It’s my second day of blogging from Berlin. My blogs are always genuine and completely honest. My writing is never edited (hence the occasional spelling mistake!) and I am never told what to say by PR people (people who know me know I wouldn’t listen anyway!).
My most frequently asked question is “How does a POM (English person living in Australia) who plans bikeways in Brisbane get involved in a project with a German car company and an American art institution?”
So, this is my story…
In 2001 I was involved in a very serious scuba diving incident. Strictly speaking and according to medical research and statistics I should be dead. Thanks to the incredible medical team at DDRC in Plymouth and my feisty determination I am alive and in perfect health. Cheating death changes your perspective on life and definitely makes you seize every opportunity, which is why in 2007 I relocated to Brisbane; a city then experiencing a severe engineering and urban planning skills shortage… and of course a city with the worlds best scuba diving on it’s doorstep!
My first project in Australia was the Western Brisbane Transport Network Investigation (WBTNI) a joint venture between AECOM (then Maunsell), SKM (Sinclair Knight Merz) and the Philips Group. Originally a motorway by-pass study with active transport (walking and cycling) as a “filler-in-er” (a phrase which the awesome Project Manager Peter lives to regret!) the project was developed into a fully integrated multi-modal approach to the transport needs of western Brisbane…. and probably one of the best transport strategies ever written! The energy, enthusiasm and dedication of the project team was infectious and it was in the WBTNI project office that I developed my vision and concept for 7 metre wide Cycling Super Highways!
People thought I was a little crazy (… and many still do!) when I started talking about my vision for Cycling Super Highways completely separated from parked and moving cars. Armed with what I thought was a great idea and way too much enthusiasm I applied for and was awarded the 2008 AITPM Janet Brash Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship enabled me to hold focus groups in Brisbane to find out why the bicycle was the “elephant in the room” and then with a considerable amount of my own personal savings I set off to visit 30 of the world’s most acclaimed cycling cities. My ultimate dream being to visit Bogota in Colombia and to go cycling with Enrique Penalosa!
Trying to track down Enrique Penalosa is tricky – I know, conference coordinators contact me now asking me to contact him! (which I do) – I contacted anyone and everyone who might know him. A rather impolite young man from New York phoned me to tell me that… “People like me (people who work in engineering consultancy’s in Australia) don’t get to meet people like him (world acclaimed urbanist)”. That afternoon I bought a plane ticket and three days later I flew Bogota…
Dreams do come true. I arrived in Bogota, Enrique phoned me, I told him about my 7 metre wide Cycling Super Highways and he showed me around Bogota. I returned to Brisbane, developed my concept and wrote my Cycling Super Highways toolkit. Enrique Penalosa read and loved my work and nominated me for the BMW Guggenheim Lab…. And the rest, as the say, is history!
So that’s how a POM from Brisbane ends up in Berlin!
When the Los Angeles Department of Transport said “for the bike to catch on we need a revolution in our bicycle infrastructure” they were right. If we really want cycling to be a central part of our lifestyle, our transport system and our cities we need a ‘infrastructure revolution’. 7 metre wide Cycling Super Highways might just be the infrastructure to break the mould… But that’s a blog for another day!
TOMORROW: A tale of two cities. Brisbane vs. Berlin