The Great Big Bikes are the Answer Bike Blog Roundup

We know we're preaching to the choir here, but one of the things campaigners often ask for is positive reasons for supporting cycling even among non-cyclists. British Cycling has done just that and when you put it all together the case for cycling is just astonishing - and that doesn't even include surviving earthquakes or using your bike as your therapist.

The Week in Westminster

The British Cycling report came during a busy week ahead at Westminster, with as well as a parliamentary debate also saw the release of the government's Cycling Delivery Plan - and ultimately turned into a week of missed opportunites, with campaigners united on the plan's uselessness. It is unambitious and not actually a plan - and largely putting the onus on local authorities, falling 'well short' of a cycling revolution, and described as a 'penny farthing budget with no commitment to funding - how different might history have been if only great figures had taken the Department for Transport approach to change? Nor was the debate up to much, even among those who turned up although at least Spokes and Pedal on Parliament got a plug from a Scottish MP. Meanwhile, running somewhat against the tide, Countercyclical suggested that given the way cycling money is currently spent perhaps we shouldn't be too disappointed at the lack of any more cash.

Politicians everywhere

Not that the UK's politicians are uniquely hypocritical when it comes to cycling - with a New York Senator happy to cycle on the bike lanes he opposed (blaming his wife, naturally), while in California, where it has been a busy year, a politician notorious for blocking bike projects is always happy to insert himself into a cycling photo opportunity. In Toronto, the mayoral candidates including Sketchy the Clown are given the once over. However, when a politician does show a little leadership, Bike Pittsburgh reminds us it's good to show a little appreciation in return.


Scary infrastructure

Meanwhile, far from getting the sort of infrastructure that would encourage cycling, here in the UK we get conditions that make a human-powered roller coaster look like a walk in the park - no wonder Glasgow's cyclists are losing their mojo (although even there you do get the odd moment of magic) while in Belfast it's not a good sign when even the architects' diagrams show people cycling on the pavement. More seriously, the so-called 'Dutch style' Perne Road roundabout which is no more Dutch than Eric Pickles, saw a young cyclist injured - As Easy as Riding a bike looks at how it could have been designed while plans for a roundabout in Richmond look no better. Fortunately some help for campaigners is at hand with nifty new audit tools allowing you to put a number on just how crap a cycle route is - while the Near Miss project hopes to put some numbers behind 'close passes' - which may help make the case for better infrastructure. Either way, a close pass in New York outlines the relationship between speed and space on crowded streets.

Cycle superhighways rumble on

Meanwhile, the battle for some non-scary infrastructure in London rumbles on with the issues of conflict of interest reaching out beyond the bike blogs although some question whether campaigners are over-egging the case. Andrew Gilligan was questioned in the London assembly, and an otherwise sensible MP seems to have believed the anti-superhighway case, although 73% of Londoners support the plans and reducing collisions will actually serve to cut the worst congestion. Sadly it has all come too late for one cyclist, the eight to be hit at Ludgate Circus, which would be tackled by the plan. As Save Our Cyclists take a wider look at Boris's legacy, Susan Swarbrick wonders what the lessons are for Glasgow.

Campaigning news

The battle for the superhighways has shown how effective campaigning can (and needs to) be, as recognised by the winners of the LCC awards, who were also treated to some top tips for using social media for cycle campaigning - although campaignign can also mean not supporting planned cycle routes if they're not good enough (and, apparently, campaigning against the principles of your own parent organisation). There might be lessons here from elsewhere too - with the Dutch advising Australian campaigners to use economics not emotion (and also sweet rolls for cyclists stuck at traffic lights) and the Bike League looking out for the next big thing - perhaps it will be something from these kids who spent their summer camp campaigning for improved cycling and walking around Pittsburgh. There was a lot of advice from the US, with some top tips from a door-to-door salesman, how to handle bad news, and some ways to make your campaign more diverse (as cycle campaigns increasingly are) although that doesn't mean you won't find bikelash coming from some surprising quarters. More positively, a tribute ride to an early cycling pioneer will be raising awareness of women's health and cycling - perhaps something the growing Belles network can help out with if they can only get out from under all that housework. And while gender and cycling issues may have come a long way in 90 years, in other areas 25 years on it seems like very little has really changed.

The Bikelash continues

It's not just London where anti-bike forces are fighting back - in Devon, Brixham decides to celebrate bike and pedestrian safety month by banning bikes 24 hours a day from a street which cars can use part of the time, while bikelash eats itself in Biggin Hill as a resident puts up a sign to protest about all the cycling signs. Mole Valley is at least trying to promote everyday cycling while also reducing the impact of sporting events, while at least one New Forest Park Authority member seems to agree with cyclists' concerns - all of which is better than Bolton which appears to be just making up non-existant cycle routes. Nor is it just a British disease with the Japanese apparently holding every myth about scofflaw cyclists as the rest of the world.

