We’ve got our press pass to the 17th Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference taking place from September 10th to 13th in Long Beach – the region’s unlikely reigning capital of bike facilities. We’ll be no wallflower by the refreshment table. Instead we will prowl the corridors to talk to advocates, planners, engineers, officials, and public health professionals who create communities friendly to walking and cycling. And we won’t be wearing our Better Bike cap. Look for us in headphones on the hunt for some tape for an upcoming Bike Talk podcast.
Our Bike Talk show theme: setting the national active transportation agenda. We’ll try to tap for interviews some of the luminaries on hand, including Mikael Colville-Anderson, the blogger behind Copenhagenize; Fred Kent, founder of Project for Public Spaces; Dan Burden from the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute; Sharon Roerty, planner and Senior Program Officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; John Horsley, Executive Director of AASHTO (where’s NACTA?); Living Streets guru Ryan Snyder; and of course Long Beach’s own Councilmember Suja Lowenthal and mobility coordinator Charlie Gandy.
We’ve been to our share of planning conferences. The academic conferences are often convocations where the pall of the guild hovers and where theory, like an astringent, wrings from under-attended sessions any creative frisson. Then there are the professional conferences. At best they might rival a SCAG workshop for fun but more often recall the somnambulant webinars that proceed seemingly at half-speed. The folks in the walk & bike advocacy community are a bit more fun-loving, and that promises to leaven the proceedings.
Registration is pricey ($650) but the value is priceless: from Monday evening reception to midday Thursday wrap-up plenary, the conference offers 93 substantive sessions across tracks like Healthy + Safe, Invest + Govern, Advocate + Include, Plan + Connect, and of course, Design + Engineer. You can see the broader concern emerge: healthy communities well-planned for safe mobility. And that is reflected in the folks attending.
Why so expensive? Have a look at the program; this is an expensive conference to organize and host. Plus, there is no captive university crowd angling for advancement to squeeze for registration fees, for one thing. And unlike some industry conferences there’s no fat budget for filet mignon, casinos and escorts. The organizations behind the conference will likely take a hit from the latest federal transportation bill, so we’re thankful that their bringing their office party to SoCal.
We’ll look forward to seeing you there. If you’re approached by a guy in headphones and a fisherman’s vest, don’t run the other way. The only thing we want from you is some good tape for a Bike Talk podcast!