Countdown to Velo-city 2012: A Word with Conference Director Richard Campbell

By Sarah Ripplinger

Vancouver cyclists take their first ride on the completed Dunsmuir bike route. The protected lanes run from Main Street, along the Georgia Viaduct and Dunsmuir Street.

Richard Campbell is a driving force behind the upcoming Velo-city Global conference in Vancouver, BC, set to launch June 26, 2012. Campbell has spent the past several years helping to coordinate Bike Month in Vancouver, an experience he said pales in comparison to the amount of work that he has put into organizing Velo-city.

As the Velo-city Global 2012 conference director, Campbell has worn several different hats, from communications, to fundraising and program development. He is also the president of the British Columbia Cycling Coalition and vice president of the VeloWorks Cycling Society. Apart from that, you are likely to see Campbell at local cycling-related events and gatherings; advocating for the rights of cyclists and better cycling infrastructure in Vancouver; and on one of the many bike routes throughout the city.

This is the first time that the global arm of the Velo-city conference will be in North America (it was previously held in Copenhagen, Denmark). What is the significance of bringing it to a continent that is still developing its city cycling culture?

This is looking like great timing for Velo-city in North America. Cities, including Vancouver, Portland, New York, Montreal and Chicago, have started to normalize cycling by creating separated bike lanes that encourage people of all ages to cycle. Due to limited space, this can be both politically and technically challenging. By bring leaders from around the world here to share their experiences, Velo-city can help these and other cities find solutions to these challenges.

What has been the largest hurdle/ challenge to overcome in the process of organizing the conference?

We had a great response to the call for papers, receiving around 450 abstracts from all over the world and accepting 400 of them. It has been challenging to fit this large number of quality presentations into the four days of the conference. All and all, a nice problem to have, though.

Why was Vancouver picked out of other cycling-friendly cities (Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Montreal, Chicago, New York)?

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver City Council’s strong commitment to improve cycling, as witnessed by the successful Burrard Street Bridge separated bike lane trial (that resulted in permanent separated bike lanes on the bridge) played a large role in winning the bid. Great support from TransLink (the local mass transportation authority) was also critical. We also have a strong cycling community, including researchers, organizations like Hub (the local cycling advocacy organization) and bike-based businesses like Momentum Magazine. The bid was submitted shortly after the Olympics. The great success of the Olympic Games – with the great weather and people from all over the world celebrating in the streets – I suspect, played a role as well.

The right of the child is the central theme of the conference. Why is this topic important to address now?

Cities that children can cycle anywhere in are also cities that are great in many other ways. They are vibrant, safe and healthy for everyone. They are also more resilient economically while being more environmentally sustainable.

What are you looking forward to most at the conference?

Meeting cycling experts from all over the world and hearing them share the great work that they are doing in creating healthier livable cities.

What kinds of outcomes are you hoping to see after the close of the conference?

More cities around BC, Canada and the world committed to making cycling safe and accessible for everyone.

How can British Columbia get money from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and the provincial government to promote cycling in BC?

A good question. In general, we need to work at building our connections at the provincial level and get the support of companies and other organizations.

You’re an avid city cyclist. What does having accessible bike infrastructure in Vancouver mean to you?

Separated bike lanes and paths make cycling much more enjoyable and relaxing. Cycling through downtown Vancouver is now a great experience; whereas, before it was often rather miserable. I also enjoy seeing all the people using the lanes, especially parents with their children.

Any final thoughts?

It has been a real pleasure working with inspiring cycling leaders from around the world, including Gil Penalosa, Manfred Neun, Bernhard Ensink and Jean-François Pronovost, as well as all the people in Vancouver working hard to make the conference a success.

Velo-city Global 2012 is expected to host over 1,000 delegates from around the world. The conference will be held June 26 -29 at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center Hotel, accessible by the new Hornby Street separated bike lanes.

Visit velo-city2012.com/registration to register now.

Check back to the Countdown to Velo-city 2012 blog each week for updates on the conference, its speakers and the people on the attendance list.

Originally published on momentummag.com.

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