Getting on with it

And yet, elsewhere - indeed even in Camden - cities seem to have been quietly getting on with things. Grist looks at how pork-barrel politics and bicycle freeways have made Minneapolis one of the US's best cycling cities while Atlanta plans a bike highway network of its own - although it does help if you maintain the 'bike superhighways' you have got, and Zurich actively limits the number of cars that can enter. The Guardian helpfully collates all Mikael's opinions on Copenhagen in one handy piece, while there's also an interview with the man here - and Copenhagenize also praises Nantes as a French city with an ambitious cycling policy, even if it doesn't always get everything right while even in the Paris suburbs there is space given over to cycling. Elsewhere a Toronto planner proposes a city-wide bike grid, Buffalo gets a bike and pedestrian ferry, Hawaii gets its first cycle track and Manhattan, Kansas gets a parking-protected bike lane although even so, there's nothing like living in Kansas to make you appreciate what Portland has got.

The broader picture

When it comes to our towns and cities, if there's no room for cycle paths, then maybe there's no room for cars either - although in Hackney filtered permeability isn't enough on its own to tackle the wider barriers to cycling although it's cycling's speed and convenience that's driving most existing cycling. Portland is discovering the limits of relying on the quiet roads to build you cycling network - especially when traffic gets diverted - while 'D-I-Y streets' are only as good as the expert advice the community are given. In Walthamstow trials of road closures as part of its 'mini Holland' plan get a mixed reaction while south of the river a resident extols the benefits of removing a rat run. Elsewhere, as Seattle might get its first woonerf (I suppose we know they are becoming mainstream once the plural becomes woonerfs...) Dublin's proposed Bus Rapid Transit scheme won't do much for cycling and walking - or even the buses themselves.

Parking blues

Cities which don't have room for cycle lanes probably don't have much room for parking either - which is why the highway age hollowed out cities like Detroit and others in the US (and it's interesting to compare the density of English cities with that in mind). Meanwhile in Auckland, sticking to on-street parking seriously compromises the space available for cycle lanes, while in Washington they've had to add curbs to their cycle tracks to keep the cars from parking on them. But it's not just parking cars that's an issue: while 42 folded Bromptons might fit into one car parking space, parking less compact bikes can be a problem - while Kim Harding finally gets the keys to his (bike parking) kingdom, a Portland family have had to rent a car space for their cargo bike while a Seattle couple with a serious case of N+1 built a whole house to accommodate their 18 bikes.


As we said at the top, it's worth making the space - because bikes and things like people spots help businesses in many ways - with Portland companies already pressing for changes after the successful 3-day demo of cycle tracks (and table tennis tables). After a tragedy a bike trail promoting tourism can become a priority, but that's not the only troubled place exploiting cycling: Northern Ireland could profit from its Game of Thrones connection, bike tourism is even reaching Soweto and you can explore Atlanta's civil rights history by bike, while if extreme sports are more your thing, cycling in New York is kind of like mountain biking but with moving obstacles. And with Seattle joining the bike share club (with added helmets) a good scheme can make a city's streets feel less mean as long as you stay off the expressways.

More prosaically, Amsterdam is introducing solar powered cargo trikes to deal with delivery last miles - while den Bosch has been concentrating on minimising lorries by other means. With Local Authority cuts starting to bite, Ranty Highwayman looks at the likely truth behind the 'fix your own potholes' story, but TfL are giving out bike stuff to employers, while in Virginia they are concentrating on getting bikes out to the people who really need them. And it's not just the recession - young Americans aren't going to go back to driving like their parents did, although in recent years the real growth in cycling in the US has been among the over 50s.

Safety issues

Meanwhile the battle for safer streets goes on - echoing the battles in the 20s although nobody's tackling the real menace on our roads. With Winchester police not planning to enforce 20mph speed limits, and the Irish policeunder-reporting collisions, clearly the police are too busy arresting parents for cycling with their babies in an unsafe manner - even though there's little evidence to show that younger kids are at greater risk on bikes. Sadly cycling fatalities have doubled in New York and injuries are rising in the Boston suburbs while a crash map of DC bike fatalities may give some clues where the dangers lie. In New York, in the wake of another serious injury, you know your local paper is bad when the Daily Mail is held up as a better example, while Streetsblog looks at why Roosevelt Island is not the New York cycling oasis it could be. But if you feel that the real menace is texting cyclists, then there's an app for that, at least if you're Dutch.

And finally

With winter approaching, many cyclists think about putting their bikes away, but not so the participants of the Winter Cycling Congress where there are lessons from cities like Winnipeg about keeping cycling going despite some serious obstacles. But all that pales into insignificance when you consider cyling with two sets of twins. In Texas. With a spinal injury. Really, there's no excuses not to just get on your bike and ride...