Perhaps it's the tentative return of spring in the northern hemisphere (despite the realisation that there's really no space for cycling along London's most popular routes), but we're feeling a little optimistic this week. So it's an opportune time for two interesting blog posts that seem to have hit on the same angle from very different directions: Dave Horton on the need to tell new stories, about a society based on cycling, and the Bike League on the power of story telling and the need to appeal to the heart and not just the head. Certainly the rise of the female cyclist has shown that there's a multiplicity of stories out there already but it's not just about women: changing driving habits in the US are telling a different story about Americans in general - that transport habits are based on surroundings and not our genes, Dutch or otherwise, as even Louis Theroux discovered when he moved to LA.
Of course, while stories are great, pictures can be even better as Sara Dorman discovered when a school run issue she had blogged about before suddenly garnered more attention when she added pictures - and thus increasing the possibility of cars actually being banned from outside some schools in Edinburgh (something that couldn't even be imagined in Glasgow - or indeed Nashville) while in England schools try and use 'park and stride' schemes to at least get students to do the last few yards on foot.
So what can we do to create the better societies we envisage? There were plenty of ideas this week, from on street bike pumps to a slightly terrifying vision of a bicycle metropolis or the prospect of American cities being designed by mall architects (which might be an improvement on them being designed by highway engineers). More prosaically, there were opinions on a two-way cycle track along Gosforth High Street, improvements to Tooting Broadway, and the idea of putting cycling first in any scheme, not just 'cycling' ones. Kevin Hickman considers the little things, from potholes to parking, while As Easy as Riding a Bike suggests ways to roll back the tide of paint that disfigures our towns. As Auckland looks at the role of speed in the 'life-sized' city, Flying Pigeon asks whether LA is finally being infected with the cycle network virus. Seattle plans a neighbourhood greenway - while in Maryland, a suburban town just quietly builds itself a 68 mile bike network. California planners are asking riders to log their rides so they can use the information (would it not just be easier to go onto Strava?), while Manchester is to become a living laboratory to study cycling. As Portland considers the impact - and the future - of its pilot protected bikeway, Camden's left-hook preventing junction gets approved, while a Glasgow cyclists is left wondering what the point is of a strip on the edge of a shared-use pavement.
And yet, even with our rosiest-tinted spectacles on, we can't help noticing that too often we're getting it wrong instead of going and looking at what works - although with its pavement cyclists, lack of maintenance and cyclist dismount signs, perhaps we should avoid Almere, the Dutch city that was inspired by Stevenage (no, really). LCC urges us to tell Transport for London that its plans for Kings Cross are not good enough - in fact a sixth former could do it better, while plans for the quietways may just put bikes in conflict with pedestrians. Proposed changes to Manchester city centre will do little to improve conditions for cycling while Glasgow starts from a blank slate with the Clyde Gateway and still manages to build the usual rubbish. Nor is this just about cities - bad road design also drives rural car dependency while in Hampshire, SouthWest Trains is building plenty of room for cars but can't find a temporary home for its bike parking. Nor is the problem confined to the UK - Dublin plans an ambitious route but with some quite unambitious designs, Australian plans to make a street more pedestrian friendly will result in worse conditions for bikes, half measures do little to improve a lethal junction in Toronto while Seattle makes patchy progress completing a missing link. Contraflows can be great but only if you pay attention to the junctions. In LA new cycle tracks are already falling apart - perhaps they need to be adopted by volunteers - while in Tokyo, more needs to be done to separate bikes and pedestrians.
The budget this week was the bike story that never materialised - with the government ruling out a fixed cycling budget, even at the inadequate level of £10 per head, and nobody even talking about Osborne's handout to motorists, there was little other than pothole repairs for the expected 6 million new cyclists the cycle to work scheme expects; meanwhile the arguments for building more roads seem to be beyond the reach of either logic or evidence. Perhaps we'll just have to pin our hopes on the railways with studies looking into cycle routes along the HS2 corridor (and in Portland light rail investment is bringing cycle spending in its wake. Even closed railways can be a boon - with a 330 mile network in Ohio bringing in $13m a year from visitors, although a Supreme Court ruling might put all that in jeopardy.
For decent investment, we need political will of course - and it would help if we didn't give MPs a kicking for actually claiming for their bike travel. Pedal on Parliament considers what has changed for cycling in Scotland (perhaps after all you can move a mountain with a teaspoon if you're patient enough) while Spokes sums up PoP in a nutshell. In Europe, the first steps are taken towards safer lorries, although sadly opposed by our own government. In London, Andrew Gilligan meets the Islington Cycle Action Group and talks quietways, superhighways and more, while new public health responsibilities may mean Sheffield can't afford not to provide space for cycling. Further afield, America is going through a biking and walking revival, or at least an advocacy boom, while Bikeable Jo discovers what's going on in Kuala Lumpur. An Irish politician is at least consistently mad in his push for compulsory hi vis. As Paris chokes on pollution two French ministers take to two wheels - but what impact did restricting cars really have?
But perhaps it's not politicians or campaigners we need but businesses to take the lead? In the US one traffic-cone retailer charts the rise of the protected bikeway, while one of the founders of Kickstarter owes a lot to his bike, if only for his sanity - only among cyclists would the lack of a commute be considered a downside for those working from home. Not all businesses are immediately on board, of course - People for Bikes considers better ways to work with small businesses - but residential streets can be problematic too - while for some politicians the 'need' for double parked delivery lorries trump bike lanes - and those who disagree are 'Vichyite collaborators', even though, for a sufficiently skilled driver curb-protected bike lanes make great parking spots (perhaps someone should tell the judge). In Australia, commentators seem to think that sprawling cities excuse anti-bike feeling although a particularly tough week for Australian cyclists does offer a bit of a silver lining as the backlash gets its own backlash - and in America, Cyclicious questions whether cyclists out on group rides are really the problem. Meanwhile, bike share schemes continue their seemingly unstoppable rise, with a free one cropping up in Copenhagen and another scheme popping up on campus in Uganda, while someone's now designed a bag specifically for use with your hire bike.
With the producer of Top Gear claiming they were just trying to promote mutual respect it's left to a Brazilian safety campaign to leave us in no doubt where most of the responsibility lies. The Urbanist considers how to stop cyclists from being doored particularly by taxis, while Hum of the City points out that smartphones can make walking safer not more dangerous (as long as it's not the drivers who are using them). Meanwhile, despite protected lanes cyclists are still being put at risk by drivers in Chicago
It was a tale of two court cases this week in Scotland, with an already banned driver getting more banned for brakechecking Dave Brennan, who'll be standing shoulder to shoulder with a bereaved family after a not proven verdict leaves them even more determined to bring about change. A medical condition should be a reason to stop driving, not a defence. In Sheffield, it was the police causing the problem, directing coaches to park on a segregated cycle track until a planned protest ride triggered an apology and a promise not to do it again. And with the CTC wondering if cycling along a footpath could really count as trespass, in Ontario, the laws are finally being amended to bring them in line with reality (Bike bloggers - reading complex pieces of legislation so you don't have to...)
If all these links haven't left you needing a little lie down, give your brain as well as your legs a work out with a bike and a piece of string...