Two University of Alberta students are attending the Winter Cycling Congress (with the help of P4P bursaries) and sharing their learnings each day:


Mary Bachynsky’s takeaways

1.  Transportation is essential to an “ecosystem of healthy cities”

In Gabe Klein‘s keynote presentation, he pointed out that transportation is the world’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, and has so many impacts on human life, including:

  • increasing rates of chronic asthma from air pollution
  • deaths from roadway collisions
  • health costs from diseases related to sedentary lifestyles.

The promotion of more sustainable transportation options is a huge opportunity to improve our health!


2. The unique preferences of those who don’t currently cycle

From Danny Haines‘ survey of Calgarians, the most significant barrier for non-cyclists to start cycling is being uncomfortable next to cars. The single biggest want for this group is the enforcement of traffic rules and they display a strong desire for separated cycling infrastructure over other types.

In conclusion, the most effective way to increase ridership is for cities to offer separated infrastructure for cyclists.


3. Giving a voice to quiet stakeholders for big impact

Jen Malzer and Celia Lee taught us about tools they developed for stakeholder engagement meant to include the values of people who may be missed in more traditional methods.

The two tools discussed were:

  • Empathy walks
    Where stakeholders are asked to describe their emotions about different places in their neighbourhood
  • Questionnaires for kids
    Where children were asked to reflect on their own experiences in their community

These approaches led to a better understanding of people’s needs and desires from their community’s infrastructure, for example how some intersections may be more difficult for people with disabilities.



Laura Cabral’s takeaways

1. The importance of consistent snow clearing

Tom Babin shared conversions and knowledge gained from friends and acquaintances. I found one of those remarks particularly interesting:

“Having unreliable bike infrastructure snow clearing is the equivalent of having a transit system running on a random and unknown schedule.”

Consistency is key to high transit use, just as it is vital to ensure continued cycling activity in the winter.


2. Practical considerations of snow clearing

Several speakers today touched on important practical elements to consider when storing or removing snow from protected bike lanes.

One remark made by Bartek Komorowski from Vélo Québec particularly resonated with me.

Wherever possible, snow cleared from the path should be pushed towards the lowest point of the cross-slope. This way, if the temperature goes up, the snow melt doesn’t go across the bike lane and make it icy when freezing temperatures return.

An interesting point to consider, particularly given many cities are already experiencing more freeze-thaw cycles due to climate change.


3. The mental health benefits of cycling

A stimulating change from the more planning/engineering presentations of the day, the Stories about Winter Cycling session featured four women who shared their take and relationship with winter cycling.

In a touching and emotional moment, a speaker shared how continuing to cycle throughout the year helped give a sense of normality to their life when they was diagnosed with cancer. Cycling helped them through this very difficult time in their life, and it remains an opportunity to be mindful and appreciate the moment.