Velo-city 2017 in Arnhem-Nijmegen kicked off with impressive numbers. This year’s edition not only welcomed more than 1,500 delegates, but gathered the biggest number of speakers and sessions in the history of the series of Velo-city conferences. 260 speakers brought their view on all sorts of cycling related topics over the course of the week. A total of 60 outdoor sessions and excursions were added to the program to highlight the Arnhem-Nijmegen cycling region. The expo at the Vereeniging housed 100 different booths from exhibitors from all over the world.
On Monday, we were delighted to be invited to sit on a panel at the official launch of the PEBSS (Platform for European Bicycle Sharing & Systems) hosted in the neighbouring city of Arnhem. Our Co-founder, Irene McAleese spoke on the topic of ‘Mobility as a Service (MAAS), Big Data and Apps’ alongside three other experts in the field. Irene spoke particularly on how ‘big data’ can flow from cycling to the city, with consideration of connectivity and data analytics. With the prediction that there will be 350,000 shared bicycles in operation in Europe by 2025, the community will have to draw on the combined knowledge and expertise of those present in Arnhem, to ensure that we maximise the potential of bicycle sharing schemes across Europe.
At the same time, Michael, our in-house data scientist was attending the Scientific Colloquium. The keynote speech was delivered by Caspar Chorus, professor of Choice Behaviour Modelling at TU Delft. His research into behaviour and specifically how to enable behavioural change regarding cyclists was one of the most avidly debated sessions of the day. Do we concentrate on changing culture to drive infrastructure improvements, or do we focus on improving cycling infrastructure so as effect the culture surrounding cycling?
Other highlights of the colloquium included a successful campaign to require questions regarding cyclists’ safety as a mandatory section of the Australian driving test and an Evaluation of Dutch cycling patterns using GPS data taken from cyclists smartphones. It was exciting to see so many global leaders in scientific research gathered here at Velo-City 2017.
Tuesday morning was the official opening of Velo-City 2017 to the public. After the official opening ceremony with Willem - Alexander the King of the Netherlands as the guest of honour, we set up our display for the general public. Our stand, based in the Schouwburg building was fitted out with information about our smart cities offering. It was fantastic to see that our product and how we can utilise the data we collect was generating so much interest across the board from city planners, infrastructure experts, amateur cyclists and more!
On Wednesday we continued to speak with conference attendees at our stall. A recurring theme was how our product could give deeper insight to cycling infrastructure and route planning decisions that conventional approaches could not. We also got an insight into how the Regional Government of Arnhem are trying to tackle the task of measuring pollution levels in their cities.
The above apparatus was designed to monitor pollution on a specific cycling route between Nijmegen & Arnhem. The cost of the pollution monitoring system (north of €20,000) is an obvious barrier to more extensive pollution monitoring.
Irene, our co- founder took the opportunity to “Be an Amsterdammer for one day”. This was a great opportunity to explore central Amsterdam, and explore how the locals get around by bike. It involved trips to areas a bit off the beaten track, to see places such as theKunststad or 'Art City'. at NDSM Wharf, which is now an art space, but was formerly Europe's biggest ship-building hangar.
On Thursday Fearghal, our Smart Cities Lead, jumped on his bike to join a group of cyclists who were given a guided tour of the cycling infrastructure in the North of Nijmegin. The route taken had a specific focus on how the city focuses on the pedestrian and the cyclists’ as a priority. Their approach to tackling traffic congestion in a problem area? Decentivise journeys by car into that area. A refreshing approach to urban planning, and representative of how forward thinking the approach is here.
(Cycling road, cars are to act as visitors, and underground bike parking)
We also took in a panel discussion on the future of our smart cities. Highlighted as a ‘must see’ in the official conference programme, it didn’t disappoint. Kevin Mayne, Devlopment Director at the ECF spoke about how their is a battle for space on our roads, and how we need to start using technology and ‘smarter cycling’ to ensure we claim our space at the table where the transport decisions of our cities are decided.
A short session on ‘The Power of Competition’ lead by the Swedish, Dutch and German cycling associations looked at how creating comparable metrics to benchmark cities on cycling policies can help raise public and political awareness. The primary takeaway was that there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, and this competition can create motivation and momentum for improvements to cycling policy! Most data is currently collected by survey, and whilst this objective data is important, it needs to be supplemented by objective data for accuracy. Historically, it has been time consuming and expensive to collect this objective data. Only now, with the advances in smart cycling technology, are we able to collect the volume of objective data to required to draw real insight from.
The mass bike parade took off from the centre of Nijmegen early on Thursday evening. A group of over 1000 cyclists took part, with the cycle finishing at the Honigcomplex, a revamped industrial estate that had enough food, drink and entertainment to keep the peloton occupied until the early hours.
On Friday morning, the first EU Cycling Strategy was received by EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc. The Strategy contains recommendations directed at all levels of governance and addresses behaviour change, infrastructure, vehicle regulations, multimodality and intelligent transport systems. The central objective is to put cycling on an equal status to other modes of transport in terms of policies and investments while showcasing the clear added value of the European level in the process.
Irene then spoke on a panel discussion that looked at ‘The Next Generation of Bike Sharing’. The session covered Driverless Cars, Connected Vehicles, Smart Mobility. These new concepts make news daily; but the panel discussed how bike share must find its rightful place among the discussion of future mobility. The greatest technological innovations in the bicycle sharing sector were discussed (including See.Sense!), hinting at the-day-after-tomorrow’s systems, and its implications for all of us today.
Velocity was a fantastic event, you can see by the responses on this board how much everyone enjoyed it! We can’t wait until next year.