When Newcastle Went Dutch for a Day

It was (high) time for the Dutch dingdongsLove Cycling Go Dutch conference series to come to Newcastle. At the back end of 2012, the local campaign Newcycling had reported that there'd been 'loads of talk and no physical action' and was wondering what else could be done to put cycling in the city centre stage, at least for a day or two. Never shy, following last year's LCGD conferences, Newcycling's Claire Prospert contacted the Dutch Embassy to see whether a follow-up series could be planned for 2013. When the answer came back as yes, Claire subsequently was intimately involved in the conference organisation, together with the local council and Newcastle University. This partnership between 'advocacy and authority' worked a treat, and the conference stood out in its sheer quality, focus and applied professionalism too.

So. On 5 November from 09:00 to 17:00 and chaired by none-other-than Christian Wolmar it attracted high-calibre Dutch and British speakers and delegates. Slides and videos will be posted here in due course; keep coming back to check.

Three things really stood out for us at the conference:

  • Firstly, Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, talked passionately and positively in favour of cycling and its sheer transformative powers to a city. Nick really seemed to relish the opportunity and feel at ease with the cycle crowd and the idea of learning from the Dutch.
  • Secondly, and by no means secondarily, Shane Snow, Department from Transport, acknowledged the importance of campaigning groups in elevating cycling onto the political platform in recent years. Shane said that the message the Department from Transport now gets is loud and clear - and in favour of Going Dutch. That united voice helps the department to help cycling.
  • Finally, the closing remark by Christian Wolmar was an eye-opener too. Christian pointed out that the conference had made it clear to him that cycling is not about cycling at all. It's about the future of our cities - bicycles are just the catalyst for change.

This is not the end. This is the start of a clearer vision for Newcastle and its future. Will this city grab the opportunity and lead the way in the revolution to make itself a city fit for people? It's time to wait and see, and wish Newcycling the best of staying power and luck too.

We'll publish further analysis and discussion as and when the slides and videos become available. Particular attention will be paid to the engineering workshop led by the Dutch. It took place the day before and reported back to the conference with some interesting results and conclusions.

In the meanwhile you can read some storified tweets telling the story according to social media. We'll leave you with some photo impressions from the day.

Before the conference, finishing touches:

Before the conference - last touches

During the conference, not a spare seat in sight:

All seats taken