Ann-Marie Head, Tracy Fleming, Ben Jassin and I recently attended the 2WalkandCycle Conference, held at the Dunedin Centre from 16-19 March 2021. We were pretty excited as this was the first ‘in person’ conference we had attended in over a year.
We found ourselves a great Victorian townhouse on Stuart Street about one minute’s walk to the venue – it was perfect. The three days were busy listening, presenting and catching up with peers. We all presented, poor Ben got a Friday afternoon session, always a hard gig. The dinner on the Thursday night was amazing with a wander through the Early Settlers Museum before arriving in the dining area. That afternoon there were also field trips, some on bike, some on foot. I went on the walking tour of the Warehouse Precinct. Our guide explained how the area was progressively being developed in terms of building restorations, street changes and proposed lane upgrades. The vibe was grainy, the street art always a favourite with me.
We have compiled a few key themes that resonated with us:
Gender considerations: Women generally make more daily trips to balance work and family commitments. Women have more personal security concerns that can affect their travel choices. These and other issues need to be considered more carefully in transport planning. It was great to see so many presentations on this from both women and men who are aware of these issues, and it has really changed how they see a street or space.
Street design for all: Skye Duncan from the Global Designing Cities Initiative spoke about the new Designing Streets for Kids Design Guide which was full of ideas and inspiration. Viewing a street from a height of 950mm is a useful tool to see a space from a child’s perspective. Skye’s before and after photographs of streets that have been re-shaped through tactical urbanism were also amazing and inspirational. Many presentations covered lessons learnt from Innovating Streets projects; it is useful that we are all sharing these. Street design aspects that would result in a more equitable transport environment were presented, but some of these aspects have been presented for many years; why aren’t we seeing change? The day we don’t need presentations on how to plan and design for women, children, different cultures, and people with disabilities, is the day we have nailed it!
Active transport for school kids: Several presentations examined why active travel to and from school wasn’t as high as it could be. Factors such as safety concerns from parents were of no surprise. On the positive side, it was great to hear about the excellent work happening with Waka Kotahi cycle training and the focused work with specific schools from groups such as Sports NZ and local councils.
Measure, measure, measure: Measuring of walking and cycling continues to be poor. The recent latent demand for walking and cycling research by Waka Kotahi suggests a database for this purpose; I support that! A good example of why we need to measure is that just because people with disabilities aren’t using pedestrian infrastructure, doesn’t mean the demand isn’t there. It just means the infrastructure isn’t quite friendly or accessible enough. One way to verify the quality of the infrastructure would be to survey pedestrian movements and compare that to census disability data. The same evaluation is worthwhile to check the demographics of the users too.
Sometimes during and after a conference I can feel overwhelmed, flip flopping between what I should be prioritising. I took some deep breaths and concluded that we need to step back and appreciate the big picture and focus on the part of the system we operate in and do that really well! When we got back to the office a colleague asked if it was attended by the ‘converted’ only. Well yes, it probably was but you know even the converted need some inspiration, and this conference as always, delivered on that.
Blog written by Jeanette Ward, Technical Director, Transportation Engineering