Senior Honours Projects 2024

Students in the Knowledge Integration Senior Honours Project (two-term course, INTEG 420 A & B) research and develop a thesis, design or creative project under the mentorship of a faculty member with relevant expertise. The project culminates in a written deliverable, a public poster and a flash talk presentation.

The students will present summaries of their projects on Friday, March 22 at the Knowledge Integration Symposium 2024.

Also, check out: 2023 projects2022 projects2021 projects | 2020 projects | 2019 projects | 2018 projects | 2017 projects | 2016 projects | 2015 projects | 2014 projects | 2013 projects | 2012 projects

Student Title (with link to Abstract)
Alana Matsuo The Otherside: A Collection and Analysis of Queer Fairy Tales
Amy Laughlin From Ruler to Femme Fatale: The Evolution of Cleopatra
Brennan Morley Finding Environmental Stewardship Through Personal Experience: A Relationality Based Website for Overcoming Environmental Grief
Dalai Setiawan Exploring User Experience Principles in Language Acquisition Applications: A Taxonomy and Proposal for Evidence-Based Design
Elias DeKoter A History of Student Engagement with Live Music at UWaterloo
Emily Nguyen

How-to Stand out on LinkedIn: A Comprehensive Guide for University Students and Recent Graduates

Graeme DePiero Estimating the Direct and Indirect Costs of ADHD on the Canadian Healthcare System
Hayden Chan Community Creation: Revitalizing the A Better Tent City Art Nights
Haleema Khalid Malik Cultivating Critical Consciousness: A Pathway to Human Liberation
Hannah McKenna Healing Earth: Deconstructing Patriarchal Norms for a Sustainable Planet
John Storey

Assessing Aces: Can Sentiment Analysis Improve Scouting Reports in Baseball?

Kayvan Yavari Testing the interaction of a Ku70 RNA aptamer and Yku70 protein in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae
Lauren Rankin Navigating Belonging: The Influence of Childhood Socialization on Community Formation in Young Adulthood within a Secular Age
Maya Treitel The ESG Edge: Assessing the Impact of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance Practices on Financial Performance in Canada
Nyah Schaefer

Daylight Detective: An Original Tabletop Role-Playing Game

Olivia Deneka Kopeschny Narrative Threads: Retelling the Myth of Iphigenia with a Feminist Quill
Ty Cowell

Confusing Infrastructure: A Holistic Assessment of Ottawa Streets' Cycling Route

The Otherside: A Collection and Analysis of Queer Fairy Tales, by Alana Matsuo

Mentors: Marcel O'Gorman (Department of English Language and Literature, UW), Paul Malone (Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, UW)

Though often dismissed as children's stories, folk and fairy tales should be valued as repositories of cultural knowledge, conveying important information about a cultural group’s values, traditions, and understandings of the world. Drawing on the discipline of queer studies, this project examines folk and fairy tales from diverse cultures. Each tale contains queer characters, relationships, or ideas, and is presented alongside an analytical essay with the goal of forming connections between historical conceptualizations of queerness and modern queer theory. From gay Chinese gods to transgender Romanian heroes, the collection of tales includes themes of queer embodiment, desire, cultural imagination, and kinship, demonstrating the varied and multifaceted nature of the queer experience. By examining sources outside the typical German-Russian focus of fairy tale studies, this project aims to broaden the scope of queer folkloristics and bring attention to the diversity of folk and fairy tales. Written to be accessible to both scholarly and non-scholarly audiences, this book explores fairy tales both as a source of historical cultural knowledge and as a tool to introduce or deepen understanding of queer theory.

From Ruler to Femme Fatale: The Evolution of Cleopatra, by Amy Laughlin

Mentor: Dr. Sheila Ager (Dean of Arts, Professor in the department of Classical Studies)

