicycle Orientated Society (BOS), thus going beyond the concept of Transit Orientated Development (TOD). Cycling as a transport mode has been normalised in the Netherlands, but it has taken 40 years of conscious planning to reach this stage. If urban and transport planners design for cars, then you get cars, whereas if the planning is directed towards cycling and shared space, then that is what will come.
Infrastructure for cycling must be destination orientated, and supported by lots of secure, free bike parking and media campaigns to keep pushing the message, making cycling an attractive option to women, children, and the elderly. When these groups are comfortable with moving around by bike, then cycling is safer for everyone.
Dr Spape emphasised the importance of keeping the cycling message fun, by linking bicycle use to style and fashion, gadjets and accessaries, competitions and incentives. She spoke about “honey and vinegar” - carrot and stick – approaches to moving towards a BOS, where as more space is given to bicycle users and pedestrians, less space is available to cars.
Bob Perry from SCAPE strategy in NSW gave an eye-opening photo-essay presentation of ultra-local cycling in Japan. In Australia there is a high awareness of the successful bicycle culture of both the Netherlands and Denmark. We may be unaware just how well the Japanese integrate shared space in their urban enironments. Within the neighbourhood context, bicycle users, pedestrians and motor vehicles all share the streets, all moving at a slow speed that encourages a vibrant commercial space for small business, and a much greater social and aesthetic amenity. This “human” speed allows a safe domain with a high degree of interaction. Women, children, mothers carrying children and the elderly are all using bicycles to move safely through the neighbourhood, and everything needed for daily life is in close proximity.
Mr Perry said the Japanese are “space creators” and Australians are “space wasters”, giving too much space to traffic circulation. This will not change until Australians desire a different society to what we currently have, where proximity and public space are valued over large private space and the consequent sprawl.
There were many papers presented showing the latest research in various aspects of cycling policy, infrastructure and safety. The abstracts are available online at this link http://www.hubtt.com.au/australiancyclingconference.htm
with the contact details of the speakers, should you wish to contact them to learn more about their work.
One of the new aspects to this year's conference was the round table session, where delegates could break into small groups to discuss various “hot topics” that had come up during the day. This was an opportunity for brain-storming around the various topics, so that ideas and contributions could be distilled into concepts that delegates could put into practise after the conference.
Of course no conference is complete without a dinner and some drinks at the pub! A good time was had by all at Spices on Rundle St, and both the Belgian Beer Cafe and the Exeter enjoyed the patronage of some committed and inspired cycling advocates!