The 17th Pro Walk/ Pro Bike conference is set for September 10-13, 2012 in Long Beach, CA.
The conference attracts professionals in the transportation planning, engineering, health, advocacy and public policy fields. Established in 1980 by the National Center for Bicycling & Walking (NCBW) – a Project for Public Spaces (PPS) program – this year’s conference theme is Pro-place. Over the course of four days, sessions will focus on the idea that walking and biking are community-building tools and that community is built around place.
The expected 1,000 participants will be encouraged to think of themselves as “placemakers,” a grassroots approach to the planning and management of public spaces that advocates listening to the people who work, live and play in a place.
While there are over 200 presentations from various presenters, one of the main draws will be the place itself. Long Beach is an appropriate host city since it uses walking and biking to improve its vitality and ensure its citizens are connected to the transportation system. Conference-goers will be treated to tours of the city’s growing bicycling culture and the businesses sprouting out of that scene. They will also see how local governments are cooperating to create a seamless transportation system composed of transit, bike shares, bike routes and walkable areas.
“The diversity found in Long Beach – income, geography, density and culture – makes it an especially relevant laboratory for the people who come to our conference from all parts of the country,” said conference director Mark Plotz.
Organizers believe that Pro Walk/ Pro Bike conferences help point the way to the future. “At our last Pro Walk/ Pro Bike in 2010, it was public bicycle sharing and innovative cycling facilities that caught people’s attention, and those programs are proliferating,” Plotz said. “For 2012, I really think people will connect with the idea of placemaking; and, it will push our transportation system closer to being one in which all users are treated equitably.”
An example of placemaking in action is Plotz’s own neighborhood of Mount Pleasant in Washington, DC. People use cars, buses, bikes and their own two feet to get around on his street, he said, which lowers the overall speed of moving people and vehicles. The message his street communicates: “people live here, slow down.” Take away the walkers and bikers, Plotz remarked, and drivers will speed up and the street will begin to fail as a place.