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#2. Pluberious insights, Winter Cycling Congress Day 1, Wednesday Feb. 12th, 2014

#2.  Pluberious insights, Winter Cycling Congress Day 1, Wednesday Feb. 12th 
 
It's -18 C with a -25C windchill, and snowing. The first day of the conference was packed, and considered a success by the organizer. There were so many talks that I had to make some choices about what I could take in. Since winter cycling is rather new to us in CB, I decided to stick with the projects and practices about policy and infrastructure to make cycling possible. The speakers were mainly engineers and planners, from all corners of Canada . . . except the Atlantic region . . . the Netherlands and Scandinavia. 
 
I found many opportunities to laugh and shake my head during the day, as the comparative weather patterns, snow clearing practices, and infrastructure were displayed and explained. Several presenters decried the lack of adequate clearing of snow from bike lanes. THEY HAVE BIKE LANES!! I also felt quite the tough one as I watched a fellow from northern Norway pointing out ice and snow conditions on bike lanes north of the Arctic Circle that were "impossible to cycle in". It looked just like the Westmount Road in any of our recent storms. I was incredulous to hear a policy person from Edmonton explain how they were just going to let everyone cycle on the sidewalks, as most people were doing that already, they hadn't had many reports of pedestrian/cyclist conflicts, and they felt if they let people cycle on the sidewalk where they felt safe (even though this caused many problems at intersections, where often cyclists would not dismount and caused consternation among motorists) then more people would cycle. I was flabbergasted that the Netherlands had been running a multi-year campaign to get cyclists there to put LIGHTS on their bicycles for riding after dark.
 
As I observed presentation after presentation about cycling lanes, networks, paths, multi-use trails - I came to a surprising conclusion: we are doing a lot of things right in Nova Scotia, with our laws about lights, helmets,1 metre rule, and NOT riding on the sidewalk. AND we perhaps should curb our enthusiasm for cycling lanes or dedicated cycling trails. Not that trails are not excellent facilities, and a safe option for many types of active transportation including cyclists who are very young or not experienced (yet) riding in traffic. But as I looked at the photographs of cyclists, cars, and lanes and snow it was clear to me that cyclists are SAFEST and most respected and will eventually be fully integrated into traffic if they are PART of traffic. CAN-BIKE (which I have not heard mentioned once, although I am going to mention it) has it right. Know how to ride, ride confidently, defensively, and assertively. I noted that the Finns agree with this. Although they do have some cycling paths, they do not have bike lanes, and they don't ride on the sidewalk. It seems to me that inevitably, either because of snow, or other obstacles, or because of lack of infrastructure, sooner or later cyclists are going to end up in traffic anyway. Why not integrate them into it from the beginning, so that most vital element of safety is already ingrained in the motorists' consciousness: they expect us.
 
In social news, Ben Buckwold, Coordinator of the Blue Route is also here. We are the entire Atlantic Canadian contingent. I also had an opportunity to speak with a local member of the Trans Canada trail organization, and was embarrassed to learn that there was no NS delegate at a recent national meeting. It was quite enlightening to see that we are not alone in having some challenges in increasing the number of cyclists on our roads. Wealthier and "hipper" communities also lag in embracing cycling as a mode of transportation. 
 
I want to congratulate and encourage each one of you, because as a B52 cyclists, and especially those you fortunate enough to be able to bike to work in Cape Breton or wherever you are, YOU ARE A PIONEER. We are the vanguard, getting out there being seen, teaching motorists (and planners and politicians) how to treat we cyclists and all the cyclists to come after. Be brave and get out, BE traffic, and make the world expect us!!
 
I have to head out soon - I am not as afraid of the cold as I was yesterday. It is indeed cold, and your face gets uncomfortable pretty quickly, but I found as long as I kept moving I was fine. We had the opportunity to skate on the River Trail last evening, down at The Forks. I love to skate and was absolutely thrilled to be blading along on the cleared ice trail. I also met a group of cyclists and took their pic, though it's not a good one because it was dusk. This evening is the Moveable feast, where we ride to various restaurants in the city. I dithered over what to wear for my presentation, but decided it was most practical to dress for cycling as our tour leaves directly after the last session. So I will be wearing my Ambassador polo over my Stanfield's base layer, long underwear, bike shorts and winter cycling tights. And of course the Ambassador jacket. That got me some looks yesterday. Not hipster attire, apparently, LOL.
 
More later!
 
-Shelley P., in Winnipeg
 

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