-By Benoît Beroud, Mobiped, Lyon France
After Nantes (France) in June 2015, the world cycling policy congress co-organized by the European Cyclist Federation occurred from 27th February to Mars 1st 2016 in Taipei (Taiwan), first time ever in an Asian country. This event gathered more than 1.000 delegates from divers professions (local governments, NGOs, manufacturers, services providers, researchers, consultants, businessmen, media, students) from 43 countries. Among them, 160 gave a lecture. And around 20 organizations showed up their know-how, products and services in the exhibition room.
An important milestone was achieved with the conference in the international process of cycling promotion. For the first time a great number of Asian representatives attended to the event and many discussions were possible between Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Indonesians and Filipinos.
A shy French presence (despite Velo-city 2015 in France)
As Velo-city conference took place in Nantes (western France) last year, one would have expected some more or less official handover, or at least some highlighting from French experts on cycling issues. Yet no officials from Nantes attended both opening plenary session and round table that gathered previous organizing cities. A French pavilion hosted official participants during previous years but this year the only one official French participant was Eco Compteur, world leading company for bike counting.
Distance, traveling and participation fees only 8 months after the 2015 edition might explain why there were so few French and European (depending on the country) participants. Limited interest in Asian markets is also to be considered.
Nevertheless, French/American binational administrator of the International Transport Forum (OECD) Phillip Crist led one of the plenary session and was awarded an honor prize from Copenhagen city for all his work for cycling promotion. Jean-François Reauhlt, Annie-Claude Sebban and Enrico Durbano also gave a presentation. In total a dozen French people attended 2016 Taipei edition.
Strengthening relationship with the industrial sector
Under the impulse of Kevin Mayne, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) has been federating the cycling industry within the Cycling Industry Club (CIC). The CIC provides support to the cyclists’ lobby and can expect economic benefits in return.
Moreover, the Cycle Taipei Show, world biggest Show for bicycles and spare parts makers, took place on March 2-6, 2016. Such a timing enabled industrial actors to participate to Velo-city events and vice versa. German industrial maker Bosch integrated the CIC as the world leader battery maker for pedelec. Taiwanese Giant, world’s leading bicycle maker, took advantage of such an opportunity to introduce itself as a system integrator and a public bike systems operator on the Taiwanese market. Giant CEO expressed his will to access international markets.
In line with previous Velo-city conferences, the 2016 edition theme “Evolution of cycling” was approached through 5 angles: urban transitions, moving lifestyles, sustainable economy, sharing societies and design in motion. Various topics were developed such as road safety, cycle highways, smart parking solutions, e-bicycles, impacts of cycling on economy and tourism, data issues and social inclusion.
Yet public bicycles particularly found themselves under the spotlights this year. One would even say that this topic was overrepresented among non-dedicated sessions. This seemed somewhat improper considering the diversity of necessary actions to the promotion of cycling.
French cities went through such a public bicycle “fever” during the 2000s, a fever that seemed to spread to Taiwan a few years later. At the beginning of 2016 around 1 000 cities over the world had a bike sharing system whose development seems out of control.
One of the main interest of public bicycle is certainly to bring cycling issues to the center of transportation and urban planning issues. Yet few explanations were provided during the Taipei conference on the relation between such public investments and strategic approaches on urban planning.
Participants satisfied, but …
As usual, regular participants met their international colleagues and friends. Newcomers are generally impressed by the scale of the event and they find opportunities to enlarge their professional network as reflected in the great number of business cards that are exchanged.
Participants usually don’t learn revolutionary things but they accumulate small relevant information and find precious sources of inspiration. They seize the opportunity of being abroad to take a critical distance towards their local environment and to benefit from exchanges of different visions through rewarding meetings and discussions. Being with other convinced people boosts individuals before everyone gets back to his/her respective challenging job.
…but the conference model has to be questioned
Too frequent recalls of cycling benefits among an already convinced audience is a waste of time. Moreover, just like most of conferences, topics are discussed in a top-down approach. One speaker presents a topic, the audience listens and everyone thinks by himself/herself, few questions are asked if time remains, and sometimes informal discussions continue off stage.
Official productions of the conference are limited to the newsletter edited by the ECF. And there was no guarantee that speakers’ presentations will be later published (in fact, they are: http://www.velo-city2016.com/index.php/en/program/presentation-download).
The main interest of Velo-city is to physically get together motivated people willing to work on a theme. But the potential of skills and knowledge sharing as well as learning through a co-building process are clearly under-exploited. The implementation of a knowledge management strategy would enable participants to be more efficient at developing their local, national and international actions.
Five events on the sidelines of Velo-city 2016
Danish representatives introduced their cycling training plan at the road safety forum organized by Taiwan and Denmark on February 25. The main goal for the Danish government is that any Danish citizen who is 12 years old or over can safely ride a bicycle by himself/herself. Such a policy could influence the new national action plan for active mobility in France.
Balance bikes are used to develop motor-skills and balance, cognitive abilities and social skills among 2-3 years old children. Then elementary school children practice on training tracks before learning to ride on real traffic situations when they are 10-11. A survey conducted among 20 000 school students showed that those who ride to school have better concentration abilities and better school results than those who are driven by their parents.
Scientists for Cyclist Colloquium: Around 60 people attended during which Thomas Jouannot from the French Studies Center on spatial planning, mobility, environment and risks (CEREMA) introduced the rule of “right turn priority” for cyclists at intersections. Zane McDonald (Institute for transport & development policy, University of California) presented an economic report predicting that tripling cycling share from 7 to 23% would enable cities and local governments around the world to save around $25 trillion over the next 35 years. The Cities for Cycling network also held a meeting on the same day.
Green Mobility: Taiwan-France bilateral conference on green mobility took place on March 2 at Feng-Chia University, Taipei. It was initiated by Yeh Chaofu from Feng-Chia University and Francis Papon from French Institute of science and technology for transport, spatial planning, development and networks (IFSTTAR) through Orchid funding program. Thomas Jouannot (CEREMA) and Benoit Beroud (Mobiped consulting) presented public bikes in France and in the world, Alia Verloes (6-t consulting) presented pedelecs and Rémy Cabazet (École Normale Supérieure) an analyze of movement flows of Lyon’s public bikes. On the same day a presentation of the Ecomobility World Festival – which will take place in October 2017 – took place at Kaoshiung, southern Taiwan.
Velo-city 2017: The next Velo-city conference will be jointly hosted by Dutch cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen on June 2017. Although it is certainly not possible to just copy the Dutch case, it will be a great source of inspiration. Under the Netherlands EU Presidency, the Cycling Festival Europe is taking place from 14 April 14 to June 30 in most of EU countries and even beyond.
As for 2018 conference, it will be hosted by Rio de Janeiro in Brasil!
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About the author:
Benoit BEROUD, mobility management expert, founder of Mobiped (www.mobiped.com), France. Review and translation by Thibaud GAVRILENKO, Intern at Mobiped. From an article just published in French in Velocité, the French cyclist NGO newspaper.