From September 12 to 15, Vancouver was host to the nineteenth Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference, one of the most notable North American active transportation conferences. Organized by Project for Public Spaces and held biennially, over one thousand individuals attended this event from across the world to take a multi-sectoral gaze at the state of current active transportation issues. Mobility, governance, health, and resilience were this year’s conference themes.

With this conference, Vancouver went all out on showcasing to us their expansive active transportation initiatives, and it was a treat to enjoy. Two separate opportunities for mobile workshops, an interactive tour of a specific aspect of active transportation as experienced through biking or walking, in the conference gave our team the chance to try out Mobi Cyclesthe new Mobi bike share program. First implemented in June of this year, 1,500 bikes and 150 stations around downtown Vancouver are available. Want one? Just grab a Mobi card (we got a complimentary card for the week), tap it on the built-in screen, enter your PIN, and away you go! These become far more appealing with the sheer kilometers of dedicated bike path lanes offered for use. In both mobile workshops, Green Action Centre staff were reportedly in awe of the comfort and safety they were experiencing throughout their commute. We are encouraged to see so much work completed in a dense downtown core such as Vancouver’s, and endeavour to push our city to follow by example.

The conference was not all play however, and the Active and Safe Routes to School team was hard at work on several initiatives during the conference. Not the least of which of course were our own panel discussions, in which Lea provided local expertise on Monday for our School Travel Planning program and how it relates to national (and international!) STP initiatives. Jamie followed up on Tuesday with a Pecha Kucha and again on Wednesday with a presentation on our app, showcasing our innovative website that allows teachers in schools around the world to determine their class’ mode share (it’s free to use too!)

We also had the opportunity to speak with fellow Safe Routes to School planners across the country to provide input on an exciting new initiative by the Government of Canada to create a national Safe Routes to School strategy. This is an exciting opportunity for our program, not to mention our national culture towards school safety. At this stage, the Government is requesting preliminary input, but stay tuned as this continues to progress!

Because the conference included plenary presentations by experts in various fields, over 70 breakout sessions, and over 30 mobile workshops across the greater metropolitan region, 3 staff simply could not cover everything! However, we can speak to a few highlights from the event that our staff loved to hear about from our international partners:

  • Calgary is doing amazing work in implementing new bike infrastructure. Of note, the City has a great Roads Maintenance Manager for the downtown core. This has been a huge benefit to their AT strategy and an oft-forgot component of developing new AT that can create real challenges in the long run.
  • Our own Councillor Janice Lukes was a panelist on AT infrastructure in winter cities, and the City of Winnipeg contingency had a great opportunity to speak with cities across Canada and abroad on how to handle four-season planning. The Active and Safe Routes to School program hopes to see this conversation continue, and to push the City for year-round bike opportunities.
  • Washington D.C. reported during a panel on the status of their cycling education program, called DC Public Schools Second Grade bicycling skills teaching. Moving in to its second year, their evaluation of the first piece provided us some valuable feedback which we have taken back for our own education and skills training program rolling out in Seven Oaks School Division.

In short, the conference as a whole was extremely invigorating, and our staff certainly found benefit in attending and speaking with other cities (and our own!) on Active Transportation issues. The next Pro-Walk-Pro-Bike-Pro Place conference in 2018 will be held in New Orleans. If you want to hear more about the Pro Walk-Pro Bike-Pro Place conference, we would be happy to tell a story or two!