In 2021, the Ontario Traffic Council (OTC) and the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) released their much-anticipated update to Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18: Cycling Facilities (commonly known as “Book 18”). While the first version of this guide, published in 2013, played a key role in shaping the growth of cycling infrastructure across Ontario, it was quickly overtaken by the rapid pace of change in how cycling facilities are designed and who they are designed for.
A decade ago, designers may have been content including a painted bike lane on a major arterial road. Today, it’s acknowledged that this only caters to a small minority of people interested in cycling and that different approaches are needed to attract a broader group of “interested but concerned” users.
The new 387-page guide has a lot of fresh and updated content, making it imperative that the new guidance be shared widely and quickly. To support this, WSP was contracted by the OTC to run a series of online training sessions. Since November 2021, WSP staff have trained over 500 professionals across 10 virtual sessions, including folks from Chatham-Kent, Sudbury, Ottawa, Burlington, and everywhere in-between.
We put a lot of effort into developing the content for this training, but more important was the effort we put into making it engaging, interesting, and even fun!
Making It Interactive
To make the most of the “virtual” platform, our team created the course to maximize engagement, using a wealth of tools, apps, and resources.
- Getting to know people with Mentimeter: we started each session with a series of questions about where people are from and their experience with bike infrastructure. It was also a great way to get a feel for the room and what topics people cared most about.
- Using the Zoom chat feature: this allowed people who may have been too timid to raise their hand to ask questions, and for people to share comments casually. It also allowed our instructors who weren’t presenting to stay engaged and answer questions without interrupting the flow of the training, or take up questions verbally when there was a pause in the content.
- Integrating short videos throughout: to complement our slides, we showed a range of videos to reinforce the content, covering topics including Continuous Sidewalks, Bike Boxes, and Protected Bike Lanes.
- Using trivia as a tool to maximize participation: we added some basic multiple-choice trivia questions throughout the training and waited until at least 80% of our attendees had answered. This was also a great way to make sure people were still paying attention!
People Learn by Doing
People can only absorb so much knowledge in one sitting, so we made sure that our training included chances for attendees to “get their toes wet” with some exercises. It’s normal to have some people more confident or willing to speak up than others, so we adjusted our approach for each session to meet people where they are, either making it easier for everyone to participate or taking more of a tutorial-based approach.
- Exercise #1: The Design User included showing a series of short first-person videos of someone cycling on different types of infrastructure. Attendees use the Zoom chat to identify “pain points” for each video and are invited at the end to vote on which infrastructure would be suitable for the “design cyclist”.
- Exercise #2: Facility Selection presented people with a given street in a rural or urban context and asked attendees to pick the most appropriate cycling facility type based on Book 18’s guidance. We then collaboratively developed a cross-section using the Streetmix tool.
- Exercise #3: Intersection Design was the most challenging of all, where we provided a sample intersection and collaboratively identified issues and constraints and proposed a design approach. Twenty minutes is far from enough time for a full intersection design, but we often ended up with at least one corner developed with some ideas by the end.
- Exercise #4: What Not to Do was our “final quiz” where we playfully showed our attendees photos of truly questionable cycling infrastructure from around the world and asked them to identify what’s wrong (like a narrow bike lane right next to a canal – yikes!). It was a great, lighthearted way to wrap up the course.
Even after we’d prepared for and delivered our first training session, the development of the course was far from complete.
- Regular debriefs after sessions: we shared notes and reflected on what could be improved, paying attention to where the audience seemed to be getting sleepy, where we felt like we were talking too much.
- Keeping track of time: We kept a time budget for each module, allowing us to provide a more accurate schedule and avoid running late. The last thing people want is a training session that eats into their lunch!
- Adjust to people’s interests: we started every session with an open-ended question of what people are looking to get out of the training, allowing us to pick up on hot topics and spend more time on certain sections as needed.
What Did People Think?
The most rewarding part of teaching is knowing that you’ve helped share knowledge and skills with others. Our attendees were happy to share how much they enjoyed each session. Here’s a few of those comments: