A conference done right

I attended the Transportation Equity Summit in Sacramento today. Unfortunately work obligations will prevent me from attending the advocacy day tomorrow. I’d like to comment on the conference.

Though short, the conference was GREAT. In the lunch-time plenary session, three good speakers laid out some basics, but plenty of time was reserved for questions from the moderator and the audience. This was followed by a half hour networking session (with coffee and cookies), then three breakout sessions, then another networking break with tea and cookies, and two final breakout sessions. In the two breakouts I attended, at least one-third of the time was devoted to questions from the participants. In the evening there was a social function at the hostel, with a brief but very interesting presentation, three short awards, and much more networking over beer and wine.

This is the way a conference should be done. Too many conferences in Sacramento over the last few years, on transportation and livability topics, seemed to intentionally exclude participation. The speakers filled up all the available time, there was no planned time for networking, and the overall feeling was that the experts were telling the rest of us what we needed to know (the sage on the stage), though ironically there was far greater expertise in the audience than on the stage. It is my hope that we never need suffer another one of those authoritarian conferences in Sacramento, and that the Transportation Equity Summit sets a bar that all others must now reach. If you have the opportunity to participate in future transportation related conferences in Sacramento (or anywhere), I hope that you will ask very tough questions about the program format before you sign up, and if the conference is clearly not going as advertised, stand up and object strenuously, and in fact make sure the conference doesn’t proceed until it is fixed. Obviously I have strong feelings about this. I’ve been burned by the lies of conference organizers, and will not ever trust many of them again.

Thank you to Transform and California Bicycle Coalition, their leaders, and Katie for a great conference, done professionally, and inclusively, and with humanity.

BikeParty and Tweed Ride

The first weekend in April is shaping up to be great fun for people like me who love themed slow rides.

SacBikeParty_EL-roseFriday, April 5th will be the next edition of BikeParty Sacramento, somewhere in the Land Park neighborhood. I participated in the March ride, whose theme was Massive Mural March, and it was a hoot. Many people came with highly decorated bikes, twinkly and sparkly and flashy, with fuzzy stuffed animals and fuzzy wild clothing. The murals scattered through midtown, some of which I’d seen before and many of which I had not, were entertainment enough, but the people themselves and their bikes were even better entertainment. Electroluminescent (EL) wired was common. EL is popular with the Burning Man crowd, and it is so cool, I just have to get some of my own. The photo is an EL rose designed and built freehand by the owner (whose name I’ve forgotten). The event is coordinated by Conrad, who rides and designs crazy art bikes.

SacramentoTweed_2013-04-06Saturday, April 6th will be the Tweed Ride, starting at Fremont Community Garden in midtown. Last year after a successful run, Rick Houston retired from sponsorship of the Sacramento Tweed rides, but Brian and Sarah have taken on the mantle are continuing under Sacramento Tweed Ride 2.0 (Facebook) and Sacramento Tweed (blog). Some people come dressed to the nines in 1920’s fashion, with tweed prominent, some people come with vintage bikes older than almost any of us, some people come with both, and many people come just because it’s fun and they want to find out more about it. For the last ride I went on, I rode my Brompton, which is not truly vintage but has a vintage British flavor, and wore my Victorian clothing, which is quite pre-1920’s, and was accepted in just fine. I hope to have some real tweed by the next ride.

These themed slow rides are a great way to socialize with the non-spandex crowd. They often include stops for coffee or beer or chocolate, and visit interesting places that you might not otherwise know about. Though I have an innate reluctance to ride in groups, as they introduce hazards that don’t exist for individual riders, these rides are so fun and such a positive experience that I’m willing to overcome my reluctance. The pace is such that anyone can keep up, on any kind of bike.

Unfortunately, the first weekend in April I am in the bay area for the Epicenter contra dance weekend in Mill Valley, and so will miss both rides. Hope you don’t miss them!

My photos on Flickr from BikeParty Sacramento and Sac Tweed Ride.