Cleopatra VII, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, has been reinvented and reborn continuously throughout the centuries in many ways and for many different reasons. Throughout her reign, she was perceived as intelligent and charismatic, qualities which outshined her beauty; however, the name “Cleopatra” has since evolved beyond the woman, and now embodies the personified femme fatale archetype, representing beauty, seduction, and mystery. Representations of Cleopatra often portray her seminude—wearing little aside from some luxurious clothes and jewelry. Though her artistic representations have remained relatively consistent, the intention and the acceptance of the explicit display of the female body have evolved and fluctuated greatly over time. Through my research, I have identified a disparity between the artistic representations of Cleopatra and the subsequent perception of women. This project aims to develop a foundation upon which the relationship between perception and representation of Cleopatra, and the conception of the female body can be understood. I begin by analyzing ancient sources and representations of Cleopatra throughout her lifetime to cultivate an understanding of how she represented herself to the world. Through this, I aim to develop a theory of how she wanted herself to be perceived and understood. I then begin an analysis of the available artistic representations of Cleopatra and their subsequent perceptions associated with these in the centuries following her death. I aim to develop an understanding of how women in the ancient world were represented and perceived by performing a comparative analysis of Cleopatra’s image against those notable figure—primarily Portia, Lucretia, and Marc Antony. Using select art pieces from the centuries following her death, I aim to track the similarities and differences, and well as the intention behind the way in which she is represented and perceived. By distinguishing between representations and perceptions, I am able to develop and understanding of both the intention and personal influence of the artist in creating the art, and the ways in which the art was understood during the time—and after—its creation.

Finding Environmental Stewardship Through Personal Experience: A Relationality Based Website for Overcoming Environmental Grief, by Brennan Morley

Mentor: Steffanie Scott (University of Waterloo, Environment)

Although people often try to distance themselves from the environment and ecosystems, human activity is thoroughly ingrained in the environment and the development of society is linked with the state of the environment. People living in cities may find that the green spaces around them are incredibly limited and many diverse species that may have once lived on that land have been displaced. Even when people live more rurally, in suburbs, or more environmentally friendly cities, there is a lack stewardship in the ecosystems people inhabit. Those of whom are aware of environmental and climate damages can find it very difficult to act or grieve due to the immense scale of the problem. Others who are not aware of environmental damage should be made aware since the spaces they inhabit and live in rely on a flourishing ecosystem. This project aims to facilitate critical reflection on personal observations within environment, with a focus on environmental damage. This will allow those with environmental experience to apply their knowledge in new and unique ways, and it will allow those with little experience to creatively develop their own knowledge through critical thinking and interacting with others through this project.

Exploring User Experience Principles in Language Acquisition Applications: A Taxonomy and Proposal for Evidence-Based Design, by Dalai Setiawan

Mentor: Dr. Cayley MacArthur (University of Waterloo Assistant Professor | Interaction Design and User Experience Research)

As the demand for effective methods of learning second or third languages increases, the number of language acquisition applications continues to grow; however, there is a noticeable gap in research aimed at understanding the user experience (UX) principles driving their design. This research navigates the landscape of language acquisition applications with a focus on unravelling the UX principles that shape their design. The objective is to discern the efficacy of these UX principles, distinguishing features dedicated purely to language acquisition from those employed for user retention or that are revenue driven. I aim to create a taxonomy of UX techniques that support language acquisition. By applying principles from human-computer interaction research, which combines psychology, design, and technology, the goal is to guide evidence-based design decisions for future language learning applications. First, the proposed research will systematically delve into the interplay between proven language acquisition techniques and the different presentation options afforded in digital applications such as Duolingo, Memrise, and FluentU. Examples of existing techniques include retention methods such as spaced repetition and memory games, comprehensible input, the mimic method, multimodal learning involving audio and visual aids, narrative-driven learning, and contextual learning with vocabulary and phrases relevant to everyday situations. The emphasis will be on understanding the interplay between psychological factors in language learning and effective UX principles. The ultimate goal is to consolidate these findings into a proposal for a prototype of a comprehensive language acquisition app. The proposed system will demonstrate effective language acquisition methods, and empirically informed UX principles, constituting a streamlined approach to encompass diverse aspects of language learning within a single application. Overall, I aim to contribute a holistic, integrative perspective to the evolving landscape of language acquisition technology. By analyzing user experience, understanding educational methodologies, and exploring possibilities for consolidation, I seek to provide valuable insights into the future of language learning app design.

A History of Student Engagement with Live Music at UWaterloo, by Elias DeKoter

Mentor: Andrew Hunt (Department of History)

This research paper presents a historical narrative and interpretation of student engagement with live music on the University of Waterloo’s (UW) campus. In UW’s past, live music was a core component of student life on campus, but over time this live music ecosystem has become fragmented, and student life has fragmented along with it. I have assembled this history using pre-existing literature, archival research, and discussion with past and present members of UW’s live music community. My research is specifically centred around student engagement with popular music concerts that have occurred over three distinct eras: The 1960s / 1970s, the 1980s / 1990s, and the 2000s to present day. This paper explores the state of live music at UW in each of these eras, and discusses the conditions that have most affected each period. It then compares and contrasts the different eras and concludes by stating the most important factors that have affected, and continue to affect UW’s live music ecosystem. In presenting this history, this paper offers the reader insight into the important role that live music can play in student life, and what goes into the creation, maintenance, and loss of student engagement with live music at UW.

