Go slow road to recovery

Go slow is key to Vision Zero and restarting the econcomy

Flashing caution signs are everywhere: Go Slow! Slow Down! Literally, the road to recovering our lives and livelihoods is full of warnings telling us why it is best to go slow right now. Adjusting to a new low-speed reality, we admit, is not so easy for our fast paced world.

We notice an interesting intersection of two different ‘vision zero’ goals. Vision Zero is the global campaign for road safety. The other is a statistical goal which signals it is safe to begin re-starting the world economy. Both require us to Be Alert and know some important safety rules.

Both are like learning how to drive up a steep hill with a stick shift, or knowing how to safely handle a four way stop when the lights aren’t working.

Curb your speed

Venturing out for necessities or fresh air has got many more pedestrians and cyclists taking over deserted roadways to keep a safe distance. Go slow if you begin driving back to work, or visiting re-opened shops for ‘curbside pickup’. We welcome these positive signs the economic recovery is starting. We worry this means a lot more people will be out and about than in the past few months.

Getting the economy and our lives going again is great. But we urge everyone to go slow because this is not a return to ‘normal’. Please curb your speed.

Children are still mostly not in school. Working from home looks likely to be partially permanent, if you can. Keeping our distance is still necessary. Walking and biking will continue as preferred modes of exercise and transportation, especially as the weather warms.

Delivering essential goods, food and packages by trucks, couriers and Canada Post are busier than ever. Those returning to work may commute by private car instead of public transit. Figuring out where to pull in to pick up is not always clearly marked. Parking is not always available, especially where municipalities have closed facilities out of an abundance of caution, or to make room for those new bike lanes.

Go slow in first gear

Ferrari Italy factory re-opens with F8 Tributo among first in production

F8 Tributo production, photo courtesy Ferrari

In Italy, famous racing car maker, Ferrari announced it’s factory is at full capacity after seven weeks of near total shut down.

Ferrari factories in Maranello and Modena gradually returned to full production, in line with the “Back on Track” program. – Ferrari back at full capacity today,  press release, May 8, 2020.

Joining Ferrari in once again making vehicles soon will be the North American automakers. Restarting the auto parts supply chain, and other industries is good news for a lot of businesses and employees idling for weeks. We applaud companies including Ford Canada and GM Canada for making face shields and masks for health care workers and first-responders.

Gearing up production requires re-engineering how we safely return work and school. Factories, stores and offices have to give workers and customers more personal space. Shift work helps space things out. Even though many office workers now “Zoom” regularly, it will take time to get to economic engines at full throttle in the real world.

For much of the economy, it is a recovery in first gear. And that is ok, because no one wants to have to shift into neutral again, much less go in reverse.

Go slow transition to a different vision zero

UK Covid-19 go slow recovery plan transmission chart

Virus transmission illustration, UK Recovery Plan

“Transmission ratio” doesn’t have anything to do with a vehicle, but it has to do with speed. Speed of infections passed from person to person.

Reaching a transmission ratio below 1:1 is key.

The lower the number, the faster the number of new infections will fall. Our plan to Rebuild, UK Government

Testing tells public health where cases are occurring, so they can then trace close contacts and stop the spread.

Achieving lower transmission rates gives cautious governments evidence to begin loosening restrictions. That is what is happening in many countries, including Canada. Wondering why different provinces are opening things differently? It is because of different transmission rates happening in PEI, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia than in Ontario or in Montreal.

Ultimately the ‘vision zero’ goal for public health is to have no transmission of novel coronavirus cases in our communities. Scientists are hard at work to make that happen with treatments or vaccine.

We commend the public health and government leaders for helping us learn a lot about how novel viruses spread, how to stop them. Singing a tune along with proper hand washing skills are among other newly acquired personal safety routines. We are learning how protecting yourself also protects those around you.

Be Alert, Stay Safe…Stay Alert?

Finally, we noted the similarity to our longtime “Be Alert” and “Stay Safe” road safety messages sound a lot like the cautious “Stay Alert” slogan used by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. His UK roadmap to recovery has not gone over too well, as illustrated in this cartoon by Nicola Jennings in The Guardian on May 10, 2020. Confusing signals are part of the problem.

