The Great Big 'it's the Environment, Stupid' Bike Blog Roundup

This week we learned not that active travel (among other things) will not only save the planet but also solve our inactivity epidemic and help prevent 25,000 premature deaths from air pollution. Yet, as the Alternative DfT argued, that doesn't mean we should be encouraging people to walk and cycle - it's not women (or men, indeed) that need to be changed it's their environment - for the shape of your neighbourhood shapes you - as some US cities are beginning to understand.

Fatal consequences

Two high profile inquests this week underscored the importance of the road environment - even though inquests aren't always the most useful process for investigating a cycling death. In Camden, the coroner found space for cycling could have prevented a tragedy and criticised the council's lack of urgency meaning that two seconds' inattention was enough to prove fatal. At Bow roundabout, the coroner concluded the cyclist had run a red light and the junction had subsequently been improved, although making somewhere a bit safer isn't really enough - radically reshaping the junction is what's really needed. Meanwhile in Glasgow, a fortunately not fatal dooring in Dumbarton Road - where another cyclist had a near miss - shows the cost of poor infrastructure. The bike may be a freedom machine but if you're being bullied by the cars it's not offering much freedom - and if you're looking for an adrenaline rush, it's the ride to Glasgow's Commonwealth Games mountain biking park not the mountain biking itself that provides it.


Safety by design

Certainly better design would surely prove more effective than either 20mph zones the police won't enforce, safe passing laws that are undermined by fatally narrow bike lanes or bike lights - however clever - that 'nudge' drivers into expecting bikes. After all, never mind a nudge, sometimes even pounding on their roof as you're carried away in the back of their truck is not enough to alert some drivers to your presence... Meanwhile apparent improvements in road safety may conceal drops in those walking and cycling while it's sprawl that prevents the US from improving its own road safety as fast as other countries. Fortunately, help is at hand, with the LCC and Living Streets combining to look at designing well for walking and cycling while Copenhagen releases its road project guidelines and California endorses the 'cities for cycling' guidelines. Spokes has a plan to radically reduce tramline crashes in Edinburgh by allocating space to bikes, while further afield, Seattle gets protected bike lanes and a green scramble crossing (well, sort of).

What Would the Dutch (and Danes) Do?

With the London Cycling Campaign arguing that each of London's 'villages' could become an Amsterdam in its own right, we are reminded that not everything the Dutch do is brilliant and their accident statistics tell a story - primarily that shared space is overhyped - although bikes and pedestrians share far less than you might think. That said, a recap of the five Dutch Cycling City finalists - not to mention one hell of a bike rack - remind us how good things generally are (except for thos who find cycling in a real cycling culture 'too relaxing' - eh?). Meanwhile, Copenhagen is attempting to rebuild its momentum by looking at what it takes to get drivers to cycle and developing seven policy strands to encourage people to switch to the bike.

Back to reality

Meanwhile, returning back over the North Sea from either place to the UK can be a bit grim although experts judge Manchester to be 'slightly less abysmal' than it was for cycling, so yay! Certainly Glasgow council has some cheek calling its London Road cycle track 'Copenhagen style' - while its Connect 2 route has deathtrap uncontrolled junctions, slow and unresponsive light-controlled junctions and generally lacks attention to detail - while the Tavistock Place route in London has its problems too. Councils continue to provide the lowest common denominator of crossing - and can't even get the visualisations right unless we really do want Fabian Cancellara time trialling down our high streets (actually, that might be quite cool...). Further afield, upper Manhattan's first protected bike lane looks pretty compromised while the winter has taken its toll on the plastic posts protecting Chicago's separated lanes. In Ireland, Dublin is at least replacing shared use paths with separation for pedestrians and cyclists, while Bike Delaware is glad to see the back of ambiguous 'share the road' signs. And in Auckland, residents want a SkyPath for cyclists and walkers to have 600 car parking spaces (because how else would you get to it?).

