Bite-Sized Forums Bringing Academics and Practitioners to the Table

Perth, WA

A new series of active transport seminars in Perth is bridging a disconnect between academics and their peers in industry and government.

WA cycling lobby organisation WestCycle held its first Future of Mobility seminar last month so academics can share their studies with people who can put their findings into practise.

“I don’t think this is really happening and I don’t know why,” the event’s organiser, WestCycle active transport manager Dr Georgia Scott, said.

“It’s about bringing the right people together so the good things happen.

“There’s a real appetite for this type of content. It’s really hard for people to reach out from within their own areas. If you are working in a transport consultancy or Main Roads (Western Australia) there aren’t many opportunities to learn about the latest research or intermingle with people who aren’t in your area.

“Similarly, academics don’t necessary appreciate that people can’t see their work if they’re just publishing it in academic journals.”

Georgia said industry and government representatives at last month’s seminar were asked if they considered available academic resources as part of making decisions in their work – and “there was just silence”.

The free 90-minute forum was held in Perth’s central business district in the middle of the working day, with lunch provided by the event’s host, international consultancy firm Stantec, to remove barriers to representatives of all three groups from attending, Georgia said.

She said 45 people attended the inaugural event, more than double the organisers’ expectations, and they are now aiming for around 70 when the next seminar is held on 13 July.

WestCycle is planning a total of three seminars this year, with the third scheduled for October.

“For our next seminar, I’m hoping to have three or four presentations that are focused on e-scooters and similar micromobility, because there have been a couple of relevant projects that have come up here recently. And there’s another in the works looking at cargo bikes for freight – for last-mile delivery,” Georgia said.

“The Road Safety Commission here is also excited about being involved in the next one because it’s involved in some legislative review about e-rideables. I’m hoping to get them involved with a presentation about where they’re up to.”

She said the seminars could also focus on WestCycle’s partnership with the non-profit social enterprise Town Team Movement, to emphasise how micromobility is part of the group’s campaign to make town centres come alive.

“I’m really hoping this series will make it easier for collaboration to happen, between universities, industry and government. Universities are really shifting their focus towards more industry partnerships and wanting the research to have practical application but I think many people aren’t even aware this is something they could do,” Georgia said.

“There’s really good research being done and those people really want it to be applied. They are generally doing this work because they want to make the world better and it would be great if the people on the ground can use it to form their work.

“I’ve been talking to a bunch of transport academics – urban design, urban planning academics – at Curtin University and it hit me they were doing so many cool projects but it’s very evident to me that they’re generally talking to people who are also in academic and not so much to the rest of the world.

“The way they share their work is by publishing in academic journals, which people outside universities don’t have access to, either because they’re super expensive and just because not everyone has time or enjoys reading long academic journals.”

Gap Between Great Plans and Reality

The first seminar featured two presenters from the Perth-based Curtin University.

Senior lecturer Dr Courtney Babb outlined his study of local governments across Australia and NZ to identify why so many councils have excellent bike plans but not such great cycling infrastructure.

The study aims to show why recommendations in those plans are not being implemented.

Lecturer Dr S. Zaung Nau outlined changes in traffic patterns in Perth before, during and after the Covid pandemic, which Georgia said was enthralling for a room full of traffic engineers.

“She’s a superstar at analysing big data sets and then being able to tell that story with that,” Georgia said.

“She’s also intending to look at the matching data for the city’s principal shared path network and she could possibly do this with WestCycle.

“The paths were just ridiculously busy at times during Covid.”

Other WestCycle Updates

WestCycle is also holding a Community Bike Festival on Sunday 12th March, as part of the Perth City Criterium Championship.

The family fun day, at Russell Square in Northbridge, will include a chance for people to ride, scoot and skate around the criterium course, as well as a DJ, stalls, bike activities such as BMX and mountain bike jumping coaching, and kids’ workshops.

In further WestCycle news, the organisation has raised concerns about a new WA Road Safety Commission road safety campaign, ‘No one plans a crash‘.

WestCycle says the campaign “includes videos that portray active transport, including riding bikes and e-scooters, as dangerous and suggests the active transport users are necessarily at fault for the crashes they are involved in, without any further commentary about the surrounding urban environment, car-dominated context, or acknowledgement of the overwhelmingly positive impact active transport has on the overall health and well-being of the community”.

“We recognise the Road Safety Commission’s difficult role in achieving the ambitious road safety target to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured by 50 to 70% by 2030. However, the messaging in this recent campaign is contrary to the Road Safety Commission’s own Driving Change – Road Safety Strategy 2020-2030, which is based on the principles of the ‘Safe System’ approach.

“This approach recognises that mistakes can and will happen on the road, and aims to create a road environment that minimises the harm caused by these mistakes.

“Since before the campaign’s release in December, WestCycle has been strongly requesting the Road Safety Commission not release the videos in their current form.

“WestCycle is particularly concerned that the videos play into unfounded stereotypes of people using active transport being somehow irresponsible or illegitimate road users.”

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