Client: Engineers Australia
Location: Ballarat, Australia
Project timeline: 2015
Services provided: Keynote
Ballarat Imagine invites residents to think about their city. What happens if they reframe the idea of transport and open space to create something new?

Transport is always a hot topic. But an argument about transport is often the wrong argument to have. So what is the right argument? Ballarat Imagine is the way for people in Ballarat, not only to get involved in the city’s strategic planning, but to help define what gets talked about. Engineers Australia invited Andrew Wisdom to address the issue of transport and urban form to help things along. So Andrew thought he would talk about something different.

What are Streets for?

Andrew invited the audience to rethink transport and streets. He spoke about how transport had changed and how the way people use streets and open space had changed over time. He talked about how pedestrians had been pushed to the side through the 20th century, not only literally but in our thinking. He then noted that in Australian cities like Ballarat pedestrians need a (drivers) licence or temporary permit (in the form of a walk sign at a pedestrian crossing) to enter a roadway. That seemed odd to him.

Andrew looked at the evidence that bike helmets are not necessarily a good thing for society as a whole. This has been newsworthy: See article by Chris Rissel about How Politics trumps common sense when it comes to Bike Helmets and a paper by Ben Goldacre and David Spiegelhalter in the British Medical Journal on Bicycle Helmets and the Law, which explores the difficulty of untangling first and second order effects of wearing bike helmets.

Andrew also discussed the issues raised for Ballarat by Donald Shoup in his seminal The High Cost of Free Parking.

How might Ballarat change?

Andrew then provided four examples of places where people had thought differently about their public realm and had changed the way the city operated:

• He looked at the impressive transformation that has occurred in Melbourne’s CBD over the last 30 years. See, for example, the Postcode 3000 campaign
• He looked at the amazing transformation in street life in New York over the last 15 years. Andrew discusses this in his Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming project. It is also the subject of Janette Sadik-Khan’s TED talk on New York’s Streets
• He looked at the creation of  Chancery Lane in Bendigo as a destination
• He looked at the Renew Newcastle project.

Andrew then talked briefly about the issues that had been raised in the discussion phase of Ballarat Imagine and how some of those issues might be helped along cheaply and by bottom-up activity.