Saturday, 3 August 2013

David Hembrow and Velo-City 2014

It is difficult to remember what made me start blogging. I used to get almost everywhere by bike when I was a child. I had a Raleigh Chopper - one of the pre-OHS ones with the funky gear stick on the cross bar. Once I got older and left home to live in other places that all stopped. When I was living in London in the 1980s, it did not even occur to me. In fact, I have no memory of seeing anyone on a bicycle. I do have clear memories of backed up traffic on Clerkenwell Road in the days before catalytic converters. I also distinctly remember finding it hard to breathe.

I came back to the idea of riding a bike when I decided I was pretty bored of getting the bus to work every day. I thought it would be far better to have a shiny new bike I could use for nothing than spend all that money on bus tickets.

Once I was riding, I began looking around at other new bikes and found a few blogs about them and cycling. That was when Copenhagenize was only a couple of years old. Since then, I have come across others and there is now a good number of very high quality blogs around. Some are in the list to the right but there are also many others. When I was first reading, that was when Freewheeler was producing a prodigious amount of erudite sarcasm and ridicule. Happy days.

And then there was David Hembrow's site - one which probably more than any other opened my eyes to what can be achieved and the nuts and bolts of how it is done. The site has become very influential, often quoted and, by the sounds of it, routinely pinched from. And now thanks to an earlier collaboration, we have the Bicycle Dutch website which continues to explain carefully and patiently how the Dutch do it.

The whole movement has changed noticeably since I started talking to myself about it. The Guardian Newspaper has its own cycling column and not long ago The Times launched its Cities Fit for Cycling campaign. It is well and truly an important issue.

Five years ago I would not have predicted that Adelaide of all places would be hosting a worldwide cycling conference like Velo-City yet it is coming here in 2014.

The organisers recently asked for suggestions for possible speakers at the conference. I wrote an email mentioning various names including David Hembrow's. I am sure I was not the only one. The mayor recently wrote an invitation but the answer was, alas, a polite 'thankyou but no'.


The full wording of the response is here.

Through a series of emails, someone else has already tried to make him reconsider but unsuccessfully. You could say that if his attendance at the conference goes on to change the behaviour, even slightly, of a bunch of Adelaide people, the negative entry in the ledger from his journey will be balanced. You could also ask what about the people who fly across for a study tour, especially the recent Australian group? You could say that the plane you'd be flying on will be flying anyway so you may as well just come along and enjoy the airline food. You could also suggest turning the conference into a longer trip. There are lots of things to see and do in Australia.

But the answer is no. It is about personal integrity and something very much to be respected.

David does say at the end of his reply:

If it would be helpful, I could perhaps record a video exclusively for you to show at the Velo-city conference in lieu of my own attendance in person.

All I can say is 'yes please'. Your average Adelaidean simply does not get it. To have images and footage published in our newspaper (singular!) and broadcasted on local television of something as simple as a bunch of children getting themselves to school, together with an explanation of how that is achieved, could make a huge difference to us and plant some strong seeds of change. Please make a video if you can.

I was very hopeful that David Hembrow would be able to make it to our conference but it is not to be. But hey, I know that Marc van Woudenberg is coming. He is totally cool.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this interesting post. I am disappointed that David Hembrow will not be there. I also understand his position. Air travel has become so cheap that a lot of unnecessary trips are made. Of course, we also now have technology that can allow him to be included. The recorded video is a good suggestion but he could also be video-linked to the conference to allow some live interaction. If Mr Hembrow comes to Adelaide in person we would probably not get much more. However, conversely, if we all go to The Netherlands, we could meet Mr Hembrow and also get to see the stuff that is not moving: the infrastructure that could make life so much better if applied to Australia.