The Great Big Kamikaze Cyclist Bike Blog Roundup

This was the week we learned that the most feared mode of transport in Britain is the dread 'kamikaze cyclist', fear of which has held up the planned implementation of a cycle scheme in Cambridge, a city which has long been dominated by cyclists. The situation was not helped by the fact that the government's own publications depict cyclists as helmeted aliens (although in London perhaps it's not always all that far from the truth. Funnily enouhg kamikaze motorists don't get the same treatment - the People's Cycling front wonders just when the 'kamikaze objection' should hold while the same problem is encountered over in America, where Treehugger wonders if it's really bikes that are the problem - and if they are so terrifying, what are all these pedestrians doing walking in the bike lanes?

Is it a culture thing?

Meanwhile in Japan, where they know a thing or two about kamikaze, cycling thrives despite a lack of infrastructure down to the inherent politeness in society - while an American perspective on Yorkshire also sees culture trump infrastructure. In Bologna, a city which is not really fulfilling its cycling potential due to a lack of space being made for bikes, traffic modes do seem to share successfully while a comparison of 'placemaking' in Paris and New York suggests a slightly more nuanced interpretation of shared space than the UK approach of sticking down some granite setts and hoping for the best. Comparisons of Portland, LA and Washington DC suggest that safer streets promoted more law-abiding cycling (and vice versa) while for the Invisible Visible man it's not the cyclists causing a problem but suburban cops blocking bike lanes.

Combating car culture

Of course, while some places have a 'multicultural' transport culture, in most places the language we use reflects how cars have become dominant in our lives - in Birmingham the city couldn't manage to find just one day when it could close the roads to traffic, but Manchester at least gets a whole bike month to celebrate cycling. There are some signs of hope - in the US, car use is still flat despite economic recovery and bikes are the fastest-growing means of transport, at least according to the census figures which are a bit flawed (the Rails to Trails conservancy plans to get some more meaningful data). It doesn't take a statistician to discover that on bank holiday weekends, in the US as in the UK, cars get stuck in congestion while bikes rule the roads they leave behind - and even if you do get stuck in bike congestion, a people jam beats the heck out of a traffic one - while Dublin joins the ranks of cities with a bike parking problem that needs to be solved. Meanwhile events to make cycling more visible roll in thick and fast: Toronto experiences a little bike congestion of its own on the city's annual 'group commute while Janette Sadik-Khan gets a girly tour of Auckland and San Francisco celebrates bike to worship week.

Lies, damned lies, and KSI statistics

Like kamikaze pilots, cyclists - kamikaze or otherwise - could be forgiven for wondering about their life expectancy with the 'killed and seriously injured' statistics in London and Manchester showing a mixed picture depending on whether you'd prefer to be killed outright or just seriously injured. And while lorry with a defective sensor was involved in a fatal collision, London buses, despite their better visibility, are no safer to cycle around - despite bus lanes being used as bike lanes in the UK. The Road Danger Reduction Forum asks if Operation Safeway is making things better or worse, while a ghost bike inspires a play about the dangers (and the joys) of cycling in London. Over in the US a new report details how and why cycle fatalities happen in the US - but for some those dots are more than just dots on a map. In California, you can have sunshine (in your eyes, that is) even on a cloudy day while the Dutch are testing sensors to give Smidsy a hand, presumably as long as they're working. And as a neurosurgeon comes out against bike helmets - we can definitively advise ALL cyclists that riding with a meth lab on your back is definitely to be avoided on safety grounds while there's no definitive verdict on the efficacy of a goat although we suspect that ride ended badly for the goat.

Eight to eighty

Talk of culture, and goats, aside, what do we need to make our streets accessible to all ages? The real key to creating eight to eighty places, is to understand that transport is about so much more than just transport. On top of that, should we be featuring cycling on the national curriculum - or follow Glasgow's lead and start them even earlier? Some young women need no persuading of the benefits of cycling but, while some may never lose the joy of cycling they felt as a kid, at least one US bike brand feels some women may need a reminder. One father couldn't wait for Washington's bike share to cater for children with child seats so he invented his own. At the other end of the age range, Cycle Boom is exploring what makes people cycle well into their later years - while for some folk, just being able to cross the road at the DfT-approved minimum speed is a bit of a struggle. And for all ages, finally a cycling challenge that we can all enjoy.

Creating the environment...

So how do we create the right environment? Edinburgh takes a small step in the right direction, planning 20 mph limits almost everywhere - if they wish to enforce this with road humps then Ranty Highwayman is their man with his hand cut-out-and-keep guide - while even Houston is looking to narrow its streets and make driving in the city centre less convenient. A Hampshire town could be made genuinely more liveable if a through route was closed - while in New Zealand a key route is to be completed with a two-way cycle track and in Brooklyn a deadly road is tamed with an upgraded cycle track. When the Dutch make more 'room for the river' they don't forget to include room for the bikes while San Diego considers dangling cyclists under a bridge in a measure that is simultaneously terrifying and cool and cyclelicious looks at how bike detections systems could give more time for bikes at junctions.

Or not...

Not every measure's much of an improvement though - with this LA junction not looking any safer for the addition of bike lanes although it apparently is now slightly less bad, at least for the experienced cyclist. One hundred yards of shared-use path isn't much use if you can't get on and off it, while in Glasgow there's no bike problem that a little fading green paint can't be expected to solve. And while Calgary is at least trying to get its bike detours working, Transport for London has decided it's just too complicated to tell the difference between a car, van, bus, and enormous lorry.

Letting the tram take the strain

I expect we'll be hearing more soon about trams as Edinburgh's get going, but meanwhile Tuscon cyclists are struggling with their own new streetcar tracks (and even when the trolleys have gone the tracks remain to cause a problem). Tram tracks aside, bikes and public transport should be natural allies - and that does seem to be the case in California at least.

Political will

Portland's long navel gaze continues, asking whether it matters if your local politicians don't ride bikes themselves - while in the UK, in the aftermath of the European elections, having ones which weren't worried about politicised cyclists - and, er, gardeners - would be a nice start. Or ones which didn't relax the requirements for cycle storage in new homes, indeed. The LCC lists all councillors who signed up for Space for Cycling - remember to hold them to that - while in Sheffield the local Cycling Inquiry reports, and in Northern Ireland they're taking evidence on the economic benefits of cycling. In Australia, The Urbanist considers whether zero road deaths is the right target - while America aims for a reduction among vulnerable road users. Meanwhile, should Australian campaigners concentrate on infrastructure or repealing the country's helmet laws?

Velocity Global conference

Compulsory helmets were no barrier to the Velo-City Global Conference being held in Adelaide - where it seemed the argument on infrastructure has been won (and Christchurch campaigners discovered that at least their city wasn't too bad for cycling on a global scale. For those wanting the official picture, the ECF had a four day round up of all the speakers and events.

Costing the earth

But how much will all this cost, we ask? Well it turns out the US has worked out how much it would cost to bring the whole of the US up to one of its least bad cycling cities and comes up with a headline figure of $100 per head - while we get ever cheaper motoring although running a bike is still way cheaper. Defying poverty asks why bike kitchens only seem to attract the young and the fairly affluent - who may also benefit from deluxe parking at their place of work. And finally, while we admire the delivery vehicle, we do have to question the concept of spinach bread... Still, at least it isn't spinach cake.