The Great Big ASA-Approved Anniversary Blog Roundup

Well, we were planning to spend this week celebrating our birthday, marked by the birth of yet another Embassy-inspired local cycling campaign (one of those names looks very familiar). Or indeed victory in the battle of Blackfriars Bridge and the last death knell of 'smoothing traffic flow'. Or even some smaller victories, from an equally hard-fought battle over a dropped kerb to spread of public bike pumps on the streets of London (along with something even more unusual) but instead this new, improved (look, headings!) bike blog roundup, like the rest of the blogosphere, got a wee bit hijacked...

Flogging a dead horse

For yes, with the bizarre Advertising Standards Authority - Britain's newest and most inept road safety organisation - ruling that cyclists must be shown 'riding in the gutter' (and thereby actually encouraging more dangerous cycling), the cycling world found itself united in defence of nothing less than the Nice Way Code - the horse that deserved to die but not like this. It can't be many times we've seen the Guardian and the Telegraph in agreement (or even the CTC and the Vole O'Speed) - although the War on the Motorist did urge everyone to be nice. With reactions from Edinburgh (twice) to Liverpool and beyond there was an outpouring of commentary on the media coverage, the ASA's past form, the legal basis and the highways perspective. Within hours the ASA has suspended its ruling - opening the question of what it should do now. No doubt this one will run and run, but meanwhile we leave you with some honest car ads - and the thought that, ASA ruling or not, at least in this country you can't be ticketed for not riding in the gutter.

Building better cities...

With that out of the way, how about some positive stories, like what UK cities can learn from Lund, Groningen, Copenhagen and Freiberg - or even the incredible transformation of some of New York's streets? Cycle Space invites us to imagine how our cities might look now if the bike and not the car had become the dominant mode of transport - we respond, how about Groningen (where five things are not enough, it takes twenty things to describe how much Treehugger loved living there) - although as Bicycle Dutch reminds us, routes in the Netherlands have evolved over time, with a few wrong turns along the way. With Bike Portland asking if Portland is really the model America should follow, Dead Dog Blog considers hot-dog stands and liveable streets and the disenfranchisement of local communities. In Chicago driver behaviour in the snow makes transforming a rat run into a woonerf look feasible while plans to transform a neighbourhood street in Copenhagen look similar - and observation of cyclists' behaviour too leads to some perhaps surprising suggestions for a junction - but perhaps Edinburgh would do well to design for cyclists' desire lines instead of being shocked by them. CycleBoom discovers that mapping cycling wellbeing requires understanding users' real needs - as Ely Cycling say, it's not about encouraging people to cycle, it's about allowing them to - while Streetsblog discovers the power of fear as a means to cut traffic

...and worse ones 

There were some interesting pieces coming out of last week's transport modelling workshop - such as how much we should be modelling at all while our current large-scale models remain relentlessly 'business-as-usual' and motoring advocates refuse to take externalities into account. In fact, planning in general seemed to be on the agenda everywhere from the UK's obesity epidemic to Atlanta's traffic insanity where half an inch of snow showed it wasn't more snow ploughs that were needed but an end to sprawl - and parking minimums (bike commuters, on the other hand, were reporting only modest delays). Stop Killing Cyclists invites all comers for a planning disasters tour of London while Coventry approves yet another scheme that blocks access to green space and Dublin appears to opt for the least disruption to traffic in its plans for the Liffey Cycle route. No wonder we end up with low levels of cycling in Scotland - or in Las Vegas, a city where cycling is simply alien to all but homeless people and crazy Germans.


But all this matters, and not least for the poorest segments of society - which is why 20mph limits would reduce inequality as well as everything else they do - and while bike share schemes don't seem to work in the poorer neighbourhoods, at least in the US 25% of one proposed fund is to be set aside for low-income areas. Getting kids walking and cycling to school pays back more than it costs - and technology is bringing the cost of infrastructure down too. In California the link between driving and prosperity has long been broken - while in Oregon, their trying to link prosperity and bikes (we especially like the fact that serving 'high carb food' - that's cake, by the way - is one way to become a bike-friendly business). And as the European bike industry wants to know where best to invest its money, in Southwark, the council is prepared to put its money where its mouth is to get Boris bikes to extend to the borough.


We wonder if they consulted about that, because the 'nonsultation' is alive and well in Glasgow, while Sheffield cyclists discover their bike route has been secretly designated a coach park a developer in Lewisham seems to be going out of their way to be vague about their plans, Stop Killing Cyclists formally objects to plans for the Abbey Street Junction in London - and elsewhere, not having kids shouldn't mean your opinion isn't valid. Elsewhere things are a little better - the Solhill cyclist is encouraged but concerned after attending a project consultation, and whatever the outcome some real consultation has taken place over plans for bike lanes in Beverley Hills while a New York police precinct starts monthly meetings with residents on street safety. From the other side, Bike SD wants to consult with businesses over their concerns for a bike corridor while John Lauder asks if 'Community right to buy' in Scotland might be the way to stop blocks on path developments.

