The Great Big Bike Make it Better Bike Blog Roundup

It's not been the best week for cycling, particularly as air pollution hits dangerous levels before spring has barely got into its stride, but before we get into that, plus lethal HGVs and the grumpiest general election campaign since the last one, let's remind ourselves why it's important: because bikes are a cheap way to tackle intractable problems (politicians take note) and yet small enough to actually make big changes to our cities. And because the right infrastructure offers unparalleled mobility for people with disabilities, and could be worth £2.5 billion to the NHS - unless in fact it's £17 billion. Oh and they can bring health advice to flood-torn countries in Africa and public health gains to poor communities in America, and just cheer up a new mum in the UK who hasn't been out in a while. And when you look at that air pollution it's the busiest roads that suffer the most, suggesting bikes can be the answer too - but not if you're considered 'brave' for riding in it especially with your baby.

Election news

So, how is all that impinging on the election campaign? Well, the Greens are at least proposing decent levels of spending while Cambridge's cycling hustings seems to have gone remarkably well, perhaps unsurprisingly and Cycling South Tyneside gets two replies to his Vote Bike emails. Elsewhere, UKIP candidates continue to give good value on the comedy front, with the Newcastle one having undergone a remarkable conversion in the wrong direction, while the Mole Hill candidate wants to send all the financial benefits of hosting sportives to Boris Johnson's constituency instead. In Aberdeen, the cyclists are concentrating on the council, holding the first satellite Pedal on Parliament while further afield, in the US, cycling has become a partisan issue, like everything else.

Lorry deaths

The dangers of HGVs seemed inescapable this week, starting with the death of Moira Gemmell on the roundabout on Lambeth Bridge that had been slated for improvements that were later shelved. Amblescople looks at why that junction never did go Dutch while the People's Cycling Front don't mince their words over who bears responsibility. At the same time shocking driving history of the lorry driver who killed Alan Neve raises more questions than it answers - for As Easy as Riding a Bike, the contrast with what happens when a lorry hits a train is instructive, while the Green Pary calls for presumed liability in lorry deaths and the CTC for corporate manslaughter charges. All in all, despite high levels of complaints about bus drivers by cyclists, it's not surprising that HGVs appear to pose the greater risk to London's cyclists.

Data please

But fatalaties aren't the only area where more and better data could be useful - transport data needs to be used by more than just traffic planners. In cities as far apart as Bristol and Minneapolis traffic data show cycling on the rise despite less than perfect conditions (and when you do provide decent conditions kids can ride independently even by the Birmingham ring road), while Seattle continues to see steady growth year on year, and New York shows ... well, nothing because the bike counts seem to have gone awol. Kats Dekker continues her dive into the literature with data on the difference between men and women's travel patterns, which of course feeds into cycling, while when you look at how actual cyclists use the infrastructure they have it's clear how complex cycling can be. In Denmark, older people are influenced by traffic, health and e-bikes to continue or abandon cycling - while a little animation shows why the Dutch ride bikes so much. And as even the Dutch suffer casualties, can Strava - or rather those annoying tweets via Strava provide an answer as to why they peak and fall at different times of the year?

Providing for cycling

When it comes to making cycling safer, Brooklyn Spoke proposes this little flow chart to help save everyone time, although sadly, even the Dutch are not immune to ignoring desire lines (and a spot of 'sign make it better') in their need to 'ease traffic flow' (that's car traffic flow - cyclists get a public awareness campaign to tackle bike congestion in Groeningen). Some ideas may not be ready for export either - Bicycle Dutch explains what makes a bicycle street work in practice - are there any places in the UK where bike outnumber cars massively enough? Now Toronto considers five 'quick' fixes to create a cycling city (although some of them are pretty substantial, while the example of Assen shows you don't just need dense urban areas to make cycling work - although a truly cycling large city would be an incredibly fast one (rather than taking bikes 29 minutes to travel 644 feet as in San Diego).

Still, progress is being made: a traffic-free route to link Plymouth city centre with Dartmoor has been funded, while at the other end of the scale, a badly built dropped kerb is getting smoothed out in Edinburgh. More could be done, though: the Rhondda tunnel would offer a massive opportunity to join up cycling in Wales, while our canal network has the potential to be a massive transport asset - although maybe not the central reservation of our motorways... We do need to stop spending sustainable travel fund money on easing traffic flow, giving cyclists little more than paint on the road along the A6, considering cycling only at the last minute even in places like Bristol - and deal with roadworks better in Glasgow and Sheffield. Elsewhere, Auckland gets serious about sweeping its cycle lanes, Pittsburgh gets less serious about marking them and the response to Albuquerque's April Fool joke shows that the city needs more than just a few trails.

Legal eagles

Reminding us of the need to choose our politicians wisely next month, a California legislator has backed down on a helmet law proposal and replaced it with a study instead, while Washington State allows cyclists to run 'dead' red lights (just watch out if you're biking while black) but also retains the right to update Facebook while driving. The Irish Dail discusses a 1.5m passing law, while the Dutch classify faster e-bikes as mopeds. And while a Portland cyclist resorts to a private prosecution after a truck crushed his bike, Pedal Parity and friends take matters into their own hands over a fence illegally blocking a cycle access and feel the long arm of the law.

Parking matters

Still, at least the police in Coventry are enforcing parking on the cycle track (the unexpected advantage of shared-use pavements being that they become part of the highway and thus it's illegal to obstruct them, unlike ordinary pavements) - but it's not so much the case in Manchester - or indeed LA where it's the cops who are doing the blocking - while in New York parking issues seem to tap into some deep level of madness in the city. If you do want to get parking swapped for bike lanes here are 10 lessons from 10 cities of ways to win the argument. And then your problem might be bike parking: as with Copenhagen, which has finally started to get serious about bike parking at train stations, but not as serious as the Dutch in the Hauge and Delft.

Staying safe

As we continue the fight for decent infrastructure - and even the Dutch are turning to using warning signals to make things safer - meanwhile how do we stay safe? Well, we can escalate the hi-vis arms race - although even if you ride a bright orange bike almost as big as a car they still won't be able to see you - and the police will assume it's your fault anyway. Streets MN considers the actual science behind drivers' vision at different speeds. Three Irish Councils have added '1.5 metres please' stickers to the back of their vans (which makes a nice change from 'cyclists stay back') - perhaps Magnatom could order one for his latest correspondent. In Waltham Forest, cyclists are having to choose between traffic and bike-jackers while a council is found responsible after a cyclist was killed by a pothole. And tired of the old anti-cycling myths, I Bike TO tries to counter some new ones that impact on cycling safety.

Swapping places

As ever, there were blogs looking at things from a different perspective - whether it be swapping Australia for Copenhagen or a New Zealand visitor making London's infrastructure not look that bad. Lizbon reminds us that, for all its legendary bike friendliness Portland's cycling infrastructure is seriously lacking. A ride with a friend in Seattle reminds Interurban Cyclist how far she's come in gaining the confidence to ride on the roads - and no, getting a tandem really isn't the way to persuade a reluctant cyclist to join you - but maybe an e-bike is. And while some people have been banging on about going Dutch since 1982 - the past really is another country, as Darkerside considers what a six-year-old used to be expected to be able to do as recently as 1979 (including take her little brother out for KFC?)


Finally, the economy matters in cycling as in elections - although maybe cycle chic doesn't pay the bills as much as we might hope. A bustling town centre matters to cyclists as much as everyone else - while Spokes reminds the powers that be that freight includes cargo bikes not just trucks. And after all it was a shortage of horses that led to the invention of the bicycle in the first place ... because bikes can make even volcanic eruptions better.


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