The Great Big Entirely Non-Discriminatory Bike Blog Roundup

This week's storm-in-a-teacup award goes to Birmingham councillor Deirdre Alden for her headline-grabbing claim that cycling is a discriminatory form of transport as it disproportionately favours fit white men (while other councillors also raised concerns over plans for a free bike scheme). As the War on the Motorist suggests that might reflect current cycling conditions in Birmingham while Cycle Stuff points out that safety is the key to non-discriminatory - something in fact Ms Alden might agree with, as she explained to Cycling Weekly, citing her concerns at lack of plans to light the towpath, as an example. Building for everyone came up in the States too, with 12-year-old Isabella becoming the new touchstone for bike infrastructure design - but should we be looking more widely than just 12-year-olds? The stress of managing riding with a younger child might suggest so. Certainly it would help if brand-new Greenways weren't effectively barricaded off to all but the slenderest bikes the moment they were opened, while even a visual impairment shouldn't rule out cycling in the right context.

Cycle superhighway - the fightback begins

Last week's rare outbreak of unanimity over plans for the Cycle Superhighway couldn't last with big business starting to throw its weight around, while the City of London's response is at best ignorant, at worst disingenuous, making it all the more important that you tell TfL that you support their plans. Certainly 24 professors agree while Pedaller gives his consultation response - but Maidstone on Bike sounds a note of caution about letting TfL thinking the job is done, and that Royal College street shows the negatives of uncritical positivity. Elsewhere there was better news with businesses in the Highlands failing to rally behind action against the Ride Across Britain (although if safety was genuinely their concern, sadly that might have been borne out) while in Chicago a local Chamber of Commerce is actively promoting pedestrianisation - businesses of the UK, watch and take note.

Different visions

So much of it does seem to come down to different visions - or possibly asking the wrong questions. As the ECF outlines how Groningen's radical vision brought about its 60% modal share, and Streets MN examines how the Twin Cities pulled away from each other on cycling, People for Bikes talk to four mayors who may be effecting similar transformations today - but in LA any change is too little, too slow, although plans to get freight traffic off the streets might help transform cycling. Seattle not only delivers its protected bike lane two years earlier than originally scheduled - but spends time observing how it actually works in practice and tweaking as necessary. Copenhagenize looks at some major junctions in Paris, Calgary and Tokyo to map out how much space is allocated to each mode while a random point generator suggests that even Minneapolis has a way to go to tackle car dominance in the US. Change is coming even at the top, with the US Transport Secretary pushing hard for more bike and pedestrian networks - although campaigners still face a struggle over funding. Planners and engineers may have wildly different visions of what to do with a closed bit of freeway, but as long as the city insists of a four lane road, not much will change - while here in the UK we're continuing to create room for cars and squeeze bikes onto the pavement - although at least one rural byway has been blocked entirely to motorised traffic in the Peak District. And there's little real vision elsewhere - in Manchester campaigning has improved some plans but they're still a mixed bag, while in Sheffield cycle funding is being cut, although not as much as the rest of transport spending, while in Tyneside, bizarre local objection of the week award goes to Tyneside residents opposition to a cycle path that will involve 'moving lampposts' (possibly the loss of parking looms a little larger...)

Scotland (and New Zealand) decides

Curious non-story of the week has been the one dominating the headlines everywhere else - Scotland's independence referendum; apart from the Invisible Visible Man (writing from New York), cycling has been the dog that didn't bark in the campaign, although two deaths over the weekend prompt Pedal on Parliament to ask what sort of Scotland we want to see - and Aberdeen cyclists to call for improved provision on a dangerous road. It's not just the Scots going to the polls - in New Zealand Cycling Christchurch considers the options for voters this week, and it seems that it's the parties on the right that are the least bike friendly

Bottom-up Change

But perhaps relying on our elected representatives is a mistake and we should be making our own changes? The Bike League looks at the lessons and limitations of DIY events like Detroit's Slow Roll while Rebel Metropolis charts the rise, fall and return of Portland's bike swarm. In New York parents and teachers unite in support of protected bike lanes - and sometimes you do need celebrities on board however shallow that might seem. Even with local authority support, sometimes temporary trials of infrastructure are the way to go - and a good way to roll out the red carpet when a cycling and walking conference is coming to town. And if you don't have a bike share (or anything-share) scheme in your area - why not copy the Swiss with their incredibly low tech neighbourly sharing approach?

Creating a network

As the US has come to accept cycle tracks, they're now starting to look at creating a whole network of low stress routes that doesn't do this - possibly through road diets. As the Dutch know, it's the convenience of cycling, not the cost of parking that makes people take to their bike, although where having something that's safe, continuous AND attractive seems a distant goal, businesses and hospitals offering subsidising parking is just another nail in the coffin for more cycling. Even in Bristol the city's strategy lacks an explicit commitment to an integrated network - while in Philadelphia it's telling that a street is getting a gradual makeover (starting with the bits that won't require a loss of parking).

Build it and everyone wins

While it's true that, however you slice it, most Americans still get to work by car - although, whatever the future holds driving is expected to fall - it's also true that everywhere that has installed protected bike lanes has seen the same thing - numbers up, speeds up, crashes down. Certainly protected bike tracks have seen bike numbers treble in Toronto and buffered bike lanes brought about massive increases in New York while even a contraflow has doubled bike traffic (a shame that Dublin never followed suit). As Utrecht continues to upgrade to increase capacity on a key university route, Portland students are actually cycling less, perhaps because of lack of decent routes. In fact the only downside to cycle infrastructure seems to be for those trying to photograph an empty bike lane in Utrecht - or those who get over-exercised about shoaling. Even drivers in the UK would rather see wider bike lanes and rethinking how we design our streets might mean fewer traffic lights for everyone and less time spent needlessly waiting at red lights.

Putting the 'health' back into health and safety

As Treehugger examines likely reasons behind the safety of US bikeshare bikes, a UK MP continues to press for helmet legislation although she has now at least switched to calling for some research first. Perhaps she might want to take into account how cycling correlates to public health and how active travel makes you happy or at least less sad. But safety does remain a concern - not just because only 18% of drivers stop for pedestrians in Chicago while we still manage to blame cyclist when a driver gets out of their car and assaults them. Not that it's just drivers that are a concern - San Jose considers banning pavement cycling while lawyers consider whether cities may be liable if they let snow block the bike lanes.

Long distance travel

But let's not think about winter quite yet, let's think about summer trips by bike - building support for cycling as we go - perhaps along the most beautiful bike path in the world in Liguria, or a 75-km cross-border path planned in the Balkans, or even a potential 400 mile rail trail loop in the US, although perhaps not this Belgian route with a twist proving that even on the continent they are not immune to chicanery. And, while we're all for new cycling infrastructure, we think we'll leave this scariest cycle lane ever firmly in the realm of the imagination ...

We'll be back, possibly from another country, next week...

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