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Welcome to HC Link's blog! Our blog will provide you with useful information on healthy community topics, news, and resources, as well as information on HC Link’s events, activities, and resources. Our bloggers include HC Link staff and consultants, as well as our partnering organizations, clients, and experts in the health promotion field.

Please note: opinions in posts are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of HC Link or our funder.

We look forward to engaging in thought-provoking conversation with you!

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Public Health and Vision Zero: What role do we have to play?

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

Today I’m live tweeting and blogging from Parachute’s Vision Zero Summit. It’s not quite 11 am but already I’m on fire for Vision Zero and everything that it stands for. In particular, I’m really reflecting on the role that public health can play within an initiative such as Vision Zero. Today’s conference opened with a video address by Dr Matts-Ake Belin from Sweden, where Vision Zero originates. Dr Belin proposed that public health and Vision Zero take opposite approaches: that public health starts with a problem that needs to be solved and applies intervention to address the problem, whereas Vision Zero starts with the vision of what needs to be achieved. Dr David Sleet, formerly from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and now a consultant, spoke about the role for public health in Vision Zero. Dr Sleet believes that traffic injuries and deaths are the number one public health issue of our time. Advances in road safety is listed as #10 on the CDC’s list of 10 Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century.

Dr Sleet asked the audience who among us work in public health. While about 10 percent of the audience raised their hands, Dr Sleet told us that today, we all work in public health because what we are doing here at the Vision Zero Summit is public health’s mandate the save lives and prevent deaths. Dr Sleet proposes that public health approach road safety in the same way as we do infectious diseases- like infection disease on wheels- by bringing the epidemiological and education lenses that we apply to outbreaks such as e-coli and Zika. In fact public health has a history of initiatives that focus on reducing to zero, such as polio.
 
VZ 1

While fellow panelist Ian Grossman from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators stated that one of the challenges in the US has been to form connections between those who work in road safety and public health, here in Ontario public health professionals are used to working intersectorally and making a difference in their communities.  While there is a role for public health, Dr Sleet stated that Vision Zero should be everyone’s vision and should involve every sector.

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero
 
Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/
Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero
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Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

Vision Zero involves planning, designing and building roads and infrastructure to increase safety and reduce fatal accidents. Vision Zero believes that safety aspects must be built into the system and included when planning new infrastructure projects. The ultimate goal is to build roads and infrastructure that meet capacity and environmental challenges without compromising traffic safety.

In 2008, Montreal set a goal of reducing serious accidents by 40 per cent over 10 years. Between 2003 and 2015, the island of Montreal has seen the number of accidents causing injury or death drop by 26 per cent, to 5,203 accidents. In roughly the same period, the population has grown by four per cent, the number of cars by 12.5 per cent, and the number of people who cycle regularly has doubled, rising to 116,000 a day. Montreal’s Vision Zero plan pledges to:

  • expand photo radar speeding sectors to eight from the current five
  • reduce speed limits on certain main streets to 40 kilometres per hour
  • reduce limits on local roads to 30 km/h (where boroughs accept the change)
  • update traffic lights
  • further improve security measures at 57 of the city’s underpasses, in some cases by adding cycling lanes
  • mandate city standing committees to study the idea of prohibiting trucks of a certain size from driving in heavily populated areas, or limiting the hours when they can make deliveries
  • look into having reserved bus-taxi lanes that can also accommodate bicycles, which is presently illegal under the highway code in most cases
  • increase the number of bike boxes, putting cyclists ahead of vehicles at intersections; installing priority lights for cyclists; adding cycle lanes and boosting knowledge of the dangers of dooring.

What happens however, on existing streets, where these changes have yet to take affect? As a full-time cycle commuter in a large and busy city, I know what it’s like to bike in an environment that’s not built to keep me safe. At times like these, vulnerable road users take matters into their own hands to try to make the environment safer.

One of my favourite examples of this is Warren Huska, who Toronto cyclists have dubbed “Noodle Man” after media attention in Toronto and internationally. A year and a half ago Ontario introduced Bill 31, which requires drivers to keep at least 1 metre between the motor vehicle and the bicycle when passing cyclists on Ontario roads, where possible. Despite a $110 set fine and two demerit points, few motorists are following the law. Warren took the law into his own hands by attaching a pool noodle to the back of his bike, a visual representation of the 1 meterpassing law.  Effectively, Warren makes his own bike lane where there is no bike lane, resulting in motorists giving him the space the law requires. Warren’s desperate move has hit a nerve, as the 1 million + hits to the Toronto Star video showing Warren’s noodle hack attests. Warren hopes that his pool noodle will keep the conversation about cycling safety going and influence the thinking of motorists. Colin Browne, a spokesman for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, quoted in a Washington Post article about Warren,  says “it’s frustrating that we’re relying on hacks from cyclists when really it’s a driver behavior problem,” Browne said. “The law (in Washington) says to pass beyond three feet. You shouldn’t have to attach a pool noodle to the back of your bike to make people do that.”

