Last week Mitch and Belinda represented Space4cyclingBNE at the Australian Bicycle Summit in Melbourne, hosted by national advocacy group WeRide Australia. It was a great opportunity to catch up advocates and professionals from around the country. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Keynote speaker Tim Papandreou was brilliant. Since we met Tim at the Asia Pacific Cycle Congress in 2015 his message has become more confident and more urgent: build protected cycleways. There is no debate, no discussion; protection works. It is the only way to get a step change in the number of people cycling; offering mobility in cities that private cars never can – whether they are electric, automomous, or otherwise. Cities which want to remain livable and prosperous need to invest in a network of well-connected low-stress routes for cycling and other forms of micro-mobility. And although planners and city officials are starting to get the message, the rate of change is still too slow to address the problems created through decades of car-centric thinking. Tim also said: we need the activists now more than ever.
Brett Barnes from Dirtz gave a great presentation about how to get kids on bikes, and keep them cycling for life. His message was simple: make it fun! No child wants to be a “commuter” but they do love to play on bikes. When they play with their friends, kids push each other to learn new skills and gain confidence.
Brett helped design the fabulous new BMX park Brisbane City Council has recently opened at Darra, but not all facilities have to be on such a grand scale. We like his idea of small pump tracks in local parks (especially near bikeways) and in schools, as a motivation for kids to want to ride, to fall in love with it and accidentally become skilled, safe riders in the process.
There was some very interesting discussion about the future of Autonomous Vehicles and micro-mobility; how this will impact cities, and what it will mean for cyclists.
We heard some cautious messages about the hype from Ken Kroeger, CEO of Seeing Machines, and some interesting information from Mitch Cooper of Uber, Craig Wooldridge from WA Department of Transport, and Stuart Outhred from RACV. Dr Ben Beck from Monash University presented some of the disturbing injury statistics for cycling, but also reminded us of the more significant issue that inactivity kills as many Australians as smoking.
Amy Child from AECOM reminded us that AVs and micro-mobility are a tool; we should not be dictated to by them, but use them as an opportunity to create the streets and city we want to live in. Mary Haverland from WSP highlighted the importance of both movement and place when we think about the function of streets.
But perhaps the message was best summed up by dinner speaker Chris Isles from Place Design Group:
“Autonomous Driving is here and it’s going to change everything. But it’s 20 years away and all the technology in the world can’t make up for crap streets.”
It was great to meet so many people from local governments at the summit and awards dinner, but a little disappointing Brisbane City Council was not represented.
Fiona Campbell from City of Sydney won the Cycling Luminaries Award for Leadership for her work developing and delivering the city’s bike network and behaviour campaigns such as the Sydney Rides Festival.
It was an honour to be able to chat with Cr Natalie Abboud, Mayor of Moreland City Council, with Bernadene Voss, Councillor, City of Port Phillip a former Mayor of the City Of Port Phillip, as well as her predecessor in that role, Amanda Stephens.
This level of engagement could go a long way to explain why areas of inner Melbourne and Sydney have made big steps forward to becoming cycling friendly, while Brisbane has spent a lot, but often on disconnected projects, and without getting many of the important smaller details right.
Finally, of course we grabbed the opportunity to try out the Melbourne share bikes and go exploring. We rate Brisbane’s CityCycles better, although the check-in process is much easier in Melbourne, and the taller seat height on the blue bikes would be a big advantage for anyone above average height.
We headed out on our share bikes to Port Phillip City area area to check out some new bicycle priority roundabouts on Moray St, South Melbourne. We had heard about at the summit in the presentation by Councillor Bernadene Voss of City of Port Phillip. These roundabouts, at the Dorcas Street and Coventry Street intersections, are a Victorian first with pedestrians and cyclists having right-of-way over motorists. The roundabouts feature a raised zebra crossing and dedicated bike path running parallel. It’s hard to explain, so we took a video. As you can see the roundabout works well and is a pleasure to use.