Flashback Friday: Highlights from #2WALKandCYCLE Conference Auckland

Next week sees the return of the 2WALKandCYCLE Conference, hosted in Wellington. Partly due to lockdown disruptions, it’s been three years since the last one in Dunedin – quite the wait. Unfortunately I won’t be attending this one – interestingly the first NZ cycling conference that I’ve missed since 2000. Back in 2016 I was at that year’s event though, held in Auckland, and reported on it afterwards in a blogpost originally from Jul 2016

As mentioned recently, I attended the 2WALKand CYCLE Conference in Auckland last week. About 260 people took part and there were over 90 different presentations, which are now available on the website (some also have papers as well). If you missed keynote speaker Gil Penalosa, who also spoke in Christchurch last week, you can check out this video of his public presentation in Auckland.

Keynote speaker Gil Penalosa made quite an impression with many people

You can get a bit of a run-down of the highlights thanks to the #2WALKandCYCLE Twitter hashtag that was used pretty extensively by delegates. Here are a few things that stuck in my mind over the three days:

  • It’s amazing to think of the progress that has been made for cycling in New Zealand since the last 2WALKandCYCLE Conference in 2014. As I said to a few people, less than two years ago the Cycle Safety Panel was musing that what was really needed was some significant financial investment in cycling and some major programme and technical support from NZ Transport Agency. Fast-forward to today and the energy around the country is quite impressive.
  • The recent activity on the cycling side did cause a few people to comment about the relative lack of love at a government level for walking; in contrast to the $330 million being spent on the former over the next three years, dedicated walking investment only totals a few million nationally. I think that’s somewhat overstating the problem, as much of the cycling investment will also benefit pedestrians too, but I certainly agree that a bit more attention on walking infrastructure would be well worthwhile.
  • Gil Penalosa introduced everyone to the concept of “CAVE people”: Citizens Against Virtually Everything. It’s important to remember that you won’t please everyone with a project and, while some people might have particular concerns, it’s important that the general interest prevails.
  • A number of speakers picked up on another point made by Gil that much of what we design seems to be targeted at a “30 year old athletic male”. If we are to get more people enjoying walking and cycling it’s important that we cater for the whole spectrum of people, including the young, old, impaired, and so on.
  • The important role of lower speed environments to encourage walking and cycling was picked up by many speakers. Many people liked the term “sensible speeds” coined by Bevan Woodward for how to publicly explain the concept.
  • It was interesting to see how many people used the term “social licence” to describe their efforts. This term, popularised recently by NZTA, describes the means of getting widespread support from your community to enable you to do things, e.g. supporting cycleways even if it means a few concessions like removing car-parking. With numerous examples of “bikelash” (Island Bay, Wgtn, anyone?), it’s important to tell the “why” story and bring the public along for the ride.
  • The variety of speakers meant that a range of different perspectives were presented, and not everyone’s experiences were the same. Hence, what is being done for cycling in big places like Auckland and Christchurch is quite different to how it is tackled in the likes of Rotorua and New Plymouth (e.g. when cheap parking and no traffic congestion is readily available in a small place, it’s hard to convince people of the need for cycling). Those of us in flat Christchurch also need to remember that topography is an important consideration when planning cycling networks in some other places.
  • Conference MC Greg Cooper is always a valuable addition to this conference with his quick wit and many characters. At the Conference Dinner I don’t know if there was a dry eye after his “Brazilian Olympic wrestler” was weight-lifted by a rather large Canadian lumberjack (don’t ask…).

While in Auckland for the conference, I also was able to get out and take a few more photos of some interesting cycling things around the central city. Here are a few of interest:

A view of the famous Lightpath at night
The new Quay St Cycleway features Akld’s first cycle counter display – already nearly 300 riders by 4.30pm
A feature at intersections is that cyclists can keep going through when cars are stopped
Another recent success story in Akld are the new shared spaces – like this one in Elliott St

The next 2WALKandCYCLE Conference is likely to be in 2018, venue still to be confirmed. But the good news for Christchurch locals is that the Asia Pacific Cycle Congress will be hosted here next year (Oct 2017) – something to put in the calendar!

Will you be attending 2WALKandCYCLE this year?

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