Monday, June 2, 2014
After my initial Velo-City Global Adelaide14 misgivings it didn't take long before I was drawn into Adelaide's magic ... and there's plenty of it!!!
Ok ... so the hotel view smacked of oil ...
... and the varying levels of committment you can make ...
... sometimes emcompassing whole roads passing through requiring traffic management
But look behind Big Oil and their cheerleaders, and you find a funky scene all over the city with plenty of good bars and cafes with plenty of good coffee, and food, and bubbly ...
And peep behind a bit further, and you find a strong bicycle counter-culture manned by committed cycling-advocates many of whom I'd already had the good fortune to come across via social media and blogs ... and now here I was in Adelaide finally getting to meet so many of them face to face.
And I loved how they totally matched their online personnas - honesty, intelligence and accuracy will do that!
So armed with coffee/drinks/food/buddies ... it was time to conference.
Full of the world's best urban planning and design minds, the Velo-City meeting was a great opportunity for world best practice to come to Australia and give us a few clues. It was also a great opportunity for the world best urban planning and design minds from overseas to see not only what 'Cycling-Australians' have to put up with but what the rare 'Visionary-Politician' has to put up with too.
With the Adelaide mainstream media and their subscribers bleating 'wolf wolf' across the airwaves last Wednesday after the Conference Brekkie Ride when delegates took to the streets on bicycles, many of the 500+ at Velo-City discovered a new-found respect for Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood and his team after glimpsing the hostility and opposition.
Yes embarrassingly the Dutch and the Danes and the Taiwanese and the Japanese and the Nigerians and the Turkish et al got to experience what a bunch of cycling numpties we are.
But back to the lecture halls ... there were many wonderful presentations with plenty of rock star performers, and headlining the event was none other than Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize fame, the sassy urban mobility consultant from Copenhagen.
Shouting 'WHAT THE FUCK' digitally from several enormous screens, Mikael mocked our self-congratulatory congratulations on current tiny baby steps of progress, and told it to us straight that we have the wrong people doing a lot of the cycling advocacy work on our behalf.
Yup too many 'avid cyclists doing the avid cyclist advocacy for cycling' - BAHAHAHAHAHA loved it!!! High five on that!!!!!
Jonathon Daly from Melbourne never disappoints, and his session looking at whether separation of bicycles and cars is the answer or cause of the difficult relationship between cyclists and other road users was fascinating.
Highlighting how important culture is to the entire bicycle equation, Jonathan entertained us all with a clip from YouTube showing us how the polite culture of Japan has easily accommodated citizens who choose to use bicycles:
Now if that bicycle bell experiment had been carried carried out in Australia that guy would have either been thumped or told to 'fuck off' - probably both - cultural norms definitely dictate bicycle paradigms.
How Australian governments persist in ignoring what Professor Chris Rissel from Sydney has to say leaves me mystified.
Where others tried to woo us in the Helmet Combined session with dogma and insisted that we acquiesce to helmet laws, Chris argued with facts and evidence. His message was starkly clear; bicycle helmet law and bicycle helmet promotion have been catastrophically bad for Australian public health and by just concentrating on mortality rates going down and nothing else, the data relied upon by governments was a misrepresentation of what actually happened.
No we cannot continue to operate in our sloppy business as usual cycling manner and yes we should revisit that gold standard set by the Cochrane Collaboration when you consider that it was the study authors themselves who reviewed their own work - bias - WTF.
We had Ethan Kent and his throwaway line which seemed so apt for Adelaide when he remarked:
"If parking's not a problem, you have a problem!" ...
And then from the 'crossroads of the world,' we had the privilege to listen to Janette Sadik-Khan, the woman behind one of the most exciting transport upheavals in the world to date. She kept us entranced with her tales of 'guerilla transport engineering' and how she determinedly ploughed ahead with plans for vibrancy and inclusivity in the public spaces of NYC.
Recognising early on that regular channels of change can take some time, and fired up with her mayor's view on meetings that 'in god we trust, everyone else bring data!', she capitalised on former Mayor Bloomberg's support and changed the use of public space in New York quickly so that everyone could see the results quickly - that she told us was the key ... 'change in streets in real time' ...