You see? Vision zero and Vision Zero goals are at the same intersection. In all cases, it seems prudent to proceed in first gear, as if the traffic lights are not functioning, you are unsure of the clutch, and there are plenty of potholes on a steep uphill road.

Seems to us, plenty of good reasons to go slow.

Our own Be Alert program of reflective child-friendly designs are made to be highly visible in low light conditions. They are easy to attach to clothing, bike helmets or backpacks. We can customize a wide range of safety products with insignia, badges, zippers and other identity and apparel products with your own important message. In the meantime, keep safe, go slow, and contact us for help navigating your communications during your road to economic recovery.




Spacing out how cities apply safe distancing

Safe distance difficult when walking in crowded streetsCan we keep keeping a safe distance? While the world is on pause, we are looking for silver linings. When it comes to road safety, we note some interesting developments. First, traffic has almost disappeared. Cities around the world have been experimenting with alternative road uses to help people practice safe distancing while allowing for walking or cycling.

The trouble with a two metre rule

Public Health advises safe distancing means keeping 2 metres apart from others. Fine if you live in the suburbs, small towns or rural areas. But the majority of people live in cities. Downtown urban areas can be particularly difficult to keep a safe distance.

Urban geographer, Daniel Rotsztain, demonstrated this to comical effect wearing his social distancing machine he made and wore when going for a walk in Toronto.

Watch video of Urban Geographer Daniel Rotsztain's social distancing machine in action on Toronto streets

Watch video of Urban Geographer Daniel Rotsztain and his social distancing machine on a walk in Toronto

The City of Toronto has been wary of banning cars on downtown streets because it might encourage large gatherings. Spacing out city dwellers has been a notable challenge of the Covid-19 crisis.

Blessed with many urban parks, ravines, walking and biking paths, Toronto is known to be a green city. Still, it is not enough in times like these. As weather warms, people need exercise and escape from confinement. Going for a walk or bike ride is one of the few things we can do to keep fit while safe distancing.

We have especially noticed more parents taking young children on walks, with scooters or on bike rides. They need more room to walk and ride.

We see two ways safe distancing habits we have learned might stick.

Congestion Tax

City of London UK congestion charging helps with safe distancing

London launched congestion charging in 2003

A legacy from the safe distancing habits might be new congestion taxes cities impose on road users. To lessen the vehicles on the road during certain hours, drivers may have to pay to go downtown.

And cities sure could use the revenue.

Nothing new for London, which introduced Congestion Charging in 2003. Using automated plate recognition technology, ultra low emission discounts began in 2019. (Charges were temporarily suspended in March to ensure critical workers could get around.)

Many other European cities, which were not built for vehicles in the first place, have introduced similar schemes. Key to making a congestion tax work  is public transit.

A change to transport pricing will motivate and incentivize people, according to Australian independent road and transit advisory body, Infrastructure Victoria, in their report: “Good Move: Fixing Transport Congestion“. The City of Melbourne, is thinking about introducing a congestion charge. This will work, so long as there is enough public transit alternatives for people to use while safe distancing.

In a post by Monocle, Elliot Fishman of the Melbourne-based Institute for Sensible Transport (we love that name!) identified what city transit authorities must do to make a congestion tax work:

Run services more frequently and introduce price incentives for non-peak travel – Elliot Fishman, Institute for Sensible Transport.

Safe distancing in urban design thinking

Safe distancing while bike riding

Solving safe distancing using city streets free of vehicles is a short term solution for unprecedented times. Another silver lining is how this has got urban planners working out new city street design solutions for safe distancing for congested urban areas in the future. This will no doubt help make city walking and biking tours like those created and hosted the Urban Geographer a much safer and more pleasant experience.

Everyone has noted the quiet streets with little or no traffic. How neighbours are looking out for each other and their communities. We sure like how this has helped make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. But we know this is temporary. Let’s not let this experience go to waste.

Stay Safe, Be Alert

Trimtag encourages safe distancing, and if you are driving we urge you to take the time to slow down, find silver linings during tough times. When the timing is right, get in touch about customizing our own BE ALERT road safety program.



