2WalkAndCycle – ’tis a dream….

Matai river shared path
Cruising the cycle paths on the Maitai River, Nelson

The great thing about conferences is getting together with like minded people, and the recent 2WalkAndCycle conference in Nelson was no exception. Several hundred cycling and walking advocates, transport and planning professionals, and politicians got together to share their dreams of making cities liveable through better provision for walking and cycling.

Along with a number of other cycle advocates, I’d enrolled for Via Strada’s Planning and Design for Cycling Workshop, in which Axel Wilke and Jon Ashford led us through the fundamentals of evaluating and designing bike facilities. Although oriented to traffic engineers, the workshop was useful to advocates since it enables us to understand the engineering processes, and communicate more effectively with traffic engineers.  There was a strong emphasis on defining users of a facility, using the classification of cyclists introduced by Roger Geller: Strong & Fearless/ Enthused & Confident/ Interested But Concerned/ No Way No How. Most cycle advocates fall into the Strong & Fearless, or Enthused & Confident groups. However if we want “more people cycling, more often” we need to attract the Interested but Concerned – who need more than just lines painted on the road, but facilities that provide a sense of security, such as separated bike paths.

Then on to the conference itself. Obviously it’s not practical to condense a three day conference into a single blog post, but here are some of my personal highlights:

  • Celia Wade-Brown’s session on Walkable (and Cyclable) Wellington, including her ambitions to move the city away from being a car dominated environment; according to Celia it’s “Time for the one way system to go”. But we also got some insights into the realpolitik of making the changes – even a relatively simple change like introducing a female Kate Shepherd figure at crossing lights had to consider “how would men know when it was safe to cross the road?”.
  • Simon Kennett’s  “Evolution of the safety bike” heralded the next stage of cycling’s evolution. To date bikes have been sold on their performance and recreational value, but to attract the “Interested but Concerned” the industry needs to develop and market safer bikes, including features such as non-skid brakes.
  • The Cycling Safety Panel Report had just been released in draft form before the conference, so the session by Panel Chair Richard Leggat was a focus. The panel had taken a level headed approach, emphasising that cycling is not an inherently dangerous activity, although a surprise to the panel had been that a relatively high proportion (3/4) of cycle crashes didn’t involve a motor vehicle. We hope that the politicians are as receptive to the panel’s recommendations as the conference audience was.
  • Vancouver couple Chris and Melissa Bruntlett shared their Vancouver vision, illustrated with video clips of ordinary Vancouverites explaining why cycling was their favoured transportation mode. I liked their slogan “dress for the destination” – rather than feeling you have to wear cycling clothing to ride. For Wellingtonians watching the basin reserve saga, their tale of the Dunsmuir Viaduct was instructive: this basin flyover look-alike was erected just as Vancouver realised it didn’t want to become a spaghetti junction, and now has been re-purposed as a bike path.
  • Courtenay Groundwater shared interesting research on “What happens if no one walks or cycles?”, or to look at it the other way, what benefits does society gain from people walking and cycling. Her analysis showed that in Christchurch, there were $11 million in benefits to other road users from people walking and cycling – a useful rejoinder to the “freeloading cyclist” myth.
  • The guided tour of Nelson’s cycle facilities was instructive – some great routes such as the Atawhai shared path. The St Vincent St curb side dual direction cycle path is a useful experiment, but certainly raises issues about managing priority at intersections, and how to terminate a two way bike path in such a way that “wrong way” cyclists can safely return to the correct side of the road.
  • Continuing on the theme of two way separated paths, Andy Lightowler discussed the development of Auckland’s Beach Rd Cycle Path. I’d ridden this a month or so previously, and had been puzzled at the lack of signage connecting it to the Quay cycle route. Turned out that while Beca Carter were responsible for the bike path, Auckland Transport were responsible for the connecting signage, and hadn’t got around to installing it. Another example of how seemingly simple measures fall foul of bureaucratic boundaries.
St Vincent St separated cycle path
Cycle advocates check out the St Vincent separated cycle lane

If you want to know more, check out:

And of course there’s also the pre- and post- conference rides