Re-designing streets works for all

How did New York City improve road safety by re-designing streetsRe-designing streets in New York City is no easy task. A test project showed how rethinking road space could make pedestrians and cyclists safer. Turns out, it was also good for traffic flow, business, and city budgets. Launching a new era of safer, more functional road design in a city which doubles its population with commuters and visitors every week day.

In 2007, New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg hired Janette Sadik-Khan as chief transportation official. Tasked with figuring out how the city could re-design streets to accommodate another million people expected by 2030 was her mandate. How to get them around, and still manage quality of life in neighbourhoods and business districts was part of the ‘PlaNYC’.

Nothing much had changed on New York streets in sixty years.

Changing lanes in the city that never sleeps

New York City a hazardous place to cycle before Janette Sadik-Khan got to work re-designing streets back in 2007

Vox video of Janette Sadik-Khan interview

Running the length of Manhattan is a grid of numbered crosstown streets and avenues. In the city that never sleeps, there is always traffic, taxis, delivery trucks, buses, cyclists and lots of pedestrians.

Alternating in one direction, most east-west streets are small and quick to walk across, even when sidewalks are crowded with pedestrians. Trying to cross a broad avenue on foot, however is a mission to get across all the lanes while you have the right of way.

Cycling in the city was considered an ‘extreme sport’ when Sadik-Khan arrived.

Its almost like you were a cast member from Escape from New York.

Sadik-Khan knew more people walking and cycling were going to be important to the transportation plan’s success, but they also had to be safe.

A New Design on Ninth Avenue

She took inspiration from a visit to Copenhagen. It is the world’s most bike-friendly city, according to the aptly-named Copenhagenize Index. Currently, more than 60 percent of Copenhageners commute to work or school by bicycle on 187 km of ‘cycle highways’. Arriving back in New York, Sadik-Khan got out a tape measure to convince chief traffic engineer how re-designing streets could be achieved.  It just took a re-allocation of space already on the road.

They both knew it would also take a change in New Yorkers’ attitude about who their streets were for.

2014 Ne2014 DOT report protected bicycle lanes in NYC

NY DOT report 2014

In 2007, DOT, the Department of Transportation for the City of New York, ran a pilot with dedicated bicycle lanes on 9th Avenue between 16th and 23rd Streets. Prior to the test, Ninth was a one way running south (downtown), there was permit parking on both sides of the street, and four lanes of traffic.

Following Copenhagen’s approach to re-designing streets, a parking-protected bike lane was created next to the curb. Parking was placed between the bike lane and moving traffic lanes. Slowing areas (bus bulbs) were added, and helped keep buses moving. Widened sidewalks created pedestrian plazas, taking some of the parking spaces on one side of street.

Parking is among the toughest of the cultural change she faced:

There’s always a battle when you try to take away parking space. People get really passionate about it.

All round road safety success

DOT 2014 report on protected bicycle lanes

DOT measures of improved safety

The pilot on Ninth Avenue in New York was a resounding success in safety and on all forms of transportation, and more.  According to DOT analysis, it was much better for pedestrians because it was a shorter distance to cross. Cars had dedicated turn lanes, which kept traffic moving better. A dedicated lane for bikes encouraged bicycle volumes to increase by 65 percent. Crashes with injuries decreased by a whopping 48 percent.

And here’s the kicker: for businesses operating along the bike lane corridor, retail sales increased almost 49 percent, compared with control sites. It was so successful, it launched a new era in urban street design all cities can learn from.

Fiscally frugal

Re-designing Ninth Avenue revealed one more advantage: the cost. Bike lanes received 80 percent of funding from the federal government, and took only 1 percent of the City of New York’s capital budget.

Bike lanes were like 99 percent of our headlines, but they were only 1 percent of the budget. I don’t think there is a better investment. If you want to build a better city, you can start by building better bike lanes–Sadik-Khan interview in September 2018 of Vox.

Montreal and Vancouver make the 2019 Copenhagenize List

In New York today, protected bike lanes make up ten percent of roughly 1,200 miles of bike lanes. After re-designing more streets including sections of 9th, 8th, Broadway, Columbus, 1st and 2nd Avenues, the 2014 DOT report shows an overall twenty percent decrease in injuries.

New York made the 2011 Copenhagenize List of the top twenty most bike-friendly cities in the world.  Since then, many more cities are improving road safety by re-designing streets. In 2019, two Canadian cities made the list: Montreal, which has consistently been ranked in the top 20, ranked #18. For the first time, Vancouver made the list at #19.

