Reflections on ProWalk/ProBike/ProPlace 2012
APBP invited the recipients of the 2012 Gihon Jordan Scholarships to tell us about their experiences in Long Beach at the ProWalk/ProBike/ProPlace conference. The scholarship fund was established to enable students, recent graduates and other worthy members to attend the biennial conference, which this year took place in Long Beach, September 10-13.
I believe the one session which provided me with the most immediate utility was session #45 – Bicycle Boulevards and Neighborhood Greenways. I am currently in the process of designing the city's first bike boulevard. I took more notes on this session than any other I attended that week. Joe, Eric, Greg and Ann each had valuable design advice that directly pertained to the street under consideration for improvements in my city. In addition to design recommendations, Ann had some very good advice about the need to document existing bike/ped travel patterns along and across the street being considered for a bike boulevard – particularly in regard to the travel patterns of children. Ann and the other session leaders stressed the importance of a holistic approach to design. While this approach seems elementary to me now, the session participants identified a number of broader design issues that I had not occurred to me before – like perhaps framing the improvement as a traffic calming project as opposed to a bike boulevard to neutralize any anti-bike sentiment.
From an advocacy perspective, I experienced two "Ahha” moments. Ann Chenecka discussed the tremendous success Tucson has had with its adult bike safety program. I'd like to pursue the idea of creating a similar program in Aurora with the city's bicycle advocacy group, Bicycle Aurora (Bicycle Aurora also helped fund my trip to Long Beach). And Greg Raisman raised my hopes for change in my suburban auto-centric city by recalling that an 8-hour bike count in Portland, in 1974, only totaled 15 bikes. Portland now counts 1800 bikes a day in an 8-hour period.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful interactions I had at the local coordinator meeting on Monday afternoon – what an awesome group of individuals! I had the opportunity to speak with and listen to so many other bike/ped coordinators from across the country – from New York City, to Davis, California. What was so interesting wasn't that we shared so many things in common, but that they were doing so many things that I wasn't doing.
As a student and an aspiring academic, I often wonder whether any of the research I do will have tangible impacts on the ground for bicyclists and pedestrians. Attending Pro Walk/Pro Bike was an incredible opportunity to meet with people who work on walking and biking-related issues from all perspectives: planning, engineering, design, policy, and research; and to see how these professions all support one another to create places where walking and bicycling are safe, convenient, and fun ways to travel.
I had several valuable conversations with bike share professionals that taught me how to focus my research in ways that are useful for practice. One bike share program manager shared her experiences marketing bike share to large institutions; we discussed how modeling bike share trips and associated health, traffic, and environmental benefits around those proposed stations might help build the business case for implementing bike share. I spoke with a planner affiliated with a large urban park system who was interested in expanding the local bike share system into her jurisdiction, so we talked about selecting optimal station locations based on local destinations and the surrounding built environment.
As a direct result from these conversations, I am revising some parts of my research to make these kinds of practical uses feasible. More generally, through networking opportunities like these and all the sessions at Pro Walk/Pro Bike, I learned how to fit my research into the bigger picture of walking, bicycling, and placemaking.
Jessica E. Schoner
These are tough times all over and Arkansas' slip to a 50th ranking by the League of American Bicyclists reflects the real challenges active transportation professionals face here in our work. The chance to connect with old friends and the people around the country who inform my work here in Arkansas was remarkable.
Bud Laumer, AICP, LCI
Pro Walk/Pro Bike validated my interest in active transportation advocacy and planning. As students, professionals, and families we move about every day. We as active transportation planners and advocates have the opportunity to make a positive impact in a person's life by making her commutes healthy, enjoyable, and safe. Peter Furth identified low stress bicycling systems that, with connections, can encourage even the most timid bicyclist to hop on her bike and ride.
Thank you again,