... sigh - how to do that here?
Engaging and funny, I loved her matter of fact approach that we're all living in 21st global cities and we're all competing to get the very best talent to come and move in so if we continue with 'Business-As-Usual' strategies and only focus on moving cars only, we're stuffed! (ahem Sydney, Adelaide?).
Sweetly she invited us all to head on over and check out NYC which could prove problematic for me given that I have a bicycle helmet criminal conviction and would be promptly uninvited at the border!
But my most favourite bits of Velo-City were the counter-conference ones ... for instance the wonderful helmet optional ride so brilliantly organised by the Melbourne-based Freestyle Cyclists.
Kathy Francis, Alan Todd and Nik Dow did an amazing job of liaising with police and politicians, and as a result we had the most lovely afternoon cycling along the river path to the beach.
Nik Dow (Freestyle Cyclists co-founder) ...
... and Alan Todd (Freestyle Cyclists co-founder) did an excellent job chatting to the media in their serene expert ways.
Somewhere between 50-60 riders accompanied by a police escort of around 10 officers from the Police Bicycle Brigade enjoyed the sheer joy of a lovely late Adelaide afternoon....
... and for once in an Australian city, we were allowed to make the helmet choice for ourselves!
Mikael of course was in demand, and continued to point out to the media the extent of Australian cycling backwardness (this time to Channel 9).
Then it was a quick trip to the train station (still with police escort), quick trip on train to Bowden (still with police escort), and then a quick cycle ride to the Adelaide Bike Kitchen minus police escort ...
BREAKING: AUSTRALIAN CYCLISTS CYCLE ON ROAD TO SOMEWHERE
... but OMG what a somewhere ... my valhalla!!!!
A complete bicycle nirvana ... a beautiful open space for bike fixing, getting together, pooling resources and skills, a space to remind yourself how lovely folk can be, and how we need to hurry up and hand over the reins to the young ones. Truly a space for everyone, for the community and if I lived in Adelaide I'd make this place a regular haunt.
We mingled/laughed/chatted/gathered for the counter-culture Velo For'um All, and the shed was packed with bike parts, aromatic food smells, happy people, sheet-covered hay bales (for instant auditorium) wine, speeches (hmmm had I ever considered 'stand-up' I was asked after mine - hadn't but am now!!!!) and all this was followed by yummy food more wine and fabulous live music
Such a great vibe and such a great team and I loved their mission to 'strive to remain open, adaptive and creative in our concerted response to undesirable aspects and trends in urban social and economic life.'
Just my sort of place!!!!
And then it was goodbyes all round, and back on my bike (no police escort) ...
BREAKING: WOMAN RIDES BIKE ON ROAD
... and in no time I was crossing the bridge and looking at Adelaide thinking about my amazing week!!!
* bicycle helmet crime booking
* media interviews
* counter culture ride & forum
* police escorts
* bicycle rockstars from Adelaide and afar
Ok so I didn't like Santos being a major sponsor and I refused to ride conference bikes with their logo, and I didn't like how 2 mini hot dogs were considered a $140 conference dinner, and neither did I like the road raging concrete-cowboy incident (but hey I've had egg sandwiches thrown at me by toffee-nosed Scone Cup punters so no Australian surprises there really) and I was baffled by media reaction to my comments that helmet law deterred women from cycling ... WTF (that's another post)
BUT my admiration for Stephen Yarwood knows no bounds.
When you see what he is up against it is incredible that he has achieved what he has, and undoubtedly having the Velo-City Global conference in Adelaide this week was an enlightened master-stroke.
The world came, the world saw, and whether the world conquered is another story, but our mainstream media grudgingly got involved, and in the process evolved from 'mouthpiece' for standard Australian motoring 'cranky-pants' to interested 'media partners' keen to discover what the global experts of best practice had to say.
Who could not be charmed by Mikael or intrigued by Janette?
Who could not be impressed by the Lord Mayor of a parking lot city?
And now back in New South Wales, I'm missing Adelaide and dreaming of Bike Kitchens ...
... I shall return ♥
(a court case looms!!!!!! )