Be Alert by Trimtag

As cities re-design streets to encourage more use by pedestrians and cyclists, injuries are still occurring. Be Alert!  is our own initiative to create high-visibility and reflective decals (shown left) and stickers. They are easy to apply to bike helmets, backpacks, and clothing  and vehicle windows, even take out containers. Our program aims to encourage awareness and active attention to road safety, especially for the most vulnerable road users: children, pedestrians and cyclists. See our Be Alert products here, or contact us about a custom program for your own safety program.

Bike month gets better and better

City of Mississauga gears up for bike month

City of Mississauga has about 500 kilometres of multi-use trails, bike lanes and signed routes

Better weather means more bikes on our roads. We are urging everyone to BE ALERT and prevent collisions during bike month. Especially during bike to school week when less experienced riders are participating in school programs. Getting more people to cycle to school, work and to get around town, at least some of the time is the goal of bike month.

Bike month beginnings

In 1Bike Month 2019989, the City of Toronto promoted a “bike to work day”. Since then, it has expanded to Bike Month programs in May and June right across the GTHA region. On the site, there are useful maps, plus all sorts of goodies to get people to get cycling, including bike challenges, workshops, mileage trackers.

One of our favourites in Toronto is  the 12th annual ‘tourdeDufflet and Balzacs’, where cyclists can get refreshment and a treat anytime between May 30 and June 30, if they register and ride to at least three participating locations uptown, Queen St West and in the distillery district.

Now that’s a sweet incentive to ride!

Coordinated by Cycle Toronto, bike month has involvement from municipalities including the cities of Toronto,Mississauga,Brampton and Burlington, along with regions of Peel, York and Durham. Support also comes from Metrolinx’s SmartCommute, gear retailer, MEC and other companies helping to get the word out.

Bike Month organizes the annual Bike to School Week Bike to School Week grows

One of the biggest growth areas in bike month is Bike to School Week. Happening this year from May 27-31, the program has signed up nearly 600 schools across the greater Toronto and Hamilton region, and other Ontario communities . Registering local organizers and providing free resources helps local volunteers to run and promote cycling events. The chance to win prizes gets students, parents, teachers and the community to get involved and ride. Gathering more data about participation, helps the organizers build better knowledge about people who cycle.

Tracking results helps bike month programs get better and better. That generates interest and participation from public, schools, municipalities, cycling and health advocates, as well as corporate support. We are encouraged to see so many municipalities right across Canada which are part of bike month programs and promotions to encourage cycling as part of healthy active transportation strategies.

Trimtag Be Alert bike rider woven patch reflects light and enhances cyclist visibilityBe Alert by Trimtag

As the popularity of bike month events grows, roads get extra busy. Be Alert!  is our own initiative to create high-visibility and reflective decals (shown left) and stickers which are easy to apply to bike helmets, backpacks, and clothing  and vehicle windows. Our program aims to encourage road safety, especially for the most vulnerable road users: children, pedestrians and cyclists. See our Be Alert products here, or contact us about a custom program for your upcoming bike programs.

Glowing visibility on the Smart Highway

Here’s a glowing review for pairing art, design, technology and road engineering. We especially like how visibility at night is helped by these Dutch developments. Being seen is key to reducing pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle collisions. Anything which helps light the way and keeps people safe on the roads gets our thumbs up.

Video: Van Gogh Bike Path by Roosegaard/Heijmans

Lit up by the stars

Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh, inspired this glowing bike path art. In homage to Van Gogh’s famed ‘Starry Night’ painted in 1889, designer Dan Roosegaard created the luminescent bike path design in 2014.  Located in Eindhoven, Holland, an area where Van Gogh once lived and painted his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters.

The glow of the Van Gogh Path was created by road engineering firm, Heijmans. Using thousands of solar-powered LED lights in blue and green, it is a test site for the technology, and part of the ‘smart highway’ opened in 2014 to mark the 125th anniversary of the death of Van Gogh. Receiving numerous awards for design and innovation since then, this is a new work of art connecting a contemporary landscape to cultural history. We also like that it has created a safer ride and special place where people want to go. We have to hand it to the Dutch who are famous for both cycling and art.

Technopower: glowing lines and greater visibility

Rotterdam-based Studio Roosegaarde continues to innovate on the road. Another Smart Highway project by the firm is ‘Glowing Lines’.  Made of rechargeable LED lights which are imbedded in pavement where road paint usually is.  The strip lights charge during the day and glow at night for up to 8 hours. Safety is enhanced, and so is the highway driving experience. In a video about the project, Dan Roosegaard describes it in glowing terms:

To have panes which charge at daytime, and glow at night, and make landscapes which are ‘enginuful’… and just incredibly beautiful. That is something I like to call, ‘Technopower’.

