The second day for two University of Alberta students attending the Winter Cycling Congress (with the help of P4P bursaries).

Here are their insights from the day:

Mary Bachynsky’s takeaways

1. Look beyond human error factors in traffic safety

From Don Kostelec‘s presentation Everything your traffic safety office told you was wrong, Don debunked some traffic safety myths, including an often-cited statistic that 94% of road deaths are caused by human error.

Don asks us to look beyond human error factors, like:

  • speeding
  • what colours pedestrians are wearing

He encourages us to look beyond these, to the road environment and vehicle systems—two things that are invisible in investigations.

Something he said that really stuck with me is that road infrastructure affects 100% of road users 100% of the time, compared to enforcement which affects a minority only some of the time.

2. Effective evaluation to demonstrate the value of controversial projects

From Tony Churchill’s presentation Advocating for evaluation to demonstrate safety benefits of infrastructure investments, Tony described some work he did for the City of Calgary about evaluating changing safety conditions for different city initiatives, such as the downtown cycle track and the school zone/playground zone speed limit harmonization.

Key points:
  • Tony advocates for effective evaluation to demonstrate the value of controversial projects, such as the cycle track, to opposition.
  • By demonstrating success, investment can be leveraged for future projects.
  • Successes need to be shared in compelling stories to drive change, as data alone can be hard to motivate.

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

3. Striving for shared streets

From Justin Goulding‘s presentation Striving for shared streets: mix when you can, separate when you must, Justin presented on key concepts from Sustainable Safety, the Dutch version of Vision Zero, which I found very interesting since it differed so sharply from our North American transportation culture.

Key concepts:
  • In the Netherlands, access streets (roads through neighborhoods) are shared streets with a lower speeds compared to larger distributor streets, which have separated cycling and pedestrian facilities.
  • Roads are designed according to their function, and normatively for each mode, so less traffic control is required.
  • The Netherlands has a very low rate of road deaths compared to other countries.

Laura Cabral’s takeaways

1. Shifting our mental models to appreciate winter

This morning’s keynote panel was all about bringing fun back into winter. We often dramatize winter and go into “hibernation” mode, an effect of sustaining underlying stories about how cold and horrible the weather is.

From festivals, to massive snowball fights, to creating fun and accessible gathering spaces like The Forks in Winnipeg, the panelists showcased various ideas to make winter an eventful season and remind Canadians how wonderful winter can be.

2. Free range seniors

Ole Kassow, our lunch keynote speaker, started Cycling Without Age seven years ago when he decided to offer a bike ride on his trishaw to seniors from a local nursing home.

The grassroots movement has grown to 1000+ chapters in 40 different countries. The rides give seniors back a sense of freedom while also breaking social isolation.

Volunteers have experienced resistance from some staff saying, it’s:

  • “too cold” for the seniors
  • “too dangerous” for the seniors
  • “too wet” for the seniors

However, just like some parents advocate for “free range kids” in opposition to the helicopter parent trend, Kassow advocates for “free range seniors”.

3. If you build it, they will come

I spent the afternoon on a bike tour led by Tom Babin, Calgarian and author of Frostbike.

We cycled along river trails as well as on the downtown cycle tracks. One of our stops was at the Peace Bridge, a pedestrian/bicycle bridge which was very controversial and considered frivolous, unnecessary, by many Calgarians as there are two other bridges nearby.

However, the Peace Bridge not only rapidly became a well-used infrastructure, it is now so popular that it is featured in numerous tourism marketing tools and is a preferred location for graduation photos and similar events.