Warren

Photo from the Toronto Star Toronto Star

This is where initiatives like Vision Zero should come in. If the built environment makes the safe choice the only choice, wouldn’t this increase the chances of everyone using roads safely? While Colin Brown applauds Huska’s homespun approach, he said cyclists really need more bike lanes and off-road trails, more physical buffers between them and cars, and better police enforcement of safe-passing laws.

I consulted my fellow cyclists to find out how they try to be safe when the built environment doesn’t support safe cycling. 

Many of them shared stories of being passed to closely by car drivers and lack of enforcement – or even awareness- of Bill 31 by police officers. Jess Spieker shared her terrifying story of being T-boned by a car driver at an intersection in an area that has no bicycle infrastructure. In addition to safer infrastructure, Jess is calling for a Vulnerable User Road Law which would have car drivers sentenced appropriately. 

Chloé Rose bikes through parks even though there are perfectly good (if more dangerous) roads beside said parks, or adding kilometers to her route because it's safer than going straight along an arterial road. Not only does this add time onto cycling journeys, this also directly impacts businesses located on main arterials who lose out on having cyclists as a customers. Other cyclists take advantage of flex hours, changing the times of day where they travel in order to avoid high traffic times.

Another unfortunate side effect of lack of safe infrastructure is that cyclists resort to “illegal” measures such as riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way down one way side streets (salmoning) because it feels safer. Says Toronto cyclist Gerry Brown “my belief in the ability of Vision Zero to reduce road injuries and deaths is because of its focus on design changes that will make people do that. I have very little faith in our ability to change behaviour with education and PR campaigns, but with sound and proven design changes we can make everyone safer.”

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero

Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero

Montreal’s Vision Zero Plan https://mairedemontreal.ca/en/vision-zero-commitment-pedestrian-and-cyclist-safety

Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025 website features a Road Safety Measures Database

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Why I’m SO EXCITED about Vision Zero

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach. 

On November 29th, my colleague Robyn Kalda and I will be attending Canada’s Vision Zero Summit in Toronto as part of the Social Media Team. We’ll be live tweeting and blogging away and sharing the learnings from this national conference. As health promoters, it makes sense that we’d believe that our roads should be safe for all road users: pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers/occupants. As proponents of healthy communities we believe in the many benefits that occur when people can walk, bike, roll and dance through their communities. So of course we love Vision Zero’s philosophy: that no one should be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system.

On a personal level though, I’m excited about Vision Zero because I want to live.

Yes, it may sound dramatic. And also, hopeful……because I am a vulnerable road user. I live in Toronto, where I am a full-time cycle commuter (10 months of the year) and daily pedestrian. The reality is, in the city that I live in, that the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths is just shy of the homicide rate. In the first 6 months of 2016, there were more than 1,000 cyclists and pedestrians hit on Toronto streets. I once met a Toronto cyclist that referred to her daily commute as “my daily meditation on death”. I do have at least one “OMG” moment every commute, and what I’d call a close call once or twice a week. Even as a pedestrian, I’m scared. One of the most dangerous parts of my regular walk to various errands is a pedestrian crossing- you know, the one with the flashing lights where, by law, car drivers and cyclists are supposed to stop and stay stopped until I’ve reached the sidewalk on the other side? I’m nearly struck by a car driver at least half of the occasions that I use that crossing.

cycling

My sister and me (left) cycling on the Bloor Viaduct during Open Streets Toronto.

Given all of that, why do I risk my life every day just to move around the city? Well, I’ll bet you can guess some of the reasons. Cycling to work is more convenient and less costly that taking public transit. I get 40 minutes of physical activity every day just by going to work! I arrive at work flushed, with my blood pumping and brain working. It makes me smile to speed past the cars in traffic and whiz down hills. I recently purchased aBike Share membership and I giggle every time I’m on one of those bikes, they are so big and stable and Mary Poppins like. It’s amazing what cyclists will put up with just to get that daily dose of biking awesomeness. Once you try it, you will never go back.

That is also one of the challenges- getting people to try it. And one of the ways to get people to try cycling is to make it as safe and convenient as possible. That’s where Vision Zero comes in. One of the things that I love about Vision Zero is that it is a comprehensive approach that addresses:

  • Reducing impaired driving
  • Implementing safer speed limits
  • Increasing the use of seatbelts
  • Introducing safer car design
  • Improving road infrastructure
  • Enhancing pedestrian and cyclist safety

In a Vision Zero community, there is advocacy for policy change, enhanced regulation, road infrastructure changes and information is provided about dangers of risk factors. The Vision Zero philosophy is one of shared responsibility between those that design the roads and those that use the roads.  The emphasis is on designing streets that result in the behaviour that you want to see, rather than simply trying to legislated and enforce behaviour change. By remembering that all road users are humans- and therefore make mistakes- we can engineer around mistakes and therefore avoid them.

visionzero

Screen capture from http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

Vision Zero in Canada

Vision Zero began in Sweden, where it’s had astonishing success. Vision Zero is starting to make inroads in North America, including several Canadian cities:

In Toronto, the city’s Road Safety Plan includes the Vision Zero vision to reduce the number of road fatalities and serious injuries to zero, with an initial target of reducing fatalities by 20% by 2026. I hope that next week’s Vision Zero Summit will help to shift this target!

