Let your city be the party!

19 Apr 2016

On 21-23 March, Victoria Walks held the third annual Smart Urban Futures conference in conjunction with the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).

Highlights included Maria Vassilakou, the Deputy Mayor of Vienna, who detailed their approach in building a city where the target is 80% of travel by walking, cycling and public transport in 2025.  People oriented public space was the key theme, exhorting us to "let your city be the party!"  In Vienna the party extends to all ages - "we want to create a place where children experience streets not as life threatening spaces but as places to play."  Harnessing people power is part of the plan, with a dedicated fund to provide small scale financial support for citizens to beautify and adopt areas on their street, often for parklets (pictured).

Gyles Bendall from Auckland Council in New Zealand described their incredibly successful shared space program, turning inner city streets into shared space for walkers, cars and cyclists, but with pedestrian priority.  Despite the loss of some on-street car parks, this has been a huge boost for retailers, with increases in spending ranging from 27 percent to an incredible 439 percent!

Derek McMillan, CEO of Australian Unity Independent and Assisted Living, discussed new approaches to retirement housing that keep older people engaged in the community, while catering to their changing needs.  The average 65 year old will spend half their remaining life with some level of disability.

Presentations from the conference are available from the MAV website.

The conference was preceded by two related events. In our workshop on physical activity and brain health, Dr Bob Sallis from California reported on amazing research using advanced MRI scanning technology.  Exercise was found to have a remarkable effect on older people's minds - "the first time we've found anything that will cause the brain to grow in old age."

Rose McArthur and Jonathan Daly led an excellent Masterclass in Travel Demand Management and Behaviour Change, attended by practitioners from RACV, Bicycle Network, health agencies, consultants and a range of councils.