It really was an extraordinary experience to be mingling at the Velo City Global Conference 2014 in Adelaide with such great thinkers and ‘doers’ when it comes to bikes, infrastructure and creating change. I’m still reeling from the fact I was even invited to be a part of it and to present. And super excited about the fact we were a finalist in both the Leadership and Behaviour Change categories of the Cycling Luminaries Awards.
The Cycling Luminaries brochure
Being alone at a conference like that forces you to meet people and talk. As soon as I told people about Wheel Women then the doors of conversation immediately opened. The presentation itself drew a nice crowd and many questions afterwards, as well as a whole bunch of business cards being handed to me! People were not just genuinely interested, they were excited!
The crowd gathers before the presentation and then we’re in full swing.
There is so much I drew from the speakers and their messages, but there are far too many to share here on a blog. So instead, I’ll just give you a little run down on a few who not only set my mind buzzing with ideas, but also for me, validated what we are doing at Wheel Women.
If you’ve heard the term ‘copenhagenize’ then you’ve heard of Mikael Colville-Anderson. He’s the Danish/Canadian expert who consults worldwide to help cities get their people mobile and onto bikes. He’s also a campaigner for no helmets and riding in everyday gear. You’ve gotta love a guy who puts up a giant slide to open a conference that says ‘What the fuck’…okay, it sounds funny, but it was probably the single biggest thing which resonated with me for the whole conference.
Why you ask? Wheel Women is a private organization – that leaves us in the glorious position of being able to do things the way we think they should be done! Hearing this ‘what the fuck’ instruction, and seeing this slide so big, for me was license for us at Wheel Women to keep doing what we’re doing. Don’t wait for things to happen, or wait for everyone’s approval, or wait for people to come to you…just bloody do it! We will keep getting women onto bikes regardless, and we’ll do what it takes to get them there.
Some great advice from Mikael Colville-Anderson!
Also reigning from Denmark, Niels talked about the need for making the places we gather far more enticing and friendly. And if we did this then everyone benefits – he pointed out that his journey to school by bike with his daughter meant a stop at the local shop for supplies, his daughter would enjoy the stop because she gets a treat and he gets to do the ‘dad thing’. The store of course benefits by having the locals shop at their store – it builds loyalty and builds relationships. But if we want to encourage this we need to make it easer for our local commercial entities – why not let them all have mobile bike racks that they move in and out of the store each day, offer special deals to people on bikes.
But the most important thing for me that Niels said was that we need to stop trying to be perfect – we are still young when it comes to leading our population to being bike riders. We will make mistakes, and if we don’t we won’t learn – try things, experiment, don’t be afraid to be wrong. As long as we try, and keep moving on this then we are doing a great thing…thanks Niels!
You can watch Niels here and see what important things he has to say…
Niels even retweeted some of my posts…thanks Niels!
Janette is pretty much responsible for the New York City bike share scheme, and I remember being in NYC in April of 2013, her name was always mentioned in the newspaper. Head of Transport for the city, her view of ‘placemaking’ is fabulous and really made me think an awful lot about what we do at Wheel Women. Our rides consist of stopping somewhere nice so we can chat, enjoy each others company, take a break and enjoy the view.
This is what placemaking is: engaging the people and resources in the immediate area to create and inspire community and connection. As women, I think we are pretty good at this – we often instinctively ‘nest’ and home-make’. This idea of placemaking isn’t new to us as women (though we may not have thought of it in these wider terms of built environment), but what is new is how we can use it to make our environment more enticing to build community. The idea of placemaking has been around in design circles for years, but it is really something we need to look at for the future of increasing populations!
Watch the video below for a little more insight into what Janette is talking about…
Dr Larry Frank
Dr Frank presented on the correlation between what effect a built environment has on people’s choices for mobility – will they walk, drive, ride? His research shows that very often we are focusing so much on building our cities to encourage people to drive, but if we change the way we think about this we can encourage people to walk or ride their bikes.
When we create our cities to be car-centric, we create a world where energy is not sustainable, or health risks increase and our community has a fragmented approach to connection with each other. I think it was astounding seeing the health stats that Dr Frank presented…we know we have a developed world with serious health issues of obesity and chronic disease which has a serious long term impact on our economy. Aside from thinking about how we design our cities for the future, and what changes we can make to existing ones, his message was to get moving people!
Data from Dr Larry Frank…he said ‘In God we trust, in everything else, data, data, data!”
I just love People for Bikes, the US based organization that promotes riding for everyone. Tim presented to us an overview of People For Bikes and what they do, but he also compelled us to spread the good word about what riding a bike can do for you and the community. As Blumenthal says all the time ‘when people ride bikes, great things happen’…I smile every time I hear this because I see it all the time at Wheel Women.
People For Bikes are certainly some of my very favourite Facebook feeds each day and they are filled with positivity…and we know that because we know what happens when you ride a bike! If you ever question why you ride, or why anyone else should, get onto the website peopleforbikes.org. I love the line at the end of their ‘Why We Ride’ page…well, ‘mostly because it’s fun!’ Ditto!
“When people ride bikes…great things happen.” Yes they do!
After the conference I feel a renewed energy for Wheel Women and certainly a spark has been ignited. I think our role for the future is really important.
We also know that there has been so much male domination in the ‘bike world’ (this aspect was also mentioned at the conference several times), that there is room for change and we can be that change. If we can continue to encourage more women to choose bike riding as their choice of activity, then the more will eventually translate that into an everyday part of their lives. This ultimately has positive effects on so many fronts, but it also encourages the powers that be that make decisions about our cities to think differently.
We have so many plans for the future of Wheel Women, and I think the conference really helped to cement, ignite and further those plans.
Stay tuned: we’ll announce a date and venue so you can see the Wheel Women presentation