Pro Walk / Pro Bike Conference in Long Beach a Success!

Pro-walk/Pro-bike 2012 logoWe’re fresh off press duty at the Pro Walk / Pro Bike / Pro Community conference in Long Beach and ready to report what we heard and saw. What an event! With over 800 (about half of them local government officials) attending twenty-six breakout sessions and dozens of other mobile workshops and poster presentations, this was an event not to miss. Better Bike was there to spread the word that we need help in Beverly Hills, but also to nail down interviews with the movers and shakers who are changing our auto-centric landscape today. Read on for a brief recap and look for an upcoming show on the Bike Talk podcast.

The Pro Walk / Pro Bike conference was co-organized by the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit “planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities.” Not surprisingly the focus at the conference was on rebuilding our public space to make them accommodating to all users, and to encourage its use in the face of ongoing public health and mobility challenges.

Project for Public Spaces recently swallowed the National Center for Bicycling & Walking, the conference’s other co-organizer. That organization was a pioneer in the effort to create bicycle-friendly and walkable communities (founded in 1977). It is now a “resident program” that retains the same mission.

Underlying both organizations’ efforts is the conviction that we need to rethink mobility for a post-auto era…that it’s the only way we will ever create healthier individuals and communities. Indeed the conference over-arching theme was the need to address the reciprocal relationship between our creation of urban places and their effect on us as kids, as adults, and seniors.

That suggests the need for a full-on rethink about our national agenda going forward. The good news is that the full roster of powerhouse advocacy organizations in the house for Pro Walk / Pro Bike suggests that we advocates are marshaling our resources, managing our message(s), and tailoring our language to make universal mobility a movement now that we’re entering an uncertain political and funding era in the wake of the new federal transportation bill, Map-21.

National Womens Bicycling Summit logoConference highlights included seeing current and former Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition staffers take a prominent role on panels and poster presentations; the follow-on, first-ever National Women’s Cycling Summit that corralled the many bike subcultures that make up the chicks-on-bikes scene; and of course talking to the many folks who gave up their time to talk to us for Bike Talk.

Women's Bicycling Summit breakout session
“Beyond Spandex: Toward Social Justice” breakout session at the Women’s Bicycling Summit.

Behind the scenes a host of folks worked hard, hard, hard to make this even at the Long Beach Convention Center flow smoothly. A first shout-out to conference director Mark Plotz who helped us track down a few folks. What a Herculean task he pulled off. Shout outs also go to host facilitators Melissa Balmer, media coordinator, who helped us snag a press pass; Charlie Gandy, former mobility coordinator for Long Beach, who was the spiritual godfather for this event; Alan Crawford and April Economides, the pair who have made Long Beach better for cyclists; and Jim Brown from the California Bicycle Coalition. And of course the sponsors: Metro, Bikes Belong, the League of American Bicyclists, LA Dept. of Health, Safe Routes, B-Cycle, Bike Nation and many others.

Read theĀ Pro-Walk Pro Bike 2012 conference program for the breakout sessions and stay tuned for follow-up posts and audio interviews. We’ll leave you with this overview of the closing plenary address delivered by Open Plans founder Mark Gorton, who delivered a fiery address calling for an insurrection against departments of transportation nationwide. Great stuff!

Pro-Walk / Pro-Bike Conference closing plenary with Mark Gorton
Mark Gorton delivers the closing plenary at Pro-Walk / Pro-Bike 2012.