Reflecting on the road to good visibility

BreSeaReflective visibility helps children be seen and gives drivers time to reactReflective visibility is key to road safety. That goes for vehicles and roads, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Reflecting on quite a lot of critiques, the province of Ontario admitted the new blue license plate designs kind of missed that point. We see how design advances are making reflective visibility a game changer in pedestrian safety.

Designing for reflective visibility

Ontario's new license plates had reflective visibility design flawsHaving good contrast between text and background helps with readability. That is why dark lettering shows up on light backgrounds. Contrasting dark blue on a white background, Ontario’s old license plate design (top) had raised lettering. But the blue reflective paint was starting to peel off, and sometimes made the plates unreadable.

Reversing the colour scheme is a new design (bottom) for the province’s license plates. A dark blue background contrasts with white lettering. The new plates have special ‘retro-reflective’ paint.

A license plate must be readable any time of day or night, including by the new automated speed cameras being placed in high risk zones.

Trouble is, the reflective visibility on the new Ontario license plates does not work well at night. Glowing white letters are unreadable in certain light conditions. A Kingston Police officer was among the first to point this out. Admitting the design flaw, the Ontario government, stopped the rollout. Although 71,000 plates have already been issued, they will be replaced once the updated design is ready. The extra costs will be borne by the vendor, 3M Canada.

If you have a blue licence plate that was issued between February 1, 2020 and March 4, 2020, you can continue to use it. It does not pose a safety risk. If you currently have white embossed licence plates, you can continue to use them. – Ontario.ca

New driverless shuttle glows with reflective visibility

Appearing vivid at night is critical for on fire trucks, EMS vehicles and school buses, where safety and visibility are key. Drivers see better with reflective painted lines and signs on our streets.

The use of retro-reflective materials in guiding road users and delineating roadways at night have been in use for over 70 years and is still a key part of the road safety infrastructure – Reducing the cost of road safety: Australasian Road Safety Research, Policing and Education Conference 2012.

3M reflective visibility design on MnDot shuttle

MnDot driverless shuttle, photo via 3M

The 3M Company is well known for creating different types of reflective tapes, paint and wraps. A new use of their reflective materials is on driverless vehicles. Testing of an autonomous shuttle project near Minneapolis is underway.

Using a reflective paint and pattern designed by 3M, the MnDOT shuttle has a black base with graphic wrap film in vibrant orange, blue and green. When light hits the shuttle’s exterior, bright colours light up like a road sign at night.

I used the reflective graphic wrap film, because I think reflectivity coincides with safety, and it seemed like a good way to relay that message,” Mike Welter, senior designer, 3M.

Transforming in reflective fashion

Reflective visibility of Christopher Bates shirt jacket from Spring 2020 collectionBeing seen day or night looks very fashionable to us. Reflective accents on running gear, shoes and anoraks is a trend we are happy  has stuck. Even more brands are looking for reflective visibility fabrics, tapes, zippers and accents. Designing reflective visibility is both a cool fashion element and a safety benefit we encourage.

This smart casual shirt jacket is by Canadian menswear designer, Christopher Bates – the same designer behind the latest Air Canada uniforms. Being water repellent, the thermal coated wool fabric has a dull shimmer during the day, and also transforms at night when whole shirt jacket glows.

Drivers react better with reflective visibility

This study shows reflective visibility protects younger pedestrians because of increased reaction time for a driver going 50 mph (80 km/hr):

A child pedestrian is visible at 30 meters with low beam headlights (1.3 seconds reaction time). A child pedestrian wearing a reflector is visible at 150 meters with low beam headlights (6.5 seconds reaction time). Pedestrian reflectors have been used successfully in Scandinavian/Nordic countries for over 30 years. —The importance of being seen in traffic, 2001.

Launching a “Decade of action on road safety” ten years ago, the United Nations joined others in a worldwide effort. The UN’s latest status report in 2018 showed there remains a lot left to do.

Road traffic injuries are currently the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years, signalling a need for a shift in the current child and adolescent health agenda which, to date, has largely neglected road safety. UN Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2018.

Emphasizing how important reflective visibility is for road markings, vehicle markings and license plates is key to improving road safety. Extending driver reaction time helps protect all pedestrians, especially children. Adding our own Be Alert child-friendly reflective patches to helmets, backpacks and jackets is one small way to help children be seen sooner. Ask us about customizing them.