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.