"We have never travelled so far, and moved so little."

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Posted on: 14 November 2017    

At Abley, our transport engineers and planners often talk about wearing many hats. As transportation professionals, we find that on any one project our hats may include our "client hat" (thinking about the best interests of our client), our "environment hat" (thinking about the impact of the project on the receiving environment), our "safety hat" (are there any safety concerns) and our "detective hat" (to get to the bottom of the problem). Every project has a different set of perspectives to consider and hats to wear.

However after attending the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress (APCC) held in Christchurch from 17-20 October 2017, I think there is one hat that transportation professionals often forget to wear – the "marketing hat". International keynote speaker Phillip Darnton set the scene brilliantly at the start of his presentation, when he highlighted the following quote:

“... the case for encouraging cycling is so obvious that we should not have to put it in a debate. It should be central Government policy.”  House of Commons, 1997

I believe this epitomises one of the key challenges faced in cycling projects. Although we, as transportation professionals, understand that the case for investing in cycling is indisputable, the general public often do not. One simply has to find an online news article on cycling infrastructure and scroll to the comments section, to see how misinformed some New Zealanders are about the benefits of investing in cycleways and other active transport modes.

So, what can we do about it?

I suggest that perhaps we need to spend more time with our marketing hats on, to ensure that the obvious benefits are successfully communicated to the general public. One thing that was promising at APCC, was seeing the way people that are starting to rethink the consultation process, be it through virtual reality bike rides, LEGO sets or ‘real life’ streetmix (https://streetmix.net/).  However, these are still very infrastructure-focused. 

To convince the general public to support investment in cycle networks, we need to change the conversation. In the words of Professor Chris Rissel “cycling is a win-win-win policy” for people, planet and profit. And importantly, the people who stand to benefit are not just cyclists.

For me, attending the APCC was an excellent learning and networking opportunity, hearing about the latest international trends and developments from world-renowned experts.  It's fair to say, a highlight for me was when Abley was announced the winner of the Bikes in Business Award, for our in-house designed TravelWhiz product. I look forward to being part of the ongoing development and success of this innovative work.

Blog written by Bridget Southey-Jensen, Abley Transportation Engineer

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