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero

Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

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Vision Zero: No more road deaths

What's more important: letting cars move quickly, or keeping everyone (inside and outside cars) safe? Is risk of death or injury the price we have to pay for mobility? As health promoters, we see injury prevention (as well as pollution and healthy neighbourhoods) as a key component of healthy communities, and road safety as surely something worthy of serious design efforts that mitigate danger. The international Vision Zero movement agrees.

"No loss of life is acceptable. In every situation a person might fail -- the road system should not. This is the core principle of the Vision Zero concept." -- http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

In essence, Vision Zero works to design transportation systems that compensate for human error. Whatever mistake you might make as an imperfect and distractable human, the systems around you should protect you. It's an approach that puts much more emphasis on design and much less on the behaviour of the system's users. When health promoters talk about lifestyle issues we often say "make the healthy choice the easy choice" -- it's easy to see how Vision Zero is doing exactly that.

On November 29, HC Link Coordinator Andrea Bodkin and I are excited to be covering the Vision Zero Summit on social media. Organized by Parachute, the Summit will look at how Vision Zero is being implemented in Canada, drawing on examples from Canada and beyond. Watch for our tweets and blog posts!

As Edmonton, which was the first Canadian city to officially adopt Vision Zero, says:

"Why should you get behind Vision Zero?

We all want our loved ones to get home safely."

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero

Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

More information:

Vision Zero (Sweden)

Vision Zero Canada

Parachute Canada - Vision Zero

Canada's Vision Zero Summit

Summit hashtag: #VZSummit

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Working together in a Good Way

By Stephanie Massot, HC Link

Last month in partnership with Timiskaming Best Start, HC Link delivered a webinar called ‘What we are doing in a good way: A cultural competency framework model’. Working in a ‘Good Way’ means doing things in a principled, holistic way with kindness, caring, patience and, respect and is a term commonly used by many First Nations and Métis to describe a way of thinking, being and doing that is rooted in Indigenous values.i During the preparations for the webinar, the Indigenous women I worked with taught me what it looks and feels like to approach a webinar in a Good Way.

For instance, holding meetings in a Good Way meant that our conversations went at a comfortable pace and were not rushed. This usually meant that meetings took longer than the time we had planned for and as a result I started to leave an hour available after each meeting in case that time was needed for further discussion. I valued having that flexibility in my own work schedule because I learned that when there is an opportunity to circle back and work in a non-linear way, more ideas are heard and new developments can emerge.

When working with Algonquin Elder, Grandma Marilyn, I learned that she wanted to smudgeii while drumming. As she says in the Implementation Toolkit for the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework, “Be aware of the frame of mind you’re in, not having negative thoughts: the smudge and the drum are there at the start for a reason, to calm us down.” We learned that the fire code of the building where Grandma Marilyn and the other presenters were supposed to gather would not allow for smudging and so another meeting space was found and we planned for other tech checks to occur there. As well, a smudging is typically never filmed. However, Grandma Marilyn offered to have a smudging she was doing in the community be filmed before the webinar and we included that as a video during the beginning and ending ceremonies of the webinar.

Opening and ending a webinar with an Elder was a powerful experience. In the community, Grandma Marilyn usually has from sunrise to sunset to sing and drum and is not constrained by the timelines of a webinar. Grandma Marilyn and her team of helpers practiced to ensure that everyone felt comfortable for the webinar and that all attendees would be able to participate in these ceremonies for Giving Thanks. Grandma Marilyn shared her wisdom with everyone and helped us all connect to each other even though we were all virtually attending. Participants from the webinar shared how they felt more interconnected with everyone and were thankful for this experience. Captured in the image below is Elder Protocol/Etiquette that should be considered if you would like to ask an Elder from your community to join an event that you are organising.

elderprotocol

This handout was developed as a promotional tool highlighting key elements of the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework.
To download a copy of the Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework go to http://www.timiskamingbeststart.ca/resources_en.html.


The presenters encouraged all attendees to drop in, say hi and have a coffee at the band offices of local Indigenous communities. I also learned from the team that learning and using the language of the people you are working with shows respect for the language and culture. I learned that Chi-miigwetch means “big” or extra special thanks in Ojibwe and followed the advice of one of the presenters and started to use it wherever I would consider saying thank you – in my meetings, emails and the webinar. As a settler on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Métis, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, I learned so much about working in a Good Way and I can’t say miigwetch enough to everyone who taught me during this webinar.

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i Chansonneuve, D. & Hache, A. (2016). Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework Implementation Planning Guide. Page 3.

ii Native Women’s Centre (2008). Traditional Teachings Handbook. Page 7.

 

 

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