The devil is in the details

As so often, anxiety about lack of consultation is because of the dog's breakfast most cyclign infrastructure designs seem to be, and this week was no exeption with Bow's low-level cycle lights unveiled to mixed reaction among campaigners - they won't on their own make Bow roundabout safe and they don't help the fact that the junction is 'effectively always red' for cyclists - even the media can see how confusing the junction still is. Copenhagenize finds the Danish Bikeability project is over complicating things and should have just looked at their poster - while it appears the Irish authorities were holding it the wrong way up. Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester is sceptical of Salford's armadillos - although they've got to be an improvement on its existing bike lanes - while Traffik in Tooting asks if we should be building zebras or cutting rat runs? Further afield, Sydney's bi-directional bike paths are going in the wrong direction - as is Seattle's traffic after a poorly-designed detour sends bikes into the paths of oncoming cars.


Political matters

But perhaps we get the roads we have because of the politicians we elect - Cambridge Cyclist for one is sceptical of politicians hiding behind easy slogans and while Boris's protests at a block on safer lorries is welcomed (but not enough) on the whole he's been no friend to cyclists. Elsewhere, as Auckland's mayor finally gets on a bike, New Cycling revisits their council leader's barnstorming speech to the Love Cycling Go Dutch conference last year while San Diego's mayor backs up fine words with concrete actions (well, bike racks, anyway). Five years on from a report on increasing cycling not much has changed in Croydon and in Canada, while Toronto's politicians talk about protected bike lanes Ottawa just builds them, whereas Maryland's lawmakers seem a bit confused - as do some of our noble Lords. At least New Zealand's government has seen sense over mandatory hi vis - it may help that the minister is himself a cyclist. Or then again, knowing Boris, maybe not.


Meanwhile, the US bikelash continues, with the Tea Party fighting back over the UN conspiracy to bring bike lanes to Texas while in San Jose a mayoral candidate cites bike lanes as a sign the current administration is out of touch. AS the court case to delay Seattle's bike plan is itself delayed both sides find themselves on a bike ride for a safer Westlake while a well-supported bike lane project is at risk due to a change of personnel - LA cyclists clearly need a hero

The law is an ass

Once again this week we learned that when drivers kill cyclists it's just one of those things especially as the low winter sun should come as a huge surprise to, well, almost nobody (and there are things you can do to deal with it). Isolate Cyclist gets a worrying insight into the mind of a distracted driver while Dave McCraw finds a near dooring just too depressingly common to bother reporting. Driver conviction rates suggest that cyclists seeking justice had better live to tell the tale - although an injured Boris bike rider saw the lorry driver who crushed him only fined £620. And even as MPs debate tougher sentences in the UK, in Germany, strict liability may be undermined by a helmet ruling and the Japanese courts go as hard after a lethal cyclist as we hope they do after a lethal driver.


In fact, despite the Times's discovery of the real menace to pedestrians, and bearing in mind that it's still far safer to cycle to the rugby than it is to play it (ah, but is that per mile travelled?), safety continued to be an issue from cyclist-detecting buses to the laws of Newtonian physics. As Easy As Riding a Bike asks whether we should even be getting into a visibility arms race while Bikeyface reminds us that, unless you're Brian Blessed, in traffic no-one can hear you scream.

Advocacy - the softer side

We're all about the infrastructure here at the Cycling Embassy but that doesn't mean we can't admire some of the more imaginative softer measures, like the Green Bay Packers' awesome kids' bike parade - or cheer the fact that every four year old in Glasgow is to get the chance to learn to ride a bike. After all, people don't really want to read charts they want stories (and preferably ones with pretty pictures) and when you ask women what they want you sometimes get surprising answers (and +1 from me on the wicking bra. ahem). So let's celebrate the winter bike festivals and the bike trains and inspiring women using bikes to emancipate the lives of others

And finally...

It was a bit of a history lesson this week from Belfast's forgotten cycling pioneer who made bikes accessible to the masses, to the intrepid cyclists of World War 1 (they weren't even wearing any helmets...) to the surprisingly cheerful-looking children of America 'forced to cycle to school' by the 1974 oil crisis - and learning that Pete Seeger was even more of a legend than we thought he was. But we have to end with a man making history in his own lengthy lifetime: Robert Marchand, the fastest centenerian on two wheels, chapeau!