The Great Big Where do WE Rank? Bike Blog Roundup

We're not sure if there's an international ranking of bike blog roundups (we like to think we're in the top 100) but Copenhagenize's list of the top cycling cities came out this week, to much fanfare, with Copenhagen knocking Amsterdam off the top spot (although if Amsterdam is resting on its laurels, they're pretty good ones to rest on). Minneapolis joins the list for the first time, which may do something to explain this graph, but apathy causes Dublin to slide down the rankings while doing nothing means Tokyo drops out altogether. Paris may not have made the top 10 but the Danish Cycling Embassy recognises its politicians' ambition while Copenhagenize considers how easily the Danish model can be exported, in this case to Geneva. Other rankings are available, of course, with Streetsblog looking past cities to individual neighbourhoods to get some surprising results, while of the four 'platinum rated' US cities, Portland does the least well on bike safety - in fact, even a ghost bike isn't safe. In a somewhat less serious challenge - and despite energetic attempts by Tuscon and Memphis to game the figures, Chicago takes top slot for bikes with carrying capacity, while a survey of plastic bags indicates which supermarkets Amsterdam cyclists favour, if only to cover their saddle.


What hope for UK cities?

As Sustrans attempt to replicate the Danish Bicycle Account in 7 UK cities they show they at least understand how to get cyclists' attention with free coffee and cake. But what hope do UK towns and cities have of featuring on the Copenhagenize list (apart from caravan parks, those rare oases of civilisation. Yes, really). If this week was anything to go by, they're not exactly fighting to feature, not helped by the government cutting spending on cycling by £23 million in a supposed 'clawing back' of underspend. Edinburgh might be leading the way on cycle spending and bikes on trams, but despite 150 objections, has just scrapped off-peak bus lanes. Lambeth is considering becoming a 'two way borough' for bikes while Lancaster gets a contraflow lane (albeit on the pavement) and Cambridge is consulting on ending shared pavements on some contested streets. Cargo-bike Dad wonders if it's time to bin the bin lane in Belfast. Planned improvements in Newcastle still don't amount to a safe route to school, while London's latest quietway doesn't look as if it will be all that quiet. In Manchester, a proposal to ban right turns will do something to improve a tricky junction on NCN6 but not enough while bikes and pedestrians are pushed to the margins in a road scheme in Birmingham. Bristol traffic reckons that the only difference between outer Bristol and Glasgow is slightly politer road rage, although surely Bristol would be unlikely to come up with this sort of scheme in Govan. In short, UK local authority attitudes are all a long way away from the enthusiasm on display at Velo-City in Nantes.

Or the rest of the world

If all that prompts you to consider emigrating, choose your alternative city carefully: Sydney is planning to rip out a protected cycleway, while Berlin's mode share isn't all its cracked up to be. A busy route in Portland doesn't even have full sidewalks let alone bike tracks, although that may change. On the other hand a new Manhattan bike track is shaping up to be wider and greener than originally planned (although moves are already afoot to get rid of it) while Pittsburgh's cyclists have taken enthusiastically to its new protected bike lane. After a lot of promises, things are finally happening on the ground in Christchurch, while Brisbane is making full use of its waterfront with elevated walk-and-cycleways. Chicago is about to open its latest rail trail while even in Dublin a nasty squeeze of a bike lane is due for an upgrade.

Design matters

An upgrade is only as good as its design though - and Sustrans's design manual allows too many loopholes for bad design to get through - especially given the detailed consideration needed to make cycle priority safe at road crossings - while just because 'highways says it's okay' doesn't make a roundabout design good enough when it could be excellent. Hackney's plans for Wick Road demonstrates everything that's wrong with the council's policies to cycling. In Dublin, plans for the Royal Canal Greenway involve too much mixing of pedestrians and cyclists in narrow confines - almost as bad an idea as mixing motorised and non-motorised traffic - but will mixing slow and fast cyclists on London's Superhighways lead to crashes, as Baroness Valentine fears, or is that just a desperate rearguard action from London First? And will you need to get all hot and sweaty to trigger the traffic lights in London in the future?

Campaigning matters


Baroness Valentine might be a bit different from the old men in limos who almost scuppered the cycle superhighway plans but the fight goes on - and will continue until London feels safe for David Lammy to cycle in rush hour. Magnatom realises we need more women's voices in campaigning (even wrong headed ones) although when you need to fight for every inch and cut through (let alone a whole superhighway) it's more a matter of every hand to the pump. At least the bike industry is starting to forge closer links with cycle campaigners at Velo-City this week, which, if the bike parade was anything to go by looks like having been a good event - hopefully much blogged about next week.