Illuminating a Smart Highway

The Dutch-led Smart Highway is a series of fascinating pavement projects aimed at making roads safer, more interactive. Dynamic Paint is one which has great potential for Canadian roads, so long as they are not snow-covered. It is paint which can literally reflect the weather on the road surface, so drivers can moderate with changing conditions.

Along with the Van Gogh Path, Glowing Lines, and Dynamic Paint, other Smart Highway projects include Interactive Light, Induction Priority Lane and Road Printer. Testing and development will help get these road innovations ready to launch internationally.

We give a five star rating to the goals of the Dutch Smart Highway program: to make smart roads using light, energy and information which interacts with the flow of traffic. Building a future of road safety from the ground up, now that is a smart highway we would like to drive.

Art and science make great partners in illumination. We hope to see roads and pathways glow at night like the stars, and offer a beautiful solution to increased visibility. In our own small way, the Trimtag Be Alert program is enhancing the visibility of the most vulnerable road users. Find out more about our customizable Be Alert program.

Pothole season is here

Pothole season is here, and its a doozy.

Days are getting longer, the sun is stronger. You are driving along with Spring in the air. Then, thunk! A bone-shaking road crater jolts you. Welcome to pothole season. We apologize for disrupting your relief that winter is finally loosening its icy grip. Its a reminder to be alert and steer around the seasonal harsh reality on the road.

Giant patches of heaving pavement are a menace to drivers and can do significant damage to vehicles. A 2016 study by Canadian Automobile Association of North and Eastern Ontario estimated vehicle repairs due to pothole damages cost $1.4 billion per year. More than 50% of drivers experienced damage to their vehicle.

Plus, potholes put the safety of all road users at risk. We ask why do they happen every year? What can be done to stop this costly seasonal scourge?

Pothole season as Canadian as Maple Syrup

Tapping sugar maples for sap needs daily temperature swings. Rising daytime temperature of about 5C, then dipping to 5C below freezing at night, is considered perfect for the annual maple syrup harvest. Freeze and thaw cycles and the largest sugar maple forest in the world make Canada, Quebec specifically, the world’s leading producer of sweet liquid gold.

Ups and downs of spring weather are also ideal conditions for road surface failure. Corrosion from road salt and damage from snow plow blades also contribute to the sorry state of our roads this time of year. So we blame the weather and accept that pothole season is a fact of life in Canada.

Swerving to avoid them is not always safe or possible without putting yourself, your passengers, or others on the road at risk. Hit one, and you may need new wheel rims, tires or a fix for a bent suspension.

Avoiding political potholes with hard hats and blitzes

Potholes are tough to fix and return every spring

Municipalities struggle to keep up with the road repairs. They have many holes to fill. Just look at these (unverified) 2018 pothole stats.

600,000 Edmonton
250,000 Toronto
122,000 Montreal
100,000 Saskatoon
46,000 Vancouver

Vision Zero pedestrian safety campaigns are missing targets. Congestion penalties are accumulating in Canadian cities. Funding and building transit is slow. Potholes must be fixed. Signaling action is being taken, mayors and city staff can be seen donning hardhats and doing photo-ops (as Andrew Clark wrote in the DRIVE section of a recent Globe and Mail: “On mayors and the endless battle against potholes”.)

There are solid reasons for touting weekend blitzes. Communicating where disruptions are planned, to show things are getting done, and to encourage constituents to resist the urge to tweet to their city councillor. Actions like these help to deflate the frustration of road users, and get the repair job done quicker.

Potholes are not an easy fix

Automotive repair shops like the extra business fixing damage caused by potholes. Instead of filling holes and fixing cars, we should be designing and building more resilient road infrastructure. But in the interim, doing a better job of repairs is key.

The Python 5000 Pothole Patcher by Superior Roads automates the patch

Photo: Python 5000 courtesy Superior Roads

We discovered there is both art and science to fixing potholes.

Filling cracks and crevices mechanically is being tested in cities such as Ottawa, Montreal, Thunder Bay, to Cranbrook, BC. A self-propelled pothole-filling machine called the Python 5000, is a labour saving option. It can speed up repairs and ensure they are done uniformly.

Hoping to find something better than what has been used in the past to fill road cavities, municipalities have been testing a variety of hot and cold mixes of asphalt and other materials.

Ask the pothole expert

Dealing with pothole problems is costly for municipal and provincial governments across Canada. Finding better ways to fix potholes is one solution. Training employees and giving them enough time do do the work can help too. More can be done, like tracking repair methods and durability.

That is why the Transportation Association of Canada commissioned experts to identify better solutions to pothole repairs. Assessing performance of methods and materials is a focus of the study’s chief engineer Dave Hein. He says there is no one ‘magic bullet’ solution, but there is room to improve tracking performance of pot hole repairs, and sharing of best practices. Like most repairs, how long a pothole patch lasts depends on how the job is done.