How-to Stand out on LinkedIn: A Comprehensive Guide for University Students and Recent Graduates, by Emily Nguyen

With unemployment rates rising and the job market in turmoil, university students and recent graduates must recognize the importance of employing social networking sites to increase their career prospects. LinkedIn is a professional social networking site commonly used by job seekers to self-promote; however, the guidelines for creating an outstanding LinkedIn profile are still tricky to understand. There are different opinions on what makes a successful profile, adding to the confusion on how to take advantage of the website’s features. This project aims to bridge the gap between what employers value when assessing a LinkedIn profile and how job seekers curate their profiles. This project examines factors influencing recruiters’ perceptions and preferences when evaluating LinkedIn profiles to understand what contributes to a profile that stands out. The findings point to the importance of a comprehensive online profile. Recruiters rarely look at profiles without professional photos. Profiles with information that showcase personal style make them more visible and attractive to recruiters. In addition, consistency of style throughout the profile is key. Information uploaded to LinkedIn and on a resume should align to build credibility. While LinkedIn profiles typically complement resumes rather than act as a substitute, they can increase the chances of getting a job when done right. More research is needed on the different features of LinkedIn and how it affects the employability of university students and recent graduates. There is little information about the criteria by which employers evaluate candidates. Addressing this gap in the literature will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the role of LinkedIn in shaping career opportunities for individuals entering the workforce.

Estimating the Direct and Indirect Costs of ADHD on the Canadian Healthcare System, by Graeme DePiero

Mentor: Emmanuelle Piérard (Department of Economics at the University of Waterloo)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is amongst the most common neurodevelopmental disorders occurring in children worldwide, with global prevalence estimated at 5%. In adults, this rate decreases, but still maintains a significant prevalence of 2.5%. Although the direct and indirect costs of ADHD have been calculated for several nations, no Canadian statistics currently exist. This project examines the direct and indirect costs of ADHD on the Canadian healthcare system using an Excel-based financial model, which is then used to guide a recommendation for potential savings for the Federal Government. A systematic search of the Canadian literature on the economics of ADHD across the lifespan was conducted, along with environmental scans to determine current Canadian healthcare costs, which are associated with ADHD prevalence estimates in these various contexts and entered into the model. The number needed to treat in order to reduce these costs is used to estimate the amount that could be saved through proper investment into the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in Canada. Gaps in Canadian data were supplemented with international data, helping to spotlight where future research should be directed. The findings of this project will help inform the Canadian government and public of the direct and indirect economic costs of ADHD to the Canadian healthcare system and will indicate possible interventions to reduce these expenses, ultimately improving the lives of individuals with ADHD and their families.

Community Creation: Revitalizing the A Better Tent City Art Nights, by Hayden Chan

Mentor: Heather Mair (Department of Recreation and Leisure)

Kitchener-Waterloo is in a homelessness epidemic and it is not alone, as cities across Canada grapple with a similar trend. While several shelters and food banks exist to meet immediate physical health needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) research highlights the importance of emotional needs of people experiencing homelessness as well. Art making has been shown to be an effective method of meeting these emotional needs through leisure and creativity. This study investigates the puzzling situation present at A Better Tent City, a tiny home encampment called home by approximately 50 residents who have experienced chronic homelessness in Waterloo Region. Every other Wednesday, high-quality art supplies of various mediums are spread around the main living area and residents are invited to engage in art making and creativity. And yet, almost nobody comes. Through interviews with residents of A Better Tent City, this project aims to investigate why these art nights see such poor attendance despite the literature supporting the value of art as leisure for people who have experienced homelessness. The insights gained from these interviews will inform the proposal of several modifications to the A Better Tent City art nights in an effort to ensure they are addressing the emotional needs articulated by residents. This project will also include potential implications for how other organizations serving people experiencing homelessness can use art and leisure to address emotional needs in similar contexts.

