Save the date: On Friday, August 17, in the late afternoon we will be discussing how to proceed. It will be the day of the Ispo Innovation Forum, where we will be working on future aspects of business opportunities for bicycles in the framework of urban moblity, and after the plenary panel we will create space and time to continue with “our” discussions and how to put them into practical action for sustainability and bike mobility! More below, I just wanted to make sure that you read this, if anything. It will be my last blog for a while, but I am much looking forward to continuing action and discussions with all of you.
Let me divide the reporting from the velo city into a number of different perspectives:
Regarding content, I would love to be able to report more comprehensively; however, with up to ten sessions in parallel it is just not possible to have any representative overview, all the more so as I have been concentrating a lot on talks with different people, besides listening, chairing sessions, presenting myself, and refreshing my mind in short bicycle sprints around Stanley Island. So what I can say here is subjective, selective; nevertheless there are a few noteworthy observations I like to share:
First of all, there are loads of presentations on how to introduce bicycle mobility in all sorts of places, with all sorts of emphases. My goodness, time is definitely with “our” topic. I would just love to have everything sorted, so I could get a structured overview of best and worst practice, in different contexts and with different objectives, now and whenever I need it. There are a few books that attempt this now, but I think with such a work of flexibly sorting and categorizing global initiatives and their outcome one could definitely provide a most effective service to global bike mobility.
Second, one of the key changes and challenges in the near future will be the increase of bicycles and muscle driven vehicles different from the ones we are used to. In likely the world leader Copenhagen they reported that especially utility bikes are much on the rise, for cargo, transporting beer, baby, butterscotch, for party, for family. These will demand yet wider lanes, and will create yet more differences in speeds and needs of cyclists.
Third, there is at some time also a ceiling for cycling. After 50 percent or so it is hardly possible to yet increase bicycle traffic, and the problems of parking, jams, anonymity and the like will take almost car-traffic-like dimensions. It is good to be prepared for that, as early as possible. Even with all those problems, we must not forget that bicycle traffic is almost always superior to car traffic in urban settings.
Regarding conference atmosphere, I had written a few glimpes in my last mail already. And it went on like this… The conference evening was organized in an extremely uninspiring office building, with some food offered but you pay for the mediocre beer, for 6 EUR a small bottle. No wonder that many participants left soon. The bike parade through Vancouver yesterday was lovely, even though we picked just the one rainy hour of the whole week. But why do they tell us for ten minutes at the beginning, with everybody waiting in the rain, about all safety issues in cycling, and how careful we need to be, in this police accompanied parade. Hey, this IS A CYCLING CONFERENCE. I appreciated Manfred Neun´ s move then not to wear a helmet, as a sign against the helmet rule. I joined in, at least some civil disobedience, and whereas the bicycle helmet at times does make sense, it is very much counterproductive to require wearing one: Cycling will thus have a difficult time to become the ubiquitous alternative for easy and fun short distance mobility, and with less cyclists cycling is getting more dangerous. The statistics are quite clear: There are more accidents and deaths where helmets are required.
Finally, regarding conferences, association life and initiatives like ours, I had some rather puzzling discussions which brought aspects to my attention that I usually tend to ignore: Some other initiatives and institutions obviously feel competition, envy the presence of the Global Ride to Rio in some speeches, question self-evident ECF support of some follow-up activities, demand clear strategies and vinculations for standings and support… Wow. Wait a minute. What we have achieved so far, which we can be proud of, happened because of the great individual contributions of a number of enthusiastic people, most of which are on this mailing list, the others will be included in however the follow up will look like. Great thanks go to Benjamin and Florian, to Javi and Cornelius, to Alfred and Elke, to… Well, so many have supported, helped, shared, and have shared with me their enthusiasm to continue to do so. And even though it was certainly supportive to be able to count on the endoresement of UN Habitat, ICLEI, and ECF, it ist rather Mr. Riegelsberger, Sunny, and especially Manfred Neun himself that were of support, with their own mind, action, and work, not the institutions. So what I definitely learnt from these discussions is that we need to go on with accumulating, nurturing, and pampering people that share enthusiasm for the good and fun of our mission. I will definitely not want to create a bureaucratic monster, depleting the energy of enthusiam in status infights. We should be innovators for impact and for the good, working with those who share our enthusiasm, and for those who want us to create impact for them. Our energies are too scarce to deplete them in unproductive political discussions – besides, there are others much better at that.
Yes, I had promised you to come up with something more concrete. But somehow I feel I need to fill up my mental energies to digest all of these impressions and put them into what I think could be a conducive format for our further collaboration. Any input from your side on this is highly appreciated. But, please, all of you, try to make it on August 17 to Munich, and stay overnight so that we can continue some talks on the morning of August 18, at a delightful Saturday brunch.
Off to some last talks, then to nature!