Countdown to Velo-city 2012: Q & A with Delegate Lisa Slakov

By Sarah Ripplinger

Velo-city Global 2012 expects to attract around 1,000 delegates to the beautiful and bike-friendly city of Vancouver, BC. From June 26-29, policy analysts, city planners, engineers and politicians will flock to British Columbia’s most populous city to discuss how to make cities around the world greener and more amenable to cycling traffic.

One such attendee will be Lisa Slakov. A member of the organizing committee for Velo-Talk – a bike advocacy workshop that will take place on June 25 – as well as the Vancouver/ UBC chair of the local cycling advocacy organization HUB, Slakov is an active proponent of cycling in her community.

I asked Slakov a few questions about her motivations for wanting to attend Velo-city 2012 and what she hopes to gain from taking part in the conference.

Why are you attending the upcoming Velo-city Global?

It’s an amazing opportunity to be part of a great international cycling conference, since it’s happening here in Vancouver. I can hardly wait for the cycling buzz to descend on the city and liven up streets and paths as well, as the conference centre.

What presentations are you looking forward to most? 

HUB is receiving support from Velo-city and TransLink to send presenters to the conference on the dates that they are presenting HUB-related presentations. Consequently, I am attending on two dates and am looking forward to the two presentations that I’m involved in – on Wednesday the Right to Bike Child Cycling Education Framework presentation and, on Thursday, a presentation on the complementary role of academics, advocates and government agencies in influencing cycling facilities and route networks. Of course, I’m looking forward to all the other presentations I can take in during those two days!

You are the Vancouver/ UBC chair of HUB (formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition). What is the most rewarding aspect of working for a bicycling advocacy organization?

I’m very happy to say that Heather Harvey has joined me as co-chair, which makes the job a much greater pleasure. That brings me to my first thought regarding the rewards of doing this work, which has to do with the connections I’m constantly making with great people involved in cycling. I’ve also really enjoyed working on cycling – one of my favorite things to do – and seeing positive change happen in Vancouver as a result of the HUB advocacy work.

What are you doing in your work to bring more Vancouverites into the commuter cycling fold?

We are relying on the ongoing efforts of HUB staff and legions of volunteers to advocate for better cycling and provide programming, such as Bike to Work and Bike to School weeks and cycling education to reach out to a lot of people. In addition, we’re looking to research to guide us in ensuring that our advocacy work is supporting bringing more people into the “fold.” Specifically, we’ve benefited enormously from the Cycling in Cities research being conducted out of UBC.

What’s one thing that North American cities have gotten right over the past few years when it comes to planning for more bicyclists?

I think that some North American cities are looking at evidence-based research to decide re how to develop their cycling infrastructure and, at least in the case of Vancouver in recent years, are doing a good job of consulting with the cycling community and the public to have a better understanding of needs.

What do you think is an essential ingredient for establishing cycling-friendly cities in North America?

It’s evident that separating traffic and cyclists as much as possible (as we do for pedestrians and traffic) is a key ingredient for cycling-friendly cities. I also think that we need to include a lot more education of cyclists and drivers, as well as promotion of cycling alongside infrastructure developments.

Have you noticed a political and social shift in favor of biking over the past few years? What is the climate like for bike policy in Vancouver right now?

I’m very happy with the direction that public opinion, and consequently our political leadership, is taking in Vancouver at this time with respect to cycling. There are a lot of issues out there to balance (with the issue of biking), but I really believe that enabling a lot more active transportation has a multitude of positive benefits for our cities that go way beyond just cycling.

What do you think will happen in the aftermath of Velo-city 2012?

I’m hoping that a lot of positive change will come out of the conference, including an increased public awareness of the advantages of encouraging cycling in the city. I’m also hoping for increased awareness of HUB, as well as more ideas for the City of Vancouver to pursue as a result of conference learnings.

With respect to a specific project, the British Columbia Cycling Coalition‘s Education Committee is proposing a province-wide standard and framework for child cycling education and has obtained great support from many different sources. Our committee hopes that the Province of BC will use the conference as an opportunity to throw its support behind the initiative. We’re very concerned that if we don’t move in a big way – as they do in other jurisdictions, such as the UK – on child cycling education, we’ll soon have a population that doesn’t even know how to ride a bike, let alone commute to work!

What part of Velo-city 2012 are you looking forward to most?

Meeting great people and seeing the city alive with cyclists!

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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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