Cultivating Critical Consciousness: A Pathway to Human Liberation, by Haleema Khalid Malik

Mentors: Dr. Cristina Vanin (St. Jerome's University), Prof. Mathieu Feagan (Knowledge Integration Instructor)

In the pursuit of genuine liberation, individuals may find themselves ensnared in a state of 'false consciousness,' unaware of the subtle socio-political and economic forces shaping their lives. This project delves into the concept of critical consciousness—a heightened state of awareness that empowers individuals to critically analyze power structures, societal norms, and sources of oppression—as a pivotal tool for achieving genuine freedom and autonomy. Drawing on Paulo Freire's critical pedagogy and Noam Chomsky's propaganda analysis, the study examines how educational institutions, media, and broader structures of power, including government bodies and elite groups, employ propaganda, manipulation, and control tactics to shape public thought, beliefs, and behavior. Partly a personal journey into why I chose my major in Knowledge Integration in anticipation of intellectual satisfaction, and partly an investigation into the 'banking system' of education—characterized by the passive depositing of information from teacher to student—this project's overarching thesis posits that liberatory education can serve as a catalyst for cultivating critical consciousness, thereby enabling individuals to analyze and understand systems of oppression. This study thus supports a critical examination of the quest for liberation from the invisible yet palpable chains that restrict our perceptions and actions, fostering the capacity to actively transform them.

Healing Earth: Deconstructing Patriarchal Norms for a Sustainable Planet, by Hannah McKenna

Mentor: Katy Fulfer (Department of Philosophy)

Patriarchal systems have been at the foundation of many societies for centuries and are all that most of the world knows. Our natural environment has become collateral damage in a system that values hierarchy, individualism, control, and domination based on sexism and the oppression of the marginalized, including nature. This paper reviews existing literature on concepts such as ecofeminism, environmental and care ethics, and Indigenous knowledge systems to explain these connections and investigates what our world, particularly our environment and our planet’s sustainability, would be like if we operated in less oppressive systems. Egalitarian (equitable) societies, like Indigenous matriarchal societies (historic and contemporary), showcase the ability to live in reciprocity with the Earth. This system provides benefits to all, surpassing the Western norm of anthropocentrism, which places humans at the centre of importance, relegating the rest of creation beneath. I draw on contrasting contemporary case studies, such as Doug Ford’s Greenbelt controversy and Haudenosaunee women’s water stewardship, to challenge the status quo of patriarchal systems concerning the environment, advocating for a more holistic and equitable model. The overarching objective is to discern valuable insights from egalitarian systems and implement these concepts to challenge our existing frameworks to enhance and safeguard our environment and, consequently, our collective future.

Assessing Aces: Can Sentiment Analysis Improve Scouting Reports in Baseball?, by John Storey

While the quantitative rigour available through modern analytics helps baseball teams yield robust representations of player performance, a scout’s eye and observational assessments (scouting reports) are means of accessing more subtle, dynamic, and nuanced information that would be unwise to discard. Prior research has proposed that a contributing factor in professional sports teams’ inability to perform better when drafting and evaluating talent is their failure to adhere to a disciplined methodology when selecting draft picks or evaluating players. While deploying a consistent methodology for player evaluation is nearly impossible at the scale of a professional organization, this project analyzes the feasibility of one approach that retains the qualitative value offered by scouting reports. Specifically, the viability of using sentiment analysis to pre-process and normalize qualitative, text-based scouting reports is assessed. To accomplish this, the sentiment of nearly 4,000 scouting reports, covering over 1,000 individual minor league position players (the Trouble With The Curve Dataset) was assessed with Vader (Valence aware dictionary for sentiment reasoning). In addition, Vader was applied to individual sentences describing players’ specific skills as identified with keywords. A linear regression model was then fit to correlate sentiment with either overall major league productivity or skill-specific productivity (running, batting, defence). Analysis of the relationship between the sentiment of full scouting reports and major league productivity showed no statistically significant relationship. While the same analysis at the individual skill level did reveal a significant relationship, this relationship is not nearly as strong as the relationship between scouts’ assigned grades and major league performance. Moreover, the average scout-assigned grade (overall player grade) was significant in future performance. Thus, while using sentiment analysis to capture a measurable representation of qualitative scouring reports successfully yields some ability to predict future performance, it fails to overcome the predictive strength of the relationship between scouts’ grades and future performance. This does not prove that more consistent and broadly applicable player evaluation processes would not yield more successful draft results, though, it does discourage this specific method, bearing further text pre-processing as a productive alternative to conventional scouting grades.

