The Great Big Devastatingly Good-looking if not Exactly Speedy Bike Blog Roundup

In the week that slow cyclists everywhere learned they weren't that good looking (with some quibbles) - oh and their opinions don't really count when it comes to cycling infrastructure - it's time to welcome the UK's latest (and I would judge, fairly slow) cycling evangelist. With friends like that, perhaps we'd be better taking Bikeyface's approach to selling cycling or invest in some decent propaganda or at the very least some Dutch pop songs. After all the bottom line is it's cheap and its fast and it puts you back in control - although in rural areas it may just be down to the love of the bike. And nor should we forget that it benefits everyone, cutting smog and even heart disease - not to mention making streets fit for everyone

Rhetoric versus reality

To be honest, there's no real shortage of politicians paying lip service to their support for cycling, but in the week that Boris's London cycling revolution was downgraded to a step change it's time to look beyond the sweet words and actually at the results - and not just in London. For instance, Solihull cyclist compares the 2009 cycling strategy with some facts on the ground and finds much lacking (while across the North Sea a town with 'only 32%' of journeys by bike puts its own plans to much better use (dual carriageway for bikes, anyone) showing how even an ordinary Dutch town does things so well. Nor is the problem confined to the UK with LA's target of 5% of journeys by bike branded not that ambitious while an elevated highway gets rebranded as providing useful shade in Dallas, where they've never heard of trees. And even when things have been approved and even paid for there are the delays - a year to install bike racks in Beverley Hills (after all they're just trip hazards) while there's been a two year delay on improvements on a bike trail in Washington - while it's taken so long to get the details finalised on a trail in the Peak District that planning permission has almost expired (so if you're in the area get down and give them a hand to get started...)

Fatally compromised or better than nothing?

There were quite a few posts this week that raised the question of when something's better than nothing. A safe route to school in Palo Alto is celebrated - but it's hardly up to Dutch standards, while armadillos don't last a week in Salford but are boosting cycling in Camden. Some of America's top bike friendly infrastructure looks pretty compromised as does this scary looking bike lane planned in Portland - but then again Christchurch's experience is that well-designed paint on the road can improve safety, even if it doesn't create more cyclists - although creating crossing delays and ignoring desire lines will make things more dangerous (and parking a traffic safety sign in a segregated cycle lane isn't going to help anyone). On the other hand, gridlock in London showed that it's segregated infrastructure not paint on the road that keeps bikes flowing - and in Assen, traffic lights can actually be removed because the traffic they control has almost gone, while those that remain default to green for cyclists, something anyone left negotiating a three stage toucan crossing in the UK can only dream about. And even in the US, despite setbacks, they're still rolling out protected bike lanes.

What do we want?

So what do we want? Well, Cambridge residents want more space for cyclists, pedestrian and public transport, while in Portland walking is the top priority - and pretty much everyone wants Minneapolis's pop-up bike lane. We'd love a dutch-style roundabout but Bedford's installing the wrong kind (don't be fooled by the picture). The people of Vauxhall seem to fear the loss of traffic on their busy road - no wonder we keep putting 'steps' (and sometimes actual steps) in the way of cyclists. Seattle would like a bike and foot bridge over an urban motorway - that could be a 'wonder' as well as providing faster routes. And while we'd rather have better intersections, meanwhile Trixi mirrors could at least help in Manchester.

Designing the city

With Americans considering what it is about cities that make people walk and cycle more - rather than making you fat, it turns out if you want people to love your city then encourage them not to drive through it (and no, visiting on Google Streetview doesn't really count). Plans for new housing risk bringing Plymouth to its knees unless there's a bold plan to cut congestion by taking space away from cars but unfortunately, road planners, just like cyclists suffer from N+1 syndrome. While Calgary gets a five-year plan for a downtown bike grid, London's grid needs to be genuinely safe and inviting although the reaction from Kensington and Chelsea and Southwark suggests that there's a way to go. On the positive side, however improvements to the entrance to part of Edinburgh's path network are set to start - while consultation starts on the Leeds to Bradford super cycleway. Let's hope they've learned something from London's experience.