Politics as usual

Given all the planet- and health-saving benefits of cycling, you'd think we'd have to be fighting the politicians off with a stick, but no, we still need to campaign for space for cycling - with the full support of the Dutch Ambassasdor - and with Irish campaigns following suit. Candidates are already getting thousands of emails while Stop Killing Cyclists uses FOI requests to find out what councils have done since the last election and Charlie Holland wonders which Lambeth hopefuls will sign up. In Scotland, Claire Cycles explains why she'll be pedalling on Parliament and Darkerside gives the reasons you should too. Don't forget to remind your MEPs to vote for safer lorries. In Bristol the parking lobby breaks out the heavy armour while the tarmac lobby discovers councils aren't spending enough on tarmack, shock. The CTC looks to the Dorset Cyclists' Network as a model for joined up campaigning. Meanwhile, in the US, San Francisco wants to double spending on cycling (to still just 2% of the transport budget) while a proposal to exclude cycling projects altogether from transport funding is defeated in Missouri - but as cyclists apparently don't cycle when the weather is bad they don't merit consideration. Meanwhile in Wisconsin, cyclists are urged to go and talk to their transport chief directly while the Portland Bike Advisory Committee goes out to explore conditions itself by bike.

Why do we do it?

I'm sure every cycle activist has asked themselves this question at one time or another - for Traffik in Tooting a collision underlines the importance of trialling safer road schemes while Pedal on Parliament finds itself in exalted company. A car-free event in Vienna reminds Doug Culnane why he bothers - at least until one of the participants gets involved in a collision just three days later. In fact, with spring here and ciclovias starting up again there is plenty to enjoy in LA and in Tuscon.

Doing the sums

We're not the only ones who wonder if it's worth it - but when you do the sums, the benefits of cycling are usually clear, as with this detailed look at Washington's bike share programme. Despite scepticism in some quarters on the real space benefits of bikes vs buses vs cars, crunching the numbers on congestion shows that bike lanes don't cause traffic jams if you put them on the right streets - and while Brooklyn Spoke is encouraged to see the analysis coming from outside the world of bike advocacy, Streetsblog thinks maybe some bike lanes actually should cause congestion if it means a complete network. Meanwhile, bike share schemes continue to provide data on where people are riding and where they want to go - while the England and Wales census results show what's working and what's not for local authorities.

Doing business

While business owners in Chicago still aren't that keen on buffered bike lanes but have decided not to fight them, in Brooklyn, businesses have their request for more bike parking turned down by the local council - while Lady Fleur wonders if we need a national bike to shop day to go with national bike to worship week. Elly Blue is not convinced by an oft-quoted figure for the cost of bike ownership and does some crunching of her own. And as DHL starts trialling cargo bikes in some European cities, a Seattle business is already doing it - although those using cargo bikes and rickshaws in Phoenix are told to cycle on the pavement so they don't get in the way of the cars.

Planning a network

With Modal Mom asking what a bike-friendly business district really means - like decent infrastructure to get there - Calgary may be leading the way here by attempting to trial its own cycle network in just one year. Austin is developing a data-driven bike plan as Texan cities compete for the Googles and the Samsungs of this world - while the home of Samsung is tearing down its urban motorways something we can only dream of. In Ireland, the Greater Dublin area has a vision that sees bikes rivalling buses in terms of passenger movements - although funding for active travel elsewhere seems pretty small beer and in New Zealand Christchurch risks letting an opportunity to transform its transport network just slip away. Meanwhile here in the UK, piecemeal approaches still prevail - although Sheffield may adopt an encouraging cycling vision, in Lambeth it takes planning objections to make a developer offer better cycling provision, while two counties combine to develop 'rural quietways' (that's 'signs', basically) to encourage bike-train commuting in the Cotswolds.

A little mutual respect?

In a week that saw yet another futile attempt by one cyclist to shame others into good behaviour, Tokyo by Bike wondered if the Nice Way Code may actually have had a point (please don't write in) in enabling Japan's widespread pavement cycling to actually work - and perhaps avoiding the need for rumblestrips on cycle paths. Manchester's police commissioner wanst to know what cyclists think about his force while Bike Pittsburgh is raising money to repeat its campaign to humanise cyclists. Invisible Visible man tries to become a bit less invisible and comes up against the urban bubble while the Incidental Cyclist discovers that sometimes the driver isn't actually honking at her but at the other bad drivers who were endangering her. Tree hugger looks at what happens when you replace 'bike' with 'car' (although we'd rather replace actual cars with bikes).

Think of the children

And finally, with spring bringing out the family cyclists in greater numbers once more, Singapore looks at child-friendly junction design while Pedal on Parliament wants children to be seen AND heard - for after all only genuinely grass-roots parent-led campaigning will make it possible for children to cycle safely to school - as opposed to the 'Quality' Bike corridor, and, indeed, bikeability courses. But lest we get too gloomy on this spring morning, we leave you with three kids who are already tearing it up on two wheels - from this seven-year-old to the four-year-old twins who leave even Danny Macaskill impressed.

With skills like that, they may even grow up to manage the UK's roads...