Testing the interaction of a Ku70 RNA aptamer and Yku70 protein in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, by Kayvan Yavari

Mentor: Dr. Bernard Duncker (Department of Biology)

This interdisciplinary scientific research project combines investigation methods from the fields of molecular biology, analytical chemistry, and bioinformatics to showcase a proof-of-concept for a diagnostic alternative to mutant knockouts, a central technique used in molecular biology to establish causality. Specifically, I am testing in-vivo (within living cells) the in-vitro interaction observed (in a test tube) between ribonucleic acid (RNA) aptamers, originally selected against human Ku70 protein, and Yku70 protein. Aptamers are synthetically designed single stranded nucleic acids selected against specific targets such as proteins in the field of analytical chemistry. I aim to study this interaction in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (budding yeast), as core factors of non-homologous end joining deoxyribonucleic acid double strand break repair, notably Ku70 and its homolog Yku70, have been conserved through eukaryotic evolution. Therefore, studying this pathway in the eukaryotic model organism can generate knowledge applicable to more complex eukaryotes such as Homo sapiens (humans), whilst reducing the complexity and costs of the research. Namely, I argue that as a proof-of-concept, in displacing or interfering with the structure and or function of Yku70, a well-characterized protein, aptamers could promise new molecular analysis methods for DNA-damage-repair proteins under investigation, with variables such as concentration, and encoded stability of the aptamers against nucleases, determining the extent and duration of their effect. In fact, in-silico protein structure alignment results generated using Chimera X demonstrated striking resemblance between the RNA-interacting motif of Ku70 and the homologous structure in Yku70 and hence I hypothesized that due to these structurally conserved residues that an RNA aptamer with high affinity for Ku70 could also have comparable affinity for Yku70 - the in-vivo validation of which is ongoing via the yeast three hybrid assay.

Navigating Belonging: The Influence of Childhood Socialization on Community Formation in Young Adulthood within a Secular Age, by Lauren Rankin

Mentor: Dr. Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme (Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Waterloo)

Against the backdrop of Western individualism, young adults face choices about what it means to foster resilience, support, and a sense of belonging in human communities within the contemporary secular age. This study explores the dynamics of community and belonging by investigating how childhood socialization in either religious or secular communities impacts the inclination to join or establish communities in young adulthood. Through a comprehensive literature review, I draw upon sociological theories of individualism and community to unravel the complexities in understanding how young adults living in Western countries define their sense of belonging in religious and secular communities, through connection, acceptance, and value within a specific social context. This research illuminates the enduring impact of childhood community experiences in shaping how young adults join or form communities, offering a reinterpretation of the sociological discipline’s prioritization of the self and one’s autonomy over the collective, with implications for how to promote more inclusive and supportive communities.

The ESG Edge: Assessing the Impact of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance Practices on Financial Performance in Canada, by Maya Treitel

Mentor: Horatiu A. Rus (Economics, University of Waterloo)

Research regarding the usefulness of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) practices, regulations, and policies suggests that integrating ESG practices can positively impact corporate sustainability and reputation, thus improving stakeholder relations and reducing social and environmental risks. However, it remains unclear whether ESG initiatives influence long-term profitability. The primary objective of this study is to determine the presence of a correlation between ESG scores and profitability, shedding light on whether ESG practices and regulations hamper or support financial performance. The selected topic and methodology address two gaps in current research: the absence of recent Canadian studies and the dominance of economic studies over econometric analyses. This study utilises the most recent datasets, providing a contemporary understanding of ESG compliance and financial outcomes. Moreover, by employing an econometric approach, this study offers a more nuanced understanding of the impact of specific ESG sub-indices on financial metrics. Resultantly, the business sector may be more receptive to the study results. ESG compliance data for the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) 60 index constituents were taken from Refinitiv, and share prices were collected from Capital IQ as a proxy measure for profitability. The TSX 60 index constituents are leaders in their respective sectors and industries and provide statistical significance. Share prices were taken at the opening and closing, daily high and daily low values. All data was collected daily for five years. Controls included net assets, total assets, market capitalization, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), return on equity, return on assets, daily trading volume, associated industry, enterprise value, and share price value per index. An analysis using a panel fixed effects functional model was then performed. No significant correlation between the environmental component of ESG and stock market prices was found, and while the correlation between the corporate governance component and stock prices showed a positive relationship, it was just shy of statistical significance. However, the correlation between the social component of ESG and stock prices and that of the overall ESG scores and stock prices were both significant and positive. 