Suck it and see

One way of facing down opponents can be the pilot - and that seemed to be a bit of a theme this week with a 3 month trial of a pedestrian plaza in New York to start this summer while a two week pilot taking a lane from cars in Portland seems to have been a roaring success - and Vancouver's experiment of adding a lane for bikes on a bridge was such a success it's expanding the scheme to take another lane for pedestrians. Bike lanes may be piloted on a busy Toronto arterial road after years of discussion, while one San Diego business owner would at least like to see a trial of facilities rather than having to witness cyclists being knocked off their bikes. Open Streets events like CicLAvia offer a one-day trial of car-free living - and an awesome spectacle - hopefully London's Open Streets will be a similar success.

Transport integration

The other lesson from last week's CicLAvia was that bikes make public transport more effective - something the Dutch never overlook - bike friendly places aren't just about cycle tracks, they're about the freedom to choose whichever form of transport makes sense (if only just to get a downhill only run on a popular rail trail). Here in the UK, in a blow for bike-bus integration (but probably a boost for pedestrian safety) the Driver and Vehicle Safety Agency nix plans for bikes on the front of buses, something US cities have been doing for over a century.

Quaxing Matilda

With 'quaxing' the latest cycling craze, San Francisco's first bike to shop day gets off to a good start as Cycle Sheffield rallies support for a cycle-friendly Retail Quarter. Pedal Parity wonders if it's pointless to worry about cycling your shopping home given the food miles its already clocked up, but a study finds businesses can benefit too from using cargo bikes, and not just by improving their green image. Meanwhile women looking to buy a bike could cross one brand off their list - and it will take more than hiring a few extra women to fix the bike industry. But you can support a female-led initiative with Penny in Yo' Pants launching on Indigogo to make cycling in a skirt more practical for all.

Them and us

The You and Yours row rumbles on, with the sheer scale of road deaths numbing us to the bigger picture of car dependency (and if anything it's worse in the US where even driving a small fuel-efficient car feels dangerous, let alone riding a bike), while victim blaming has been with us since Biblical times. The truth is, despite apologies all round after the latest bout of road rage (perhaps a nice bike ride would help), it's poor design that breeds confrontation - so if you feel drivers all hate you join your local cycle campaign while motorists who wish cyclists would just get out of the way should do the same - after all, even other drivers find road rage and mobile phone use cause for alarm. As Chicago Streetsblog looks back to discover how US cities got so car-centric, here in the UK, grumbles grow over a closed-road cycling event in Wales, and a saboteur targets cyclists (or possibly dogs) on the tow path in Cambridge.

Changing places and changing minds

More encouragingly, HGV drivers in the West Midlands are getting out of their cabs to experience life on two wheels while things like a bike challenge can inspire people of all abilities to ride or ride more - and encouraging women to ride even for leisure can be very rewarding. Electric bikes may be the answer to many perceived barriers to cycling (unfortunately the cost is still a barrier to e-bikes). Bike share schemes can help - with People for Bikes giving out six grants to help improve equity in bike share schemes - such as Philadelphia's street teams and ambassadors encouraging people from all communities to give them a go. And for those wanting to try cycling with their kids this weekends Bike Curious family workshop will be fun for all the family.

Vision Zero

As cities across the US look at adopting Vision Zero, there are some lessons from Europe about how to make it a success - not least the need for slower speeds but if it's to be more than a catch election slogan kids need to at least be safe on the pavement (or inside restaurants) - and having the vision is one thing, but you also need to pay for it. The LCC welcomes falling casualty figures in London but we're a long way off Dutch safety levels, while lorry companies block modifications to make their vehicles safer preferring to put the onus on children to keep themselves safe. Designers concentrate on techno fixes rather than must making the roads safe and talking of techno fixes, how are Google's driverless cars getting on with avoiding crashes?

Legal matters

Meanhile our learned friends have been busy with confusion reigning over whether cycle lanes are enforcable in Ireland - while it seems that dangerously close passes aren't sufficient for prosecution although the courts do still take a dim view if you delete your phone call records after killing a cyclist. On the other side of the fence, 18,000 people respond to a survey of scofflaw cycling and why they do it while the bike world gets its own hole in the wall gang

And finally

I don't think any cyclists will be surprised at this article - but if you're cycling through Chicago prepare to feel hungry