This Wednesday we had the pleasure of attending the 2021 Cycling and Walking Innovations Conference in Manchester. The CWI Conference has been running for four years now, and celebrates the innovators and innovations that are driving the active travel sector forward. We were delighted to see a large attendance at the event, with plenty of exciting companies displaying their latest ideas, products and innovations. It’s evident that the micro-mobility and active travel sectors are hugely exciting areas, brimming with potential and possibilities, that are sure to grow enormously as we move towards a future of greener travel.
Perhaps the most interesting event of the conference was the opening plenary, hosted by Phillip Darnton, Executive Chairman of the Bicycle Association. Our CEO Philip McAleese was one of five speakers at the plenary, and he spoke on the exciting insights See.Sense has been providing on cycling in cities, with an interesting focus placed on women’s cycling in London. See.Sense insights have found female cyclists are much more likely to stick to dedicated cycle infrastructure compared to male cyclists, while also experiencing less braking and swerving than their male counterparts.
There were plenty of other innovative ideas on display at the opening plenary. Brompton Bikesdetailed their exciting approach to solving the active travel dilemma in rural communities; that is, how do you implement a bike-share scheme and get people cycling in areas of low population density? They are solving this problem by going dockless, instead implementing a cycle-share scheme in which local pubs, shops and post offices act as the docks by storing bikes in their premises.
Another exciting innovation was presented by Anthony Lau, the founder of Cyclehoop, in the form of the BikeHanger. This secure bike parking facility has space for six bikes, yet is smaller than a regular parking space. It has been introduced in various locations across London, but it would be great to see something like this become commonplace across the whole of the UK!
Across the conference one of the key takeaways was the importance of data in promoting active travel. Without having the exact information on how, where and why things are happening, it will be impossible to implement the changes needed to see the necessary uplift in cycling and walking. This was made especially evident in the ‘Using Data as a Key Enabler’ session, at which Philip again was one of five key speakers. Philip displayed how See.Sense have been using data to help local cities and councils implement infrastructure improvements. Using an example of St. Stephens Green in Dublin, it was shown that even in areas that appear to have perfect cycling infrastructure, problems that would otherwise be missed can be seen through See.Sense braking and swerving data.
One of the highlights of the event for us was talking with other active travel enthusiasts at our See.Sense stand in the main conference hall. It was great to see how many people had been following See.Sense’s progress in recent years, and were interested in learning more about our latest developments and initiatives.
In the afternoon, we had the pleasure of welcoming Hannah Dayan, Cycling and Walking Development Officer at Transport for West Midlands, to our stand. Hannah gave a series of fantastic presentations on See.Sense’s work in Coventry as part of the Smart Cycling project. See.Sense and TfWM have previously worked closely in conducting close pass awareness campaigns in Birmingham, and are now operating a project in Coventry aimed at using See.Sense data to make cycling safer in the city. Hannah outlined how the data currently being collected from 200 See.Sense lights in Coventry is helping TfWM spot problematic areas for cyclists in the city. This information will in-turn be used to inform the design of new cycling infrastructure. Overall, Hannah's presentation was an excellent display of how local authorities can utilise a data-driven approach to improve cycle safety.
It was also brilliant to view the innovations on display at the other stands in the conference. With distributors such as Raleigh attending the event - who sell a large range of bikes, including e-bikes and cargo bikes - there was no shortage of interesting bikes to see at the conference. Indeed, it was particularly great to see some e-bikes and e-cargo bikes on display. As we already know, e-bikes and e-cargo bikes are areas of huge possibility that will only continue to grow as we move in the direction of sustainable travel. As Phillip Darnton rightly pointed out, “e-bikes are the future of cycling.”
All in all, the Manchester Cycling and Walking Innovations Conference was a fantastic showcase of the latest developments in the active travel sphere. Although there is certainly a long way to go to reach the levels of cycling required to meet our net-zero climate targets, it is certainly enthusing to see so many talented and motivated individuals working towards achieving these goals. Finally, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to come visit and talk to us at our stand!
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