Daylight Detective: An Original Tabletop Role-Playing Game, by Nyah Schaefer

Mentors: AC Atienza; Kienna Shaw

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is an extremely popular tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG), and is an introduction to the genre for many people. It excels in the combat and exploration scenarios that the rules were built for, creating tactical fights and immersive investigation. However, the creativity of D&D’s large player base often bounds outside of these situations, moving into territory that the rules were not built to accommodate. Without the mechanics to support the gameplay at hand, players may struggle to correlate their character’s in game actions to the rules presented in the book, leading to the under-utilization of or changes made to the rules. In these cases, D&D is not the right tool for the job, or in this case the right game for the players, as while it may be used as the default system for running TTRPG sessions it, like any other game, was only built to facilitate its specific ruleset. There are a vast array of other TTRPGs available that do fit the experiences that people may try to create in D&D through different rules, mechanics, and experiences. For my project, I have examined a variety of TTRPGs to explore the breadth of opportunities available, encouraging other people to broaden their horizons beyond D&D. To do this, I have created a catalogue of games to easily allow others to pick the system that matches their desired experience and genre. I have also taken inspiration from these games to create my own original game, Daylight Detective, specifically written for and catered to in-game mystery solving. Players thus take on the role of investigators who are searching for the answers to crimes during the day – but at night, they moonlight as thieves or vigilantes, possibly committing a few crimes of their own. Not only does this game cater to the experiences that I have tried to create in D&D, but Daylight Detective also provides thematic flexibility within the mystery genre, which allows players to customize their experience.

Narrative Threads: Retelling the Myth of Iphigenia with a Feminist Quill, by Olivia Deneka Kopeschny

Mentor: Dr. Christina Vester (Department of Classical Studies, University of Waterloo), Professor Claire Tacon (Department of English, St. Jerome's University)

This project explores the creative writing process by engaging with and analyzing the work of contemporary female authors who have successfully produced work in the historical fiction genre by placing the voices of women at the forefront of their stories. I focus on the ancient Greek tragedy of Iphigenia, a story known through classical sources such as Euripides’ “Iphigenia at Aulis” and Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon”, but which has not historically been told through the eyes of Iphigenia herself. In doing so, I follow in the Greek tradition of story retelling and, more significantly, I reclaim Iphigenia’s story through a lens that has been largely neglected in the classical literature – the feminine perspective. This retelling aims to reimagine Iphigenia’s role in the larger context of the Trojan War for a modern audience by exploring the nuanced emotion and complexity of her character. In my retelling, I hope to bring a perspective to a character that has, historically, been overshadowed by her male counterparts, bridging the gap between Greek mythology and fiction while introducing Iphigenia to an audience that may not have otherwise encountered her story. Drawing on techniques used by key authors in the field of creative story-retelling, I aim to develop my own creative writing skills and narrative abilities by emphasizing the intricacies of character development, plot structuring, and thematic analysis. My retelling aspires to accentuate the timelessness of this Greek tale while simultaneously highlighting the modern impact of historical fiction.

Confusing Infrastructure: A Holistic Assessment of Ottawa Streets' Cycling Route, by Ty Cowell

Despite investments and improvements over the past 20 years, urban cycling infrastructure still falls short of providing a connected, safe, and healthy alternative to driving a car in Kitchener, Waterloo, Ontario.  Certainly, continued investment and expansion of cycling infrastructure remains key. Perhaps equally important, however, is the design approach used to communicate to drivers and cyclists alike how to share space to avoid potential injuries or fatality. Creating an inclusive, efficient cycling network that embodies safety, requires a design that is intuitive and harmonious, yet current infrastructure is plagued by ‘confusing’ design characteristics that place drivers and cyclists in conflict with each other. This project aims to evaluate the design of cycling facilities shared by cars and cyclists with the objective of identifying ‘confusing’ design characteristics of the road environment which inadequately inform road users of the intended way to use the space. As a case study, a portion of Kitchener Waterloo’s Ottawa Street is assessed using qualitative metrics to consider four broad themes which relate to the active cycling experience: network connectivity, movement, sightlines and visibility, and the built environment. This holistic approach challenges conventional thinking about what makes an intersection “safe,” showing that it has less to do with meeting current safety codes, and more to do with changing the interactions between the driver and cyclist's understandings of road rules when confronted with confusing infrastructure.