Highlights from the third and final day for the Winter Cycling Congress – shared by the two University of Alberta students attending the Calgary event with the help of P4P bursaries:


Mary Bachynsky’s takeaways

1. A cycling nation is ALSO a satisfying place to drive

From Melissa and Chris Bruntlett‘s keynote presentation, Building the Cycling City, the pair presented on various factors that have led to the Netherlands becoming a cycling nation.


What do they mean by cycling nation?
  • The Netherlands has a nationwide cycling network
  • There’s separated cycling infrastructure on 1/4 of all roads
  • 75% of urban streets designed for speeds of 30 km/h or less
  • In many Dutch cities 40-50% of all trips are made by bicycle

Something I found interesting was…

In addition to its amazing reputation for cycling and well-connected trains, the Netherlands has been named by Waze (the carpool app) as the most satisfying place to drive, several years running, because of the smooth traffic flow and low congestion due to the accessibility of other modes.

I think this shows that increasing support for active transportation is a win for everyone.


2. Different people, different (but equally valuable) winter cycling experiences

From the panel on Winter Cycling – Recreation, Commuting and Tourism, the panelists Matthew Corkum, Matt Hedley and Pekka Tahkola presented on the growing trend of fat biking in Canada and Finland.


  • Matthew

Matthew shared his experiences with fat biking as a sport that was accessible to him as a person with physical disabilities and how this sport has allowed him to participate in the social aspect Calgary’s ski culture and to explore many beautiful places in the wintertime.


  • Matt

Matt taught us about trail design and how fat biking can help resort areas lengthen their seasons beyond when skiing is available. I am excited to go check out the Canmore Nordic Centre and Nipiga and explore the trails in-person!


  • Pekka

Pekka shared with us some amazing pictures and videos of winter cycling in Finland, including cycling on sea ice, under northern lights and through “snow ghost” trees. Winter is a time for adventure, sport, and appreciating natural beauty; and fat biking is a great way to do it!


3. Building support

From Blanka Bracic and Tom Thivenir‘s mobile tour From Pilot to Permanent: Calgary’s Cycle Track Story we were led on a brisk ride through the downtown Calgary cycle track network, across the iconic Peace Bridge and along the Bow River. Along the way, they shared their experiences working on the project, from approval of the pilot project to the vote to make the cycle track permanent.

The project started out with some controversy, and the pilot passed council approval by a single vote.

Despite many challenges, leading to 100+ adjustments, the project has been a resounding success.


Stand-out stats


  • The volume of cyclists on streets with cycling facilities has increased 2-3 times since before the cycle track was opened.


  • 66% of surveyed residents now support the project.


  • In 2016, city council voted 10-5 to make the cycle track permanent based on the the results of an extensive evaluation process.




Laura Cabral’s takeaways

1. The Importance of investment

Melissa and Chris Bruntlett, the authors of Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality, related several elements that contribute to the Netherlands being such a cycling paradise.


Stand-out stats
  • The Dutch government spends about $50 per person on cycling infrastructure and programs per year.
  • In Canada, the average hovers around $5 per person per year.

Although spending on cycling might seem politically unacceptable, the Dutch experience shows significant savings in other areas, notably healthcare.

The obesity rate in the Netherlands is projected to be just 8.5% in 2030, an enviably low value.


2. Research Funding Shake-up

Major changes are coming to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) funding programs. Several grants have historically allowed industrial partners to partially fund academic researchers to conduct projects that solve industry-specific questions.

In the upcoming revamped programs, Tricia Meaud from NSERC indicated that:

the definition of “partner” will be expanded such that NGOs, governments, and other non-industry partners will also be recognized.

For stakeholders in the active transportation realm: this means more possibilities to answer questions that will expand our ability to answer cycling questions of all kinds.


3. Inside out or outside in?

Roadway design is usually done from the centreline out, space will be allotted to:

  1. car travel lanes on either side
  2. then maybe for parking
  3. and at the end, the leftover space is allocated to transit, bike lanes and sidewalks, if possible

In their presentation about designing streets for the 21 st century, Tyler Golly and KC Atkins from Toole Design explained how shifting the order, working from the outside in, helped them prioritize vulnerable road users while working on one of their designs.

A simple change which can have great impacts.