It’s not what we put in the pothole, it’s how we put it in the pothole. — Dave Hein principal engineer at Applied Research Associates, Inc. told The Canadian Press.

Permanent solutions to the perennial pothole season

Still, we have to accept that no matter how good the fix, pothole repairs only last from a few days to a year. Maintaining road infrastructure is often under funded, compared to higher priories building new road infrastructure. Plus Hein says,

The maintenance stuff, that’s not sexy.

He observes municipalities sometimes over-react when road users take to social media and blow things out of proportion. Instead of the road engineering work, they are coerced into doing knee-jerk fixes that won’t last. We’re hoping Hein’s report due to the Transportation Association in April will prove to have long term potency in pothole prevention and better repair.

Be Alert

We encourage you to Be Alert for those road craters. Give repair crews room to do their job safely. Did you know? Be Alert is also our theme for a new road safety products (ask us for a sample or more info.)

Maple syrup and potholes appear every spring

Spring is pothole season and sweet maple syrup

Meanwhile, bask in the knowledge Spring is here and the thaw also produces the tasty syrup to pour on a fluffy stack of pancakes. While researching this story, we learned a lot about potholes, and also found out flavourful liquid gold is good for you. Pure maple syrup is high in antioxidants, and minerals, offers nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium…and has fewer calories than honey. Delicious.

MELT a new truck driver training standard

MELT truck driver training standards introduced

MELT is short for Mandatory Entry Level Training, a new national truck driver training standard. Geared towards training new commercial truck drivers, the MELT program gives more traction to sensible road safety. Training, as well as requirements for electronic logging devices (ELDs), are both part of a new national program announced by federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau.

MELT is not capable of melting away winter, but it is good news for road safety.

Last year, the Humbolt Broncos’ tragic bus collision with a transport truck revealed the lack of mandatory commercial truck driver training in Saskatchewan. Improving road safety and training policies are good things that have happened since.

Licensing and driver training requirements for commercial truck drivers are handled by Provinces. The investigation into the Humbolt Broncos collision revealed the gaps in mandatory or voluntary training of commercial drivers across the country. Training, licensing, age and experience are clear factors in road safety and collision prevention. To many it was surprising that someone with no formal training could be driving an 18-wheeler.

Motivated by safety

Announcing the MELT truck driver training program earlier this year, Federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau said the new mandatory minimum standards will take effect by Jan. 1, 2020. Paving the way to enhanced road safety, this is the first time there will be the same national standards.

This was motivated by the need for highway safety, said  Marc Garneau, federal Transport Minister. The announcement earlier this year also included enhanced road safety for impaired and distracted driving.

Roadmap by the Canadian Trucking Alliance

MELT mandatory entry level training for truck drivers introducedSupport from provincial counterparts, the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety, and by the commercial trucking industry made this new national driver training standard possible.

Created in 2018, the The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) launched a national vision for truck safety in Canada. The existing program in Ontario and new requirements in Saskatchewan and Alberta will join to form the national MELT standard.

Adoption into the National Safety Code is expected by the end of this year.

It’s a historic day for our industry to see all provinces committed to creating a national training standard— Scott Smith, Chair, Canadian Trucking Alliance.

Representing 4,500 commercial truck drivers, the CTA is a federation of provincial trucking associations. CTA endorsed the collaboration between trucking industry, federal and provincial governments. It is the first time Canada will have a national harmonized truck driver training standard.

Digital Trucking

MELT and e-logs part of new truck safety program announcedAlso coming to Canada by 2020 are new e-log standards for commercial trucks. These are technical standards for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), or e-logs.

Canada lags several years behind the United States in e-logging standards, which were finalized there in late 2015.  There are two general types of ELD devices on the market: basic and enhanced. Basic devices or simple hardware and apps cost less, and are geared to independent truckers, and meet basic e-log compliance standards. Commercial fleet operators can choose devices with enhanced data collection, mileage tracking, and the all-important arrival time.

Working like many wireless devices, most ELDs connect to cellular networks and GPS, then store data in the cloud. Using an app on their phone, truckers can connect it using Bluetooth to their vehicle’s engine. Read a comparison chart of ELD devices published by the Commercial Carrier Journal.

What do e-logs record?

When in motion, an electronic logging device must record these minimum data points on an hourly basis:

  • date, time, location
  • engine hours, vehicle miles
  • identification of the driver, carrier and vehicle

E-logs are part of the new digital trucking era, and can enhance road safety. However, the launch of ELD’s in the US has not been without concerns since some devices still do not meet standards set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. A survey of independent drivers showed more than 80% had not installed an ELD before the deadline of December 18, 2018. Reports also say enforcement of e-log requirements has been ineffective so far.

