Prue Oswin

Sidelines Traffic

Director/Active Transport Engineer

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Tell us about yourself

I started my career in the water industry, but as a passionate commuter cyclist, and a professional triathlete, I kept wanting to install bike paths over the sewer lines I was investigating.I moved into an active transport role in local government about 12 years ago. In this role, my interests, my experiences and my work all aligned. The thousands of hours I'd spent riding my bike, provided a wealth of experience not everyone has.About 5 years ago I started my own company. It was launched when I undertook a major walking and cycling strategy for the community I used to live in. I carried off this project with two very young kids and it was a massive feat.Having children has had an enormous influence on how I approach transport engineering. Before children, I was often different because I approached things from a cyclist perspective. After having children, I developed an even broader perspective. I've undertaken several projects now where I'm surveying parents to ensure these perspectives are captured in outcomes.I now work on a broad range of active transport projects, providing technical input on everything from a new path in a country town, major planning projects.

What are the top 3 trends in your transport/smart city niche that everyone should look out for in the next 5 years?

I don't think we should just sit back and wait for trends to happen, we've done that and it's a mess. Our industry is male dominated and unless women help create the trends, they will continue to be left out.Increases in micro-mobility trips (scooters, e-bikes) are definitely happening. But they're more around grown-up people getting to work. If we don't make the infrastructure safe we'll leave women and children behind again. What I want to become is 1970s style travel, where most kids can get to their schools safely riding or walking. How we do that is we make it safe. No blaming the parents for dropping the kids off at the school gate. Us engineers need to make it safe.

How do you/your company innovate?

There are huge data gaps in active transport. We've developed a fast and effective survey to find out where infrastructure is needed to support kids walking and cycling to school. Because we use heat maps, we can easily communicate our results to decision makers in seconds, and build a compelling case for why infrastructure is needed. The innovation, in this approach is that instead of relying on traffic engineers judgements to decide what is needed, we start with parents concerns, and we develop traffic engineering treatments to address them.

Why is encouraging innovation, new ideas, and tech important?

Building bigger roads into cities and towns is expensive, inefficient and unsustainable but we continue to do it. We are planning in the same way we always have and we're going to get the same results. We need diversity as well as innovation. Technology is making it quicker and easier to engage with communities to explore new ideas but we're not going to ask the right questions if all our professionals are focussed on roads and getting to work.

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