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What routes do kids need to bike to school?Working on routes kids need to bike to school.
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Building a new shared path in OttawaBuilding a new shared path in Ottawa.
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Desire linesNew responses to desire lines.
Leading international cycling design stars, Mikael Colville-Andersen and Mary Embry Hudson of Copenhagenize and Johan Diepens and Angela van der Kloof of Mobycon have teamed up to offer intensive training workshops, called the Kickstand Sessions, in cities across North America.
Lucky for us, they're in Ottawa November 8 and 9 for a two day session before heading off to Waterloo and Winnipeg later this month and Victoria and San Francisco in January.
As well as being a mom who loves biking with her kids, I'm co-chair of the Hintonburg Cycling Champions, a neighbourhood group dedicated to promoting cycling as fun, safe and accessible within our community and across the city. While promoting cycling education at school, after school bike clubs and safer cycling infrastructure over the last few years, I've gotten to know quite a few of the many amazing people in Ottawa who are making the city more bike-friendly. Every time I've had a chance to speak with city planners and engineers, I've been impressed with how much they love cycling, how dedicated they are to making Ottawa a city that's inviting for cyclists of all abilities to enjoy and how patient and determined they are when dealing with all the levels of bureaucracy that challenge the projects they're trying to roll out.
The opportunity to learn about best practices from international experts while networking with city planners, engineers, advocates and elected officials from my own city was irresistable so I checked in with the Kickstand team and Momentum Magazine and arranged to attend with a press pass. I mention this because the sessions are offered at fair market value for a team of international experts - $800 for two full days.
While this fee reflects the level of expertise in a small group setting - the cap on workshops is 36 and there's lots of time to get to know the experts and ask whatever questions you have - a number of fellow cycling advocates who were interested in attending the sessions weren't able to because of the fee.
I've been thinking about the cost of cycling lately. Good quality cycling infrastructure costs money. Often the cost is a fraction of what highway expansion or transit improvements or school buses might cost. But there are expenses. Cities, school boards, advocacy groups, community associations and business improvement associations all need cycling budgets in order for us to work together and roll out incredible and sustainable programs and infrastructure.
Ottawa and the National Capital Region are definitely heading in the right direction. When the workshop participants were introducing ourselves this morning, lots of us were excited to meet two people with brand new jobs. Julie Goulet has been working with the NCC (National Capital Commission) on pathways for the past three months. And Shawn McGuire is in his very first week of working on bike planning with the City of Ottawa. Two new positions dedicated to cycling in the region indicates a strong committment to improving cycling.
This morning's session began with presentations from both Dutch and Danish experts on best practices in Europe. Over the past few years I've seen quite a few of these inspiring presentations. Each time there's lots to learn about designing streets that encourage cycling for everyone, about creating fluid transitions between bikes and transit and about sweetening the ride. But what I noticed this morning is that I could relate to many more of the slides instead of just admiring them wistfully. That's how much cycling has improved in Ottawa in the past few years.
I was at a stop light on a bike path this fall. It's a longish light (by the War Museum for local folks and Julie Goulet tells me it's currently monitored by a bike counter so perhaps we won't have to wait so long in the future), but the bike path is so well used and cycling has become so popular that I was just one of 15 cyclists crossing when the light turned green. FIFTEEN! There were times ten years ago that I might meet 15 cyclists on my entire 8km commute to work.
I'm still really impressed with the innovative uses of cargo bikes. We heard that in many Dutch and Danish cities, heavy trucks aren't allowed right in the centre of town, so they drive to depots and goods are then delivered by cargo bikes. Brilliant.
We're not there yet, but cargo bikes are certainly catching on in Ottawa. One of my proudest achievements as a cycling advocate is helping to convince eight different friends (that's the tally so far, but I'm hoping to raise it!) to invest in a cargo bike for their families.
I loved hearing about some great designs that make riding simply luxurious. The 'Green Wave,' a cycle route that will yield all green lights all the time as long as you ride 20 km/hour is, well, dreamy. And it was even more dreamy to hear about it in a room full of interested city planners and traffic engineers! (hint, hint!) Underground bike parking in central shopping districts speaks to the volume of cyclists shopping on two wheels. Here in Ottawa, the Wellington West BIA is looking at ways to increase bike parking so more people can easily shop. They may even remove some car parking to make it happen.
Working in teams, we were able to look at maps of our city and visiting key areas where the cycling infrastructure needed to be improved, we were able to plan for larger scale bike routes and discuss smaller, important areas.
In the morning, I was delighted to work on mapping bike routes for schools. Other teams focused on mapping for work, shopping, recreation and universities. There were a lot of great ideas and it was interesting to see that the target cyclists and their key priorities changed (speed, convenience, safety, low-traffic, scenery), depending on the purpose of their trip.
In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to tour several spots in the neighbourhood where cyclists' (and pedestrians'!) needs aren't currently being met and new infrastructure is needed. The best part was being on a team with two city planners, Nelson and Robert, who design infrastructure professionally and with Hans Moor, the president of Citizens for Safe Cycling.
Their enthusiasm and knowledge and their playful, curious, imaginative and optimistic attitudes towards approaching a problem and being confident that we'd come up with a wonderful solution were really inspiring.
We looked at a spot that folks in the neighbourhood have been trying to get stairs put in for at least eight years. It's a shortcut up a steep hill and pedestrians of all ages scramble up and down the hill and climb over a fence to reach a bus stop. Nelson explained that you can't just build stairs without also building a ramp. And when we were back at the building, he plotted out just how the ramp on a steep hill would work and where the stairs would go. It's a design exercise, but it's great to hear how the area really could be improved to accomodate everyone in the way they'd like to use it.
We also had a good long look at an exciting pathway that's being built to connect the Ottawa River to the Canal, with access to the neighbourhoods and to transit along the route. It's still under construction, but looks great. We shared ideas about how pedestrians at transit stops and cyclists riding along the path can safely and cooperatively cross paths.
I'm looking forward to lots of learning and lots of networking tomorrow. And promise to share the highlights here.