Bikes 'n Brains 2017

Joy (in the box) with myself and Caroline at Bikes n Brains 2017. 

Joy (in the box) with myself and Caroline at Bikes n Brains 2017. 

This past weekend I had opportunity to be part of something really special. Bikes 'n Brains is a gathering initiated by Joy Cameron to bring awareness about brain injuries and road safety. It started four years ago as the anniversary of Joy being hit from behind by a driver, and has evolved into a city-wide awareness campaign. Bikes 'n Brains has two parts: bringing attention to the challenges of those recovering from brain injuries, and supporting street design that is safe for all users. 

Jared Zaifman, London City Councillor, gave a powerful speech about his brain injury. More than a year has passed since his incident, and he's still feeling the effects very strongly. By sharing his experience, he has helped many people realize that a "bump on the head" isn't always just that. He related that the "invisible" nature of brain injuries sometimes detracts from others ability to empathize with someone in recovery, and that it was hard for him to take time away from his responsibilities as a Councillor, but ultimately realized he needed to take appropriate time to recover. I hope by hearing his story, others will realize the serious nature and long duration these injuries can have. 

Jared, Joy, and I at Bikes N Brains 2017.

Jared, Joy, and I at Bikes N Brains 2017.

Next up, I spoke as a supporter of Vision Zero Canada. Vision Zero started in Sweden, and is an ethical concept that states "no loss of life or injury is acceptable on public roadways." To get to Vision Zero, three important principles have been established: 

  1. Freedom of Mobility - all road users (using any transportation means) have the right to use our public road system safely. Mobility in cities is essential to economic development, better community engagement. 
  2. Humans make mistakes - we're all human, and until cars are entirely autonomous, we will all continue to make mistakes on the road. Whether by inexperience, a momentary lapse in awareness, or simply being in a hurry to get somewhere, we've all made a mistakes while driving a car or riding a bike.
  3. Design streets to accommodate mistakes - this seems incredibly intuitive to us, but somehow hasn't made its way to planning departments in North America. In a Vision Zero paradigm, the city planner is ultimately responsible for designing safe streets. "Accidents" are all treated as preventable collisions through safer road design, and while the user still bears responsibility for obeying the rules of the road, the streets and rules are designed with safety as the highest priority, with no amount of collateral damage seen as unavoidable. The Ontario Coroner agrees with us, 100% of the 129 bike deaths in the province between 2006 and 2010 were preventable.  

Finally, Joy took the stage, and spoke eloquently to both of these concepts. She related a story about her recent past, where she made a mistake on her bike, and was nearly in another collision. Fortunately she avoided the close call, and she recognized how better streets would have helped her. Her brain is recovering, too, half a decade since her original collision. The time these injuries take to heal is one of the reasons we should do so much more to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Her story is one of hope, and of progress in thinking about the world we interact with every day. 

It was an honour to speak at Bikes 'n Brains, certainly a highlight of my summer. Please take some time to read some of Joy's story, and check out Vision Zero Canada while you're at it. 

- Ben

ps - we had some fun with cargo bikes, too. That's my mom in the box. 

A ride in the cargo bike with my mom!