San Francisco is regarded as one of the most “European” cities in the United States and living up to this reputation has required a collaborative effort between advocacy groups, politicians, and city council staff to provide the boost that the city needs to invest in alternative transport – and this includes cycle transport. Australian born Timothy Papandreou is the deputy director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) and as part of the city transportation strategy he is vested with the challenge to increase cycling trips from 4% to 10% by 2018.
On the eve of the International Velo-City 2014 conference in Adelaide (May 27 – 30), I spoke with Mr Papandreou, one of the guest speakers at Velo-City, to discuss the San Francisco transport initiatives and what Australia can learn to improve alternative transport on our golden soils, in particular cycling.
Familiar with the state of cycling in Australia, Papandreou says “You have to make noise, in the right places”. However he acknowledges that society will often turn their backs on cycling advocacy groups, so real change demands collaboration between advocacy groups and city and council staff. The politicians often first take a genuine interest when it is successful.
In the US Timothy Papandreou was involved in NACTO, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, which represented over 20 cities and independently developed the “Urban Bikeway Design Guide” publication. This guide subsequently became one of the most important resources in designing for cycle transport, “it provided a toolkit for city planners”.
While state governments control much of the transport infrastructure, it is the local governments who prompt real change. Papandreou is confident that cyclists and cycling bodies who are promoting positive change need to collaborate with the key staff within councils; the “staff champions”.
Centred around the local councils, Mr Papandreou recommends collaborative efforts which involve cycling interest groups, the community, and other councils. The backlash that often follows substantial and non-reversible development for alternative transportation can be minimised by running pilot programs; smaller scale and partial implementations to first measure and trial the viability.
While positive change and improvement never happens as fast as cyclists and cycling groups hope for, the competition between cycling advocacy groups in Australia may be limiting the true potential.
At Velo City in Adelaide, Mr Papandreous will be talking on the sub-plenary: Influences on Sustainable Mobility. This will detail “SF from start(er) to finish: how San Francisco is going to triple bike share by 2018”.
About Velo-City Adelaide
Velo-City Global conferences are an ongoing series of conferences held around the world where hundreds of international delegates gather each year to share ideas, discuss innovation, and learn more about how to create cities and places that embrace bike riding as part of daily transport. The city of Adelaide is hosting the conference this year from May 27 – 30. Further details and the program: velo-city2014.com