I’ve been asked by a few of my Euro cronies if I’ll be going to Velo-City in Nantes next year. Well, no. I read the call for papers a few months ago and decided that:
1. I could not bear 4 days listening to the conference organisers congratulating themselves for having structured the sessions in ways that are so fancy the speakers will all be upstaged.
2. That there isn’t much point spending time in a city that rhymes with panties, but only if you mispronounce it as I will,
3. That the French make great bike clothes and even better ads for those clothes, but I can buy those online. On the ground they sell coffee from push-button machines. And their creme brulees made me fat the last time I was there.
4. That the bike advocacy community are great backers of my work, but lack the imagination to help me develop it in meaningful ways. Keen cyclists, even in the Netherlands, want cycling to remain demonstratively tough, so that they look tough by persevering. I want cycling to be easier than rolling out of your attached garage in your giant Mercedes, and can show how that can be done through design. Bicycle advocates see me stripping them of all their badges of honour.
5. That there are more important conferences for anyone interested in bicycle urbanism, like the next instalment in the bicycle urbanism symposium series that was kicked off last year by the University of Washington. I’ve got the lead chapter in the book from their 2013 meeting in Seattle (in print at the moment) which just goes to show how close their interests are to my own.
Velo-City is not a bicycle urbanism conference. It is a chance to exchange 4 second sound bites so that people in government can take them back to their people and try them for size. “Cycling is a human right”—Manfred Neun said to great applause. “Just fuck it”—Mikael Colville-Andersen said, to great applause. “No harm no fowl”—Janette Sadik-Khan said, with applause held over to the end of her talk. These were the three big take-home pieces of rhetoric from the three main keynote speakers at Velo-City 2014.
Political slogans are important for cycling. When I think of all the architectural slogans of the past century, for example “form follows function”, “god is in the details,” “less is more,” “less is a bore,” and most recently, “yes is more,” I realise I could do with a slogan myself. But at the same time, I could do with a rest from slogan-city next year.
For those of you preparing your talks, can I suggest this: “Harming cycling is a fucking crime against humanity, c@nt.” It’s a mash up of last years best slogans, with a twist in the tail. Trust me, the crowd’s gunna love ya 😉