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#4. Final Day, and homeward bound... Thursday Feb. 14th, 2014

#4.  Final Day, and homeward bound...  Thursday Feb. 14th 
 

Good morning, B52ers. As advertised, I went to the youth cycling session yesterday (last day of the Congress). There were a couple of presentations on the state of our youth today, and the information about inactivity and parental paranoia were nothing new to me. It did confirm that VCB's plan to have cycling camps is very good, and we should be very happy we have a dedicated facility at Open Hearth park to host them. The "Trash to Treasure" presentation was intriguing not because the concept of having at-risk youth learn bike maintenance and recover used bikes from the garbage is new (I think the Whitney Pier Youth Club and VCB have already developed such a program in our area), but because they referred to "community bike shops". These are volunteer-run bike shops all over the city, where you can drop in to fix a flat or do other minor repairs. Or have them done for you. They exist in Winnipeg and Edmonton, and no doubt in lots of other places. In addition to helping out stranded cyclists, they can also be venues for bike maintenance workshops. The Edmonton Bicycle Commuters actually hold bike cleaning and tune up events every month all year round. They get together to clean their bikes, have some snacks, hear some music - everybody knows you have to clean your bike, but having fun and company doing it makes it easier!

 

But the presentation that really impressed me was "Teenage Traffic Engineers: CounterPoint and the Quick Way to Catch Up?". The speaker was Anders Swanson, who organized the Congress. He is a Project Manager at Winnipeg's Green Action Centre (like NS's Ecology Action Centre, and Cape Breton's ACAP). A software developer and keen commuter cyclist, Anders asserts that "good data=better decisions" (and I must say, as a scientist, I agree with him wholeheartedly). He has created a smartphone app that counts traffic - ALL traffic, not just cars. Anyone can download the app, create an account, choose a counting site, and start contributing to the database. Anyone, anywhere, right now. This is the website: http://app.counterpointapp.org/

 

I plan to download the app and see what I can contribute. The app demonstration was very impressive and showed the potential of not only the technology but of "citizen scientists" to collect important data that can help change the way communities are designed. Somebody who took a few minutes to track the traffic in front of the YMCA might end up with some enlightening information for our municipal Council! 

 

The Congress was pretty much over by 1 pm, so I took the opportunity to explore the local area a little. I was joined by Maida Zederayko and Vicky Reamy, urban planners from Edmonton and Winnipeg respectively. We enjoyed a stroll around the Forks Market and a  long lunch talking about . . . cycling. More specifically, about the challenges around snow clearing for cyclists. That meant bike lanes for Edmonton. I was alarmed when Maida said she might follow the example of the city of Peterborough and condone cycling on sidewalks. I disagreed, but we shall see how things evolve. Coming from a place with limited budgets and few bike lanes, where we are lucky if our roads get cleared PERIOD let alone having special efforts made to clear bike lanes I tend to think we should put our efforts into making sharing the lanes that exist more comfortable for cyclists and motorists. Rather than spending money planning in a way that assumes the bicycle and active transportation in general will always be marginalized and a 'special needs' group, why not assume that the car is on the way out and one day bikes and other forms of human powered transportation will be 'normal'? 

 

I have enjoyed my stay in Winnipeg very much, and I hope I have gathered up some useful information for VCB and also for our municipality to use moving forward with active transportation. Right now I have to figure out the logistics of getting myself to the airport and with any luck, defy the weather and get home tonight. Thank you all very much for supporting me in this trip and for reading my reports! I hope it has given you food for thought and you can think of some action to encourage cycling as a result. Even if that action is simply approaching your B52 rides with enthusiasm! And count some traffic - that app is so cool!

 

-Shelley Porter in Winnipeg, wearing not only wool socks but wool mitts, a wool hat and a scarf I have finally learned out to wrap around my neck and face in the Manitoba fashion.  :-)

 

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