We are committed to working with all governments on a third-party certified ELD mandate— said CTA president Stephen Laskowski, setting an example for commercial carriers and drivers in Canada.

MELT is a new mandatory national training program for entry level commercial truck drivers in Canada. Electronic logging devices will also become mandatory on commercial trucks, and both will take effect nationally on January 1, 2020.

Turning the Humbolt tragedy into positive action will add to improved road safety across Canada. We support these steps taken by federal and provincial governments and the commercial trucking industry. It is the least we could do to prevent another Humbolt Broncos crash.

Distracted Driving

What is the cost of new distracted driving law in Ontario? How can we break the habit of phone dependency while driving? The New Year has arrived along with raised fines and more awareness of new distracted driving penalties.

New Distracted Driving Law in Ontario

On JanDistracted driving search trend on Googleuary 1, 2019, Police in Ontario got a strict new road safety law to use in combating distracted driving. The new penalties are the harshest in Canada. A first offense can get fines up to $1,000, a three-day suspension of a license, and three demerit points. Penalties increase significantly with second and third convictions. That caught people’s attention. Many looked it up on Google (see Google Trends chart).

We hope they were not Googling while driving at the time.

Widely reported in the media, the new Ontario law on distracted driving and consequences of conviction seems to have made an impact. The more people know, the less chance of a distracted driving tragedy.

We think this is good news, but it will take willpower to break bad habits.

Mobile phone dependency

Habits are hard to break (ask anyone trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolution). Our phones are never out of reach, including while driving. The urge to look at a text, answer a call, or look up an address is hard to resist. The phone dependency phenomenon has shown up in data. This been a growing concern for road safety advocates like us. Some powerful investors have pressured phone makers to help people to lessen their phone use and save us from our own bad habits.

A plurality, 45 per cent, feel that the smartphone makers are not doing enough to fight smartphone addiction, said Lorne Bozinoff, president, Forum Research – Financial Post, Feb 23, 2018.

The 2018 study of Canadians found 43 percent spend between one and two hours a day on their cellphones. We think the number is likely higher, since people often underestimate how much time they spend.

Forum Research also asked Canadians how quickly they respond to messages on their cellphones. Nearly half, 48 per cent, said they replied within 10 minutes. About 71 per cent said they replied in less than 30 minutes. Residents in the Atlantic provinces had the highest rate of those responding in under 30 minutes (76 per cent), followed by Alberta and British Columbia (75 per cent).

Don’t Snap & Drive Messaging

Distracted driving includes snapchatting, texting or dialing while drivingle drivingAsk anyone under 35 who uses Snapchat the fastest way to share a moment’. The social media app gives you points when you open and reply. Comparing scores with friends drives you to open the app to collect more points. More concerning is the real-time speed feature. It encourages some users to up the ante and drive at excessive speeds. Endorphins are triggered when we get pulled into the constant feedback loops whether its chasing points, Facebook ‘likes’ or re-Tweets.

The impact of chasing social media rewards can be deadly. Last year, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fifth annual awareness campaign targeted motorists aged 18 to 34. They are the demographic most likely to die in distracted driving crashes, and the core user group of social media.

People need to understand the potential price of distracted driving. The cost of a ticket is nothing, compared to the irrevocable cost of taking someone’s life. Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator said this in 2016 when launching a “Don’t Snap and Drive” campaign.

Ontario distracted driving statistics

Police in Ontario also know distracted driving is increasingly resulting in crashes, injury and fatalities on our roads. The numbers are not encouraging: the number of collisions is growing, and deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000.

Ontario data on collisions from 2013 show:

  • one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour
  • a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver focusing on the road

Back in August, the OPP launched a Back to School distracted driving campaign. They asked drivers to put away their phones.

Not ok: Clearing up confusion over hands-free voice activation

Voice commands to a mobile phone reduce distracted drivingPeople are not always clear on what type of technology use counts as distracted driving. Dialing or scrolling through contacts is not ok. You can ONLY activate or deactivate (turn on or off) a hands-free function, and ONLY if the device is mounted or secured.

Hands-free and voice-activated devices can be used, so long as you have it connected to an earpiece, headset or via Bluetooth. You must use voice-activated dialing or commands to your media player, like “Hey Google, play my driving playlist.”  Visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for a guide to using hands-free devices.

Using your phone to talk, text, check maps or choose a playlist while you’re behind the wheel all count as distracted driving – and they put you and others at risk. Government of Ontario

Phones are only part of the problem

Trimtag Be Alert woven patch trioOther driving distractions are equally as dangerous. For some, vehicles have become second homes and restaurants. Saving time sends us to a drive through to pick up food. We eat and drink while at the wheel. Some use the rear view mirror to check our hair instead of checking traffic.

