The Great Big Priorities Please Bike Blog Roundup

Before we start this week's roundup, get your priorities straight and mark your diary for this year's Cycling Embassy Gathering and Cycling Infrastructure Summit which will be held in Leicester on the weekend of the 27th/28th June - Chair Mark Treasure explains the issues of managing junctions, and particularly priority for bikes - although that might depend on the benefits of road changes being seen from something other than the drivers' point of view.

Political priorities

Meanwhile the election looms ever closer, with British Cycling and big businesses urging parties to Choose Cycling, while Sir Chris Hoy would like to see some real ambition among politicians' manifestos. Despite protestations, the Road Danger Reduction Forum is pessimistic that walking and cycling would really be 'at the top table' under a Labour government, while Cycling Dumfries decides to let the candidates experience the issues for themselves. Wales gets a transport strategy but it doesn't properly address active travel, and Southwark's plans in general need to be more ambitious. Carsick Glasgow isn't that impressed with the detail of the Space for Cycling campaign. Perhaps the US National Bike Summit might have been a more inspiring event for sharing ideas - certainly, it contained important lessons for cycle campaigners everywhere - as did the Women's Bicycle Forum.

At a local level, Birmingham council's Conservative leader fears cycling plans could increase congestion while the leader of Newcastle city council sends a letter to New Cycling - but if your local politicians aren't up to scratch, why don't you join them?

Lunatic laws

Of course the problem with politicians is they will keep proposing daft laws - like Cambridgeshire councillors wanting to make helmets compulsory to protect cyclists from all the cash being 'poured onto them' (in fairness, that could be quite painful unless it was in note form), while in Australia, not content with existing helmet laws, there's talk of registering cyclists as well. After eighty years, our approach to testing drivers and our default urban speed limit are both looking a little dated, while Transport Providence questions whether three-foot passing laws are effective - or counter-productive. Sometimes it's not the law but the enforcement (official and unofficial) that's a problem - police attitudes can be the real bar to cycling for some, although we should maybe meet the grumpy nay-sayers with some compassion.

Councils & rethinks

There seems to have been something in the air this week: with Kingston improving its mini-Holland scheme having initially removed any proper segregation, Ealing reversing a planning decision that would have compromised the safety of the East-West cycle superhighway, and Reading reviewing it 'door zone' bike lanes - it's almost enough to give you faith in the whole consultation process. Hackney People on Bikes hold an infrastructure safari down the route of CS1 with Andrew Gilligan and local councillors, exploring how cutting traffic along some of the route coult make it work better - and Laura Laker gets the impression that their ideas are being taken on board. Hopefully a similar openness will be found in Manchester where the plans for Wilmslow Road don't come up to scratch, West Belfast, where plans for a 'community greenway' seem to mean a shared pavement along the A55 and Coventry, where bikes and pedestrians need proper crossings for the ring road. Nor is this confined to the UK: even the best option for Dublin's Liffey cycle route needs a bit of tweaking

Still, some tentative forward (or not backward) steps were also taken this week - whatever the details of the design, the first step in implementing London's first quietway is a milestone of sorts, and they may be somewhat over-engineered but London's new cycling and pedestrian bridge comes a step closer - Portland's new anything-but-cars bridge shows what can be done. Sometimes it takes almost 20 years to go from painted bike lanes to a completely protected cycle track - just don't compare ourselves to the Dutch who aren't just building canal paths, they're building new canals to put them on and taking tonnes of freight off the roads in the process.

Planning matters

Planning might seem a dry matter, but in fact the way cities are laid out - including the ability to cycle - can be a tool for social equity - and gender equity too (not to mention cutting drink-driving by ensuring you live close enough to walk home from the pub). In Brooklyn, plans form to knit back together a neighbourhood destroyed to make way for expressways - while even the Washington Post realises we should stop wasting parking spaces on cars (isn't that what the pavement is for?). Not a lesson understood by the Royal Parks, sadly - although when they're in the right place parked cars can be helpful too.

One sign of growing bike numbers is difficulty parking - and secure parking facilities at a journey's end can have a perhaps surprisingly significant impact on people's transport choices. That's why park and ride should build park and cycle facilities in from the off rather than bolt them on later - but bike parking does always seem to be an afterthought everywhere.

Safety by design

In a world where the England football team can't cycle to practice because of health and safety fears (it seems that in the world of sports, everything is safer than cycling), you would hope that senior highway engineers might realise that the key to safety is road design not behaviour - Bikeyface explains matters in terms even the vehicularists should understand. New York won't achieve its Vision Zero until it tackles its deadly arterial roads - the good news is that a road diet doesn't just make things safer but reduces traffic delays too (making it all the more tragic that collisions continue on a road where road diet plans were blocked in LA). On this side of the Atlantic, Manchester still struggles to keep its bollards protecting its protected bike lanes protected from the cars, Ranty Highwayman explores the complexities of , while widening a bus lane in Dublin makes mixing with buses even harder.

Death and the law

There was an upswelling of real anger this week over the Met Police's handling of the Michael Mason case, leaving the family feeling let down at every stage, and the rest of us wondering if idiot-proofing our roads hasn't just exacerbated idiot driving (and it's a similar picture in the US). We've reached the stage where you receive a greater punishment for giving someone a backie than killing someone with a car, and while the petition on sentencing over causing death by dangerous driving exceeds the 100,000 threshold, drivers still face very little chance of conviction if they go before the jury. Even as the inquest opens on Hope Fennell's death it seems texting and driving is all right as long as you only do it with your left hand - perhaps the real problem is having a fallible human being in charge of a two-ton death machine at all (although the solution isn't so much driverless cars as putting drivers on bikes instead ...)

Road rage and road joy

The arrival of spring doesn't seem to have stopped the skirmishes on the road: close passes are bad enough ordinarily, but worse when it's a driver under instruction doing the close passing. It's hard to get the Top Gear 'joke' when you've been bullied by boorish drivers on the roads but if they're going to accuse you of not paying 'road tax' then it would help if they had paid it themselves. Path rage can also be a problem - mainly when pedestrians and cyclists have been forced together on a shared path - creating uncertainty is all very well but it's the fastest and most dangerous form of transport that should be the one made to feel uncertain.

Cycling with kids can bring its very own form of road rage (at least the drivers will hear you coming) but can also involve lots of joy (and ice cream). And not just with kids, Ole Kassow explains how Cycling Without Age was born and what he gets out of the experience - at all ages, the science shows that cycling makes us happy. So now is the time to make your bike resolutions - and if you need a hand, here's a decision-making flowchart to help.

Number crunching

We do love a good evidence-based report at the Embassy, so we're delighted to see that the government traffic forces may be inching closer to accepting reality, as NICE endorses cycling to combat obesity (they may not have picked up on cyclists' obsession with cake yet) and the Danish Cancer Society launches a campaign to get more Danes cycling - that should mean Budapes is looking forward to a healthier future. The Urbanist looks at the carbon emissions from various forms of transport while Bike Toronto wants to know what lies behind Toronto's 'silver' ranking. And in the US families are the majority so perhaps that might mean some more family-friendly policies...

And finally

This poster has been doing the rounds - and you don't have to know Toronto's suburbs to recognise the reality. What would your city's version look like?