The Great Big Tour de Utrecht Bike Blog Roundup

With the caravan of the Tour de France starting from Utrecht - and giving everyone who watched the highlights show a brief infrastructure safari - we make no apology for an even more than usually Dutch-focused roundup this week. But what lessons do the Dutch offer us, even if Utrecht apparently has almost no data on its daily cyclists. Some drew a linguistic lesson on the distinction the Dutch make between ordinary cycling and the sporting kind (but then again they also used to use multiple words for bicycle too) whereas others concentrated on the more concreted matters - complete cycle networks, unravelling or routes, traffic-free city centres, continuous improvement - that sort of thing, something Dubling still doesn't quite get for all its vision of 'Amsterdam-style' cycling. Meanwhile in the UK, there were continuing signs of hope that the mini-hollands might take some baby steps towards their namesake, with Waltham Forest proposing a radical redesign of a motorway-style roundabout and Kingston reverting to more ambitious plans instead of paint on the road for its own mini-holland project

A blank slate ...

Not that we're quite there yet: compare and contrast what the Dutch do with a blank slate to work with the 'cyclists dismount' approach favoured in the UK. Even in the US, suburban developments seem better at incorporating cycling and walking - even though transport officials have wasted the last 40 years having designed a Dutch-style protected junction in the 70s and apparently forgot all about it. Not that you have to start with a blank slate: in Italy parking protected bike lanes and extreme filtered permeability turn an ancient centre into a little urban paradise while, more prosaically, a few signs and some traffic cones rescue a bike track in Inverness from becoming overflow parking - perhaps they need some parking meters too? In Chicago, contraflow cycle lanes and traffic calming are planned to create a 'quietway' - but would that count as a cycle route in Glasgow? And as Seattle tears down a traffic viaduct its new waterfront should have more space for cycling - but it's still a very car-dominated design

Standout design?

With news that an award is planned to reward excellence and innovation in cycle infrastructre in the UK (well, we've seen plenty of innovation, after all - even if not much excellence), back in the Netherlands, municipalities have to pull out all the stops to get their latest cycling bridge noticed - unlike Belfast where just allowing bikes on a previously pedestrian only bridge counts as a win. We'll keep you posted on contenders for the award, but there's an early overseas entry for most use of paint on a bike lane from Toronto...

Bike tourism

Armchair viewing of Utrecht's infrastructure aside, bike-travel-news of the week was the extreme kerb nerdery that was the Cycling Embassy AGM's visit to Leicester, which was eye opening for the participants, but also for the hosts. There was also a look back at a tour of Ipswich back in May, while David Hembrow provides us with the highlights of the latest study tour in Assen, AKA the ultimate infrastructure safari. We're not sure what impact such outings have on the economy of Assen (a small uptick in Heineken sales when the Embassy went there, certainly) but Vancouver is reaping the reward of cycling investment on its tourism figures (even the locals find a guided bike tour of their own city unexpectedly rewarding) and there's been a similar impact around Victoria too.

Suck it and see

There are tools available that can measure almost any aspect of a street to help plan changes - but there's a simpler way to model what might happen if traffic flow is restricted - just try it out - although you do have to do traffic counts to measure the effect on surrounding roads. In Camden more space has been made for cycling after a road closure showed now disastrous effects - while in Lambeth some roads have been shut for nigh on two years suggesting they really shouldn't be reopened. Of course if the roads have been closed for building works then bikes should be provided for - Dublin does manage this occasionally, while in California there are strict rules although whether they're followed is another question.

In the Netherlands the suck-it-and-see model has been used to pioneer some now classic pieces of Dutch cycling infrastructure while in Pittsburgh, an open streets event raises the question who needs cars in city centres anyway (and they're also a great opportunity to trial pop-up bike lanes - just remember to place your petition at the end of it for people to sign) Certainly, pedestrianisation is already making a difference in Brussels while a successful trial in Edinburgh means bikes on trams will be a permanent feature - hopefully the best bits of Glasgow's trial of segregation methods will be similarly successful (on a slightly wider lane though ...). And in Kent, it turns out that the maliciously bad bike lane featured last time is just there on a trial basis - Kent Highways still need to think outside the (big metal) box though...


Consultation watch

In what might become a permanent feature as we try to keep track of them all, there was the usual crop of consultations this week - or in Hackney's case nonsultation over plans to rip out a cycle lane on Wick Road, but Rachel Aldred and Hackney Cyclist have responded anyway. In Edinburgh there seems to have been nothing but consultations on Leith Walk with cyclists prepared to provide better designs in some detail, which may or may not have resulted in somewhat improved designs. A similar process of improvement is needed for a Heath Road in Richmond while Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester is unimpressed by the Bridgewater cycleway. In Croydon, a consultation over trams might be an opportunity to handle bikes and tracks properly - still, at least there are trams actually running on those tracks, whereas in Ipswich, bikes are menaced by tracks that have long since fallen out of use.

That cycling revolution in full

Meanwhile, a reminder that, excitable announcements about cycling revolutions notwithstanding, there's been barely any increase in overall cycling levels in England and in places like Birmingham it's declining. This despite the fact that census data shows the potential for cycling in the UK - if only the cost of driving wasn't going down. Irish cities have seen something of a revival - but there's a long way to go to get back to levels of even quite recent years.

Those cycle haters in full

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this article in the Guardian was that it isn't in the bike blog - but was actually in the paper, although those leaving anti cycling comments in the comments seem to have had an irony bypass (it's like a bus bypass, but less useful) - perhaps they should be made to pass this quiz first - or stop to consider who the 'they' are that they are ranting about. Meanwhile, when a drunk driver hits a pedal pub (piloted by a sober captain, take note) guess who is considered to be most at fault? And when cyclists are urged to follow the highway code what commenters really mean is 'get out of the way', while in Chicago, the police are still preventing late night commuters from using a bike trail even though they've got a perfect right to be there.

The die-ins continue...

Online haters and tacks on cycle paths are one thing - but the sobering fact is that another week brings another die in and the die-ins will continue until other priorities stop trumping cyclists' lives. The latest figures show that vulnerable road users are bearing the brunt of increasing traffic casualties - something even the PM seems to be taking seriously. Nor is the problem confined to London with poor junction design (even with cycling tracks) possibly to blame

Building political will

Campaigning of other sorts continues on all fronts, meanwhile; last roundup we mentioned Andrew Gilligan's comments on campaigning's impact on London - here is his presentation more or less in full, but it took some FOI requests and a bit of digging to find out why plans have been less successful in West London. Elsewhere it took 273 emails to get a road fixed in Edinburgh without anyone having to die first, while a petition in support of 20mph limits meets with some success in Glasgow. The A10 Corridor campaign get on their bikes to highlight a hazardous shared use path while the Bespoke Cycling group chart the long legal road to allow cycling on Eastbourne seafront. Further afield, campaigners in the US consider what happens once a city adopts vision zero - how does it get implemented? While in Canada, Dandyhorse Magazine wonders if Toronto really has the political will for lower speed limits.

There were some signs of political movement this week with the minister announcing he has put the wheels in motion to implement the Cycling Infrastructure Investment Strategy - and there's a petition started to encourage him to put his money where his mouth is, while in London spoke cards suggest the cycling vote will be key for at least one mayoral candidate. In Denmark it seems you just have to point out all the benefits cycling brings to make politicians invest in it - while New Zealand is also putting money into cycling at last - so much that it could actually be a challenge to find the expertise to spend it. In the US too more funding for cycling is in the DRIVE act (along with lots of funding for roads too, of course) with a few bicycle friendly amendments slipping in at the last minute


If any politicians *are* reading this, there was plenty of evidence to suggest that encouragaing cycling is the way forward - if only because enforcing parking restrictions in bike lanes is an easy win for some revenue. LA is lagging behind its neighbours to the detriment of its businesses, the Bike League looks at how to build a whole bike-friendly business community, Copenhagenize considers how rivers and harbours might unlock the potential of bike logistics, and even the car companies are eyeing up the urban cycling market. Elsewhere, Chicago discovers you can pull in 35,000 people for a concert without any extra parking, India discovers hip cycling culture and cyclists discover just how far they have to ride to burn off that McDonald's they can now dangle off the handlebars.

Loaded for bear

Meanwhile, the techno-fixes continue to come thick and fast - with, as Jeremy Vine puts it, cyclists having to go equipped like a Navy Seal (without the weaponry, we assume) - although even he doesn't suggest a heads up display like a fighter pilot not to mention rear radar - although quite what that would be useful for isn't entirely clear. Perhaps it might give you a bit of advance notice that one of Edinburgh's new talking bin lorries is approaching before you jump out of your skin.

Judgements of Solomon

With news that Google's self driving cars are being equipped with an ethics module for those tricky moral judgements about who to hit if it comes down to it (no word on what it does for alligators yet though), perhaps in time they could be pressed into legal service as it seems the might do better than some of our existing courts - certainly Magnatom is left still scratching his head. Some cases stand out as particularly grim, with no winners whatever the outcome, but at least one road haulage firm has learned the hard way about its road safety responsibilities.

Cycling for everyone

While the answer to almost any 'how can we get group X to cycle more' is almost always 'build proper cycling infrastructure' (do you think the Dutch worry about why men don't cycle as much as women?), imagery does matter too - especially when practically missing out all but standard cycles in policy documents makes it more likely that their needs wil be forgotten. Using diverse images in promotional material is also important - as is outreach direct to the communities you want to see cycling. In Canada, Mennonites are probably the ultimate utility cyclists (do they have 'one less buggy' slogans on the back of their bikes though?). Meanwhile, if you see a woman in your local bike shop DON'T PANIC but do try speaking to her like a human being, while one brave woman bares all with a purpose in the sort of initiative that suddenly makes the World Naked Bike Ride make sense - douchebags and all.

Chatting to Dutch school pupils reveals the gulf in experience between them and their American counterparts, while in the UK the schools can't do much about the school run 'carnage' (fortunately not real carnage) or parents getting abuse for doing the right thing. While even an eight-year-old understands that driving just round the corner is not right, even a journey of just 300m can be pretty unpleasant if the environment is hostile.

And finally

But that was a depressing note to end on, so we're using any excuse to post our favourite bikes-and-cats video: the ultimate cure for campaign burnout

Oh - and PS: we're still looking for volunteers to try their hand at doing this roundup themselves, only better... Could it be you?