The Great Big Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma Bike Blog Roundup

Well, this week seemed to be the week of answered, unanswered and plain unanswerable questions in bike blog land - starting with the case of the missing space for cycling on Sherlock's own Baker Street - or perhaps it's no mystery when you realise arch-villain Westminster council is at the root of it - the LCC gives you some suggested answers while cyclists in New York ponder some missing bike lanes of their own.

What makes good infrastructure?

This shouldn't be such a hard question - basically it's infrastructure well-enough designed that you can cycle (and drive) like a bit of a tit and not suffer the consequences - even if you are giving your wife a backie. And yet, UK authorities appear to be confused, with East Dumbartonshire's latest route not only compromised by a last-minute failure of nerve but with road changes around the scheme making it difficult to extend it so it could be more useful - no wonder those who have to ride a trike prefer to stick to the roads around Glasgow. In Chichester, a contraflow bike path gives bikes priority over cars with terrible sight lines, Hackney still struggles with what to do with Regent's Canal, Dublin cyclists are to get segregated space except where it's too hard, and the revamped CS2 looks likely to be let down by the details, while plans for Lambeth North, although an improvement on what's there now, still prioritise almost-empty cars over pedestrians and cyclists. All of which opens up a dilemma for the local campaigner - how much do you support changes which improve some things but which don't necessarily create conditions where everyone can cycle (a dilemma equally live on the other side of the Atlantic). Meanwhile, Bristol Cycle Campaign are a little startled at the three pieces of local cycling infrastructure nominated as 'high quality' rather than, say, 'OK but could be better'. Vision Zero London wonders whether Clerkenwell Boulevard really will be brought up to 'Quietway' standards, whatever those are, while in the US the Highway authorities seem to have forgotten their own best ideas.

What makes a cycling city?

With Tessa Jowell joining the other Mayoral candidates (so far) in pledging to make London fit for cycling, what exactly might that entail? Amsterdam University are offering a summer school on city cycling matters to start to answer just that question, although perhaps it should be in Groningen instead. Beijing has called in the experts to bring its billion bicycles back, having run out of room for cars. Munich has been using low cost measures to encourage relatively high cycling levels for a city of its size - but now plans to step up a gear with a network of bike 'autobahns' (the Dutch, of course, are already there and theirs are complete with bat-friendly lights and orