A week ago I returned from Australia and I’d like to update you on the events in Canberra and Perth, which I visited after Brisbane. The departments of Transport in these three cities had joined forces with the Australian Cycling Promotion Fund and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to invite me to the country. When you follow me on Twitter you will have seen most of what is to follow, but I would like to have a full recap on my blog as well.
After the first full day in Brisbane, on 21 March, which I described in my post two weeks ago, I flew to Canberra the following day. The torrential rains that I experienced in Brisbane the day before had travelled with me, shutting down the airport and that caused a considerable delay. The planned cycle tour that afternoon was changed into a bus tour, also because of the rain. Besides some bicycle crossings I was shown developing ‘bicycle boulevards’ that go by the name of ‘Active travel streets’ in Canberra. In the early evening I was in a public forum organised by the Urban Synergies and Active Travel Office. The Netherlands Embassy had sponsored my stay in Canberra and the Embassy took the opportunity of my visit to organise a reception later in the evening at the Ambassador’s residence for a group of important officials.
Park & Pedal Video (Interview with yours truly at circa 6:30)
Very early the following morning I visited Australia’s first Park and Pedal project. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government tries to promote driving your car to a parking area at the edge of the city, where people are then encouraged to switch to a bike (that they bring in their own car) to continue their journey to work on a bicycle on the extensive (mainly recreational) cycle network. A creative and low cost project, or rather marketing campaign, that could serve as an example to other cities and countries. The idea already seems to spread to other parking facilities around Canberra. A very creative (first ever) live video for Facebook was made by the people from the department. After this early morning visit, I received another very warm welcome at the Netherlands Embassy, where I cycled with Netherlands Ambassador Erica Schouten. At lunch time I gave a presentation to an interested audience of people from all ACT Directorates, followed by a round table meeting with a smaller group of transport professionals to discuss and exchange ideas. There was barely time for all this, because I had to be rushed to the airport to catch my five and a half hours flight to Perth, early that same evening.
— Dutch Embassy (@NLinAustralia) March 21, 2017
Tweet with a nice video by the Dutch Embassy.
At 8 in the morning the following day in Perth, the program continued, when I attended the first Safe Active Streets National Workshop. It was good to have no real duties that first workshop day, but I did manage to give an elevator pitch to the newly appointed transport minister for Western Australia, who opened the two-day event. The afternoon program included a site visit to three ‘bicycle boulevards’ that go by the name of ‘Safe Active Streets’ in Perth, in different stages of development. That same night I tried to entertain a large group of people in a public event called “An evening with Mark Wagenbuur”. I showed some videos from my large body of work and that provoked some interesting discussions. All discussions stopped when a young man started a rather aggressive rant about the mandatory helmet law. He didn’t seem to sense that most people in the hall agree to some degree that mandatory helmets in Australia are not the way forward, but most feel now is not the time to start a fight about it. With better infrastructure that will be a different story. After an awkward silence from the hall, we picked up the evening again and it ended very positively.
On Friday, I was the keynote speaker at the workshop and since this was now the fourth time I gave my presentation, it rolled out rather nicely. The official program ended with a video interview for the Cycling Promotion Fund that I will include here.
The intensive week-long program generated a lot of positive attention for cycling in the Netherlands and the Dutch Cycling Embassy, especially on social media. On Saturday I gave one last interview, after which I was shown some very interesting parts of Perth by fellow blogger Tim Burns aka @PerthBiker, who was the one who got me to Australia in the first place. I cycled on his Dutch Gazelle and it felt really nice to cycle upright again. The PSP network of red asphalt paths in Perth almost made me feel at home! We took our bikes in the train to cover more distance (Perth is vast!) and we also used his car to visit a more remote cycle route.
To wrap up my stay in Australia I had a few hours to play tourist on Sunday morning and then I started a 25 hour commute to work in Utrecht, where I arrived Monday morning at 8:30 sharp! I had a great time and I filmed a lot. Unfortunately my cycle tour in Brisbane was cut short due to heavy rain, but you can expect blog posts about Canberra and Perth in the near future.