If they have, it will have been down to the hard work of campaigners everywhere - like Amy Summers who gives us a glimpse behind the scenes at the LCC's Space 4 Cycling Campaign. In Newcastle they're also gearing up while Stop Killing Cyclists has had a busy month. In Glasgow persistence pays off with a little chink of hope over the Fastlink proposals. Further afield, Japanese candidates sign up to supporting cycling, while a small new cycling campaign in Wisconsin is building support to get things done. Meanwhile at the softer end of the spectrum bike buddy schemes can encourage the bike curious, and campaigners hope that bringing a little bit of Portland to Chicago's South Side will encourage cycling in a poor black neighbourhood - as well they might, for it's the poorest who are hit hardest by public transport costs and unattractive roads for cycling.


Indeed bikenomics in general, and the cost of infrastructure in particular, came to the fore this week with the news that London's superhighways programme was short by £50m - possibly because they spent so much on designs that weren't really fit for purpose, while lack of funds closed Chicago's open streets scheme (and we're all picking up the bills for the vandalism of our streets by drivers). Yet bike infrastructure costs are tiny compared with any other transport scheme - so tiny they weren't even eligible for federal funding for some funds. Certainly the Peak District hopes thate relatively small grants to businesses and commmunities can improve facilities for cyclists - and the message about bike friendliness is beginning to get through - why it's even worth paying more for your house. Meanwhile it's sprawl that bankrupts US cities even as states keep spending more and more on highways. And when resources are tight, are bike share schemes the best thing to spend money on? They do seem to get more women riding, at least in combination with protected lanes.


Mind your language

With fallout from last week's Advertising Standards Authority ruling still rumbling on, the Road Danger Reduction forum wondered what the ASA is for and apard from being actually harmful to public health. With London Lady Cyclist wondering if it is really considered acceptable to punch a cyclist in the face perhaps we need to do more to be challenging all those negative stereotypes - and maybe stop focusing on how careful the cyclist was and consider how dangerous the driver was instead. It will still probably be all our fault (everything, that is) - Bike SD responds to one complainer in some detail while icycleliverpool actually dishes out some praise and Cycling Info marvels at Oxford's patient, queuing cyclists (bet they all still 'run red lights' in the local paper though). Bike Love Jones tires of the relentless youth focus and wants to see some silver bike culture, while cruiser bikes may be the answer to changing US cycling (at least in Key West...). And while Portland is starting to include all road users in its traffic advisories - perhaps Budapest should have asked around before naming its bike share scheme.

Politics and the law

Sometimes the joy of compiling this blog roundup is to see ourselves as others see us - like the admiration for Boris's lorry laws all the way from Toronto, the only city with a mayor that makes Boris look like a sober statesman, (and here are the details of the proposal) and in truth, despite criticism of his policies in general, they are a step in the right direction. Meanwhile our politicians agree that our dangerous driving laws should be overhauled, while Wisconsin gets closer to passing a vulnerable road user law but are police attitudes normalising bad driving - and is it time to strengthen the highway code? And even as police advice on one dangerous New Zealand junction is to get off and push, New York's salmoning cyclists are getting more abiding not less as numbers grow.


With the latest casualty figures not looking good - and Manc Bike Mummy almost finding herself one of them, medics call for better data on injuries to improve London safety. Unfortunately, it's inattentional blindness from engineers as well as drivers that cause pedestrian fatalities to rise -and in the UK, things didn't work out so well for one 13-yer-old girl despite following her mother's advice to get off and cross a tricky road on foot.


Winter cycling

As Britain braces itself for more storms, in the US the snow continues - and while snow may serve to show how little cars get used and what little space they need, those 'sneckdowns' do make cycling a challenge - sometimes you simply can't defy the laws of physics (unless you're a delivery cyclist) or chase until you get the snow cleared. Even in a city of walkers like New York it's worse for the pedestrians - but things were very different 100 years ago.

The kids are all right

And finally for this week, we consider the children, starting with a graphic demonstration of why we don't cycle to school (clue - it's not the hills) written by an actual pupil, while in the US a girls' bike club gets ready to attend the Youth Summit - clearly it's not just Dutch kids that mature faster because of their relationships with bikes. Ranty Highwayman is encouraged after talking at a school travel conference and Green Dad lives in hope that his local authority will follow East Lothian and ban cars from some streets during the school run. In the US, car manufacturers are beginning to panic about young people's attitudes to driving - while a group of elementary students demonstrate in a proper trial why you shouldn't text and play Mario Kart - at least if you don't want to hit any cows...