A combination of awareness, deterrence and enforcement of the new Ontario distracted driving law give Police in Ontario the strongest prevention tools in Canada. Drivers, this is a wake up call to stop driving behavior which can cost you $1,000, or much, much more.

We call anything that will improve road safety a ‘win’ for everyone. This is what the Trimtag “Be Alert” road safety program is all about. We support all messages aimed promoting road safety for children around school zones.

We believe in the MADD Canada message

Trimtag is MADD about the Holidays


We believe in safety

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season, from all of us at Trimtag Trading Inc. To you, our insignia customers: police, fire, EMS and municipalities – and all those who keep us safe every day, thank you.

We can all be part of the solution

All of us can be part of a meaningful road safety solution. We look forward to working with you in 2019 and sharing more about our BE ALERT program in the New Year.

We believe in MADD Canada

On behalf of all our customers, suppliers, colleagues and friends, Trimtag Trading Inc. has made a donation to MADD Canada. Until then, we encourage everyone to observe the message of MADD Canada: drive sober, stay safe, and…be alert.


Teach youth cycling safety

We believe all cyclists should follow the rules and be alert to safety every time they share the road. In this post, we look at how we can teach youth cycling safety to last a lifetime. First, some stats:

  • children 5 to 7 are usually just learning to ride a bike
  • children 8 to 16, is when they are more likely to be riding near and in traffic
  • the older they get, the more peers can influence how the ride

Where do bike crashes happen?
Children are likely to be involved in crashes mid block, entering a road from a driveway or alley; at intersections with stop signs; and while traveling in the same direction as an overtaking car – Bike Safety & Education research.

Learning how to ride safely

Learning to ride a bike is a right of passage. It is a wonderful feeling of freedom and speed. For parents it is the moment when they literally have to ‘let go’ of their child as they wobble down the road. This is how kids learn to combine motor skills and cognitive skills. You can’t ride for them. But you can set them up for cycling safety. The first important steps to cycling injury prevention: children have to know and understand the rules of the road. They should have five or more hours of on-bicycle training. The best programs to teach youth cycling safety include:

Basic bicycle handling skills:
  • balancing, pedaling, steering, and braking

Physical safety skills:

  • searching for traffic (moving the head)
  • quickly moving through the chosen traffic gap
  • using the brakes to stop at lights and stop signs
  • signaling when turning

Sign them up for a beginner bike safety camp – most municipalities offer programs. Or, take advantage of this Ontario Government/ CAA template for hosting bike rodeos. It is a tool kit for elementary schools and local community groups to organize a rodeo to introduce young riders to the rules of the road in cooperation with local police. Sign them up for that too.

Setting a community example

York Regional Police, Fire and EMS teach youth bike and other safety lessons at the Community Safety Village holiday snowglobe Located within Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area in the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville is an exceptional example of a safety training facility for young children. The Community Safety Village is an indoor learning centre and outdoor miniature village.

It operates as a unique three-way partnership between York Region Paramedic Services, York Regional Police and local municipal fire services. Students from kindergarten to grade five receive hands on lessons in health and safety. Bicycle safety training is offered, along with lessons in traffic, fire and water safety, and basic first aid or CPR education.

Teachers must book early (usually in August), to organize a school trip to the Community Safety Village. Public events and open houses also take place throughout the year, including this year’s charity toy drive for the holidays.

Foster good helmet habits

Speed, inexperience and not wearing protective gear are among leading causes of cycling injuries for children. And, children between ages 10 and 14 is the group least likely to wear a helmet.– Canadian Red Cross

Parents of younger cyclists set an example, and can foster good helmet habits with their kids. The younger, the better. As soon as they are using a wheeled form of transportation. Well, of course you might say.

Start by buying one. Make them wear it. Properly. Every time.

Again, we might sound like your mom here, but no helmet is any good if its not protecting your head. You might be surprised how many still ride without one. And even if they do, a helmet which doesn’t fit correctly, or is not on right is not as effective. Make sure it fits.

Lighten up

Use reflective stripes on clothing and bicycles, and use flickering lights (even during daylight hours) to make cyclist more visible to motorists–Canadian Red Cross

Trimtag BE ALERT bicycle glow cap

We couldn’t agree more.  Some interesting ideas we have seen include LED caps for air tubes. They are really visible when the bike is in motion for cross traffic. Reflectors can be ‘cool’ and make a safety statement.

As the saying goes, “it’s like riding a bike.”  Muscle memory you never forget. When children learn to love cycling, and do it safely, they can ride their whole lifetime. We want to encourage everyone to be part of the solution by taking bike safety seriously. Make sure children have the right equipment and enroll them in programs which teach youth cycling safety skills, before they hop on and pedal down the road.

The Vision Zero programs do not seem to be working. We examined some of the causes and solutions in our 3-part crash course in road safety. Now we seek small, practical steps all road users can take to prevent pedestrian and cyclist injury on our streets. Come along for the ride, er, read. In our next post, we will look at what motorists can do to stay safe on shared roads.

And, stay tuned, we are testing some easy-to-attach reflective items perfect for a youngster’s bike, helmet and backpack…until then, take the time to be alert.

Pedestrians it’s time to be alert on our roads

Time to be alert daylight savings time ends Nov 4 2018 less daylight means more dangerIt’s time to fall back. It’s time to be alert on our roads. Pedestrians, for you, the darker days of November are particularly perilous. It might be obvious to say it, but your visibility is automatically lower to drivers at night.

When dayTime to be alert for pedestrianslight savings time ends, we gain an hour of sleep, but it shifts daylight hours. Sunrise and sunset times are earlier. When the time changes on November 4, 2018, sunset is just after 5 pm. That means afternoon rush hour for many people is done at dusk or in the dark. Even children coming from after school activities might be walking home when the street lights come on.

The annual time change is a factor which makes November and December the most vulnerable months for pedestrians.

We have examined some of the causes and solutions in our 3-part crash course in road safety. Now we seek small, practical steps all road users can take to prevent pedestrian and cyclist injury on our streets.

It might sound like common sense, but because the Vision Zero programs do not seem to be working, it can’t hurt to remind everyone now is particularly an important time to be alert. All of us can be part of the solution by being a little extra cautious when our days are darker.

Because risk is highest for those on foot, we first chose to look at some things pedestrians and parents can do.

Heads up

At risk of sounding like your mother…pedestrians, we’re asking you to cross with traffic signals and use crosswalks. Children should use the assistance of the everyday road heroes: crossing guards. If your street doesn’t have a crossing guard, push the button to activate the flashing yellow lights. Take the extra step and try to make eye contact with drivers before you set off across the street. On busy multi-lane streets, pay attention and be alert as you make your way across. Sometimes you are not visible because vehicles are blocking sight lines.

Even if it is a small inconvenience, take the time to walk an extra block or two so you are at a controlled intersection or crosswalk. And people, for the sake of cyclists and drivers, please don’t jay walk or dodge between cars. Finally, distracted walking is a thing – we have all seen the goofy videos of people walking into poles, people and parked cars because their phone captured all of their attention. Don’t be one of those people.

Lighten up

You may have pulled dark coats out of the closet as temperatures fall. You may have pulled your hood over your head and put on mittens and boots to stay warm. At risk of sounding like a out of touch fashion blogger, we think less daylight should be the season to wear your brightest accessories. Neon rocks! The 80s are back! (actually retro 80’s are a trend – ask your kids). If neon isn’t your thing, try a light coloured scarf or hat.

Parents need to be the fashion police, especially for young children who walk to and from school, or get to school by bus. Many brands of kids outerwear have reflective zippers or tape details. Backpacks are a perfect place to dangle LED clips or add reflective patches. While you are at it, may we suggest you put one on your own coat, hat, or handbag too? You and your pooch can be seen better with a high-visibility collar, leash or coat.

The whole family and even the family pet can make a brilliant fashion safety statement.

Watch your step

Time to be alert about road safety and wear boots with good traction like the Baffin 'Ice Castle'Colder temperatures also means sidewalks and roads get more slippery under foot. Its time to pull on the footwear with traction. Yes, we know (again) thick soled boots may not make the fashion statement you want. But spraining your ankle, or sliding down a steep sidewalk is not worth it. One of our fashion insiders tells us Baffin Boots are a good bet. They have solid soles, are warm and weatherproof. They have some great colours and have sizes for the whole family.

Come along, in our next post, we will look at what cyclists can do to stay safe on shared roads. And, stay tuned, we are testing some easy-to-attach reflective items…until then, take the time to be alert.

A crash course in traffic injury prevention: Lesson 3

Figuring out priorities, fixing technical issues and finding transit alternatives are the tools being used by cities now to combat congestion and improve road safety. The future is the focus of Lesson 3 in our Crash Course in Road Safety. Looking down the road a bit, we see advanced driver assist technology and city planning playing major roles. We are still a long way from a world where humans are completely off the hook for road safety.

Building better urban infrastructure

New technology and road designs will help keep cyclists and pedestrians safeCanada is among the most urbanized countries in the world. Seven in ten people live in urban areas today. According to Statistics Canada, our population is expected to reach 40 million by 2030. Most of that growth will be in large metropolitan areas.

Expanding transportation infrastructure is critical. Improving pedestrian and cyclist safety, and minimizing congestion are part of designing for city growth. Some may also try e-bike programs and urban logistics plans to consolidate deliveries and reduce pollution.

Driver assist smart cars are superhuman solutions

‘Smart’ self-driving cars and driver assist systems can surpass human capabilities. Machines have 360 degree vision, endless attention spans and can multi-task. Response times are faster. Developments are coming from tech, auto parts and digital imaging companies like Texas Instruments, Robert Bosch Gmbh, Magna International, and Fujitsu.

Cars have superhuman senses; they see further and react faster than humans canBosch Mobility Systems

Driver Bosch Mobility driver assist systems equip vehicles with superhuman capabilitiesassist systems are grouped by sensor technologies like RADAR, ultrasonic, and LiDAR (laser light sensors). Ultrasonic sensors cost less and are effective in the dark. Video in 2D and 3D help with near and long-range vision. These should all help both drivers and driver-assist vehicles see pedestrians better at night.

Giving us a glimpse into the future, some of these driver assist technologies are available in 2019 vehicle models:

  • adaptive cruise control
  • adaptive front lighting
  • automatic emergency braking
  • blind spot detection
  • drowsiness monitoring
  • forward collision warning
  • GPS navigation
  • lane departure warning
  • night vision
  • parking assist
  • tire pressure monitoring

Expect rapid growth of driver assist systems over the next decade. New mandatory vehicle safety standards begin in two years. Consumer demand is also fueling the market for enhanced vehicle safety features. According to a Market Research Future study, the market for driver assist systems could reach US $112 billion ten years from now.

That’s a whole lot of new safety technology. But is it enough to augment reality of road safety and reach Vision Zero?

Man and machine must make tough moral choices

We know human drivers are increasingly distracted. Driver assist or driverless vehicles are not faultless either.

Technical challenges regarding malfunction of these advanced driver assistance systems are a cause for concern and represent market restraintMarket Research Future study.

Building in backups in case one system fails, and security to prevent hacking into connected vehicles are some of the ways this will need to be addressed. Testing must be rigorous in real-life spaces, not controlled labs. Fusing all these technologies together is the future of driver assist, and potentially driverless vehicles.

One thing we cannot lose sight of is potentially life-altering decision making. Problem is in the programming. Azim Shariff, a University of British Columbia researcher notes moral choices machines are programmed to make in life or death scenarios for self-driving cars:

 Algorithms that have to be explicitly programmed well in advance of the situation…they have the responsibility —Globe & Mail Oct 25, 2018 Matters of Morality Self Driving Cars Face a Cultural Obstacle

Research at the MIT Media Lab tested people’s choices with an online game called the Moral Machine. Deciding what to do in a random series of car crash scenarios, participants have to make split-second decisions to minimize harm. After the game was played more than 40 million times, researchers concluded North Americans and Europeans tend to make choices which save the most individuals. They are more likely to let the vehicle stay on course, protecting occupants over others on the road.

Visual aids: we see you, do you see us?

Volkswagen Touareg has micropixel HD headlights which add driver assist visibility

Courtesy Volkswagen Touareg R-Line

Lighting designers at Volkswagen are working to address a key factor in pedestrian collisions: lack of eye contact with drivers. High performance LED headlights are cheaper than laser, and have up to 30,000 light points.

For the first time, these micro-pixel HD headlights will project information directly onto the road, further improving safety–Volkswagen AG

Pedestrian visibility is another area where we are seeing technical improvements which can be done cost-effectively.

Reflective appliqués and accessories on clothing are a clear way to improve pedestrian visibility. Flashing LED lights are now small enough to clip on a zipper, shoelace or helmet.

Courtesy Canada Goose

Making a bigger impression, Canada Goose has created raincoats with material which has reflective fibres woven right in. The black coat suddenly shows a birch bark pattern when illuminated by headlights. The whole coat glows.

One day a perfect utopia of smart cities, sidewalks, vehicles and wearables may be in our future. We see driver assist systems are able to minimize human error, but cannot eliminate it quite yet.

Lives are at risk, technology can fail. For now, humans must continue to be personally responsible when using the road. Our backup plan is to insist we must all BE ALERT.

Join us

Our 3-part Crash Course in Road Safety revealed the facts history and today and possibilities of tomorrow. Prevention will be part of the best solution. We encourage cities, companies, engineers, designers, researchers and programmers to keep working at it. In the meantime, join in now to help keep the most vulnerable road users safe.

Be the first to learn about our new “Be Alert” road safety program. Subscribe to follow this journey. Learn more about how we could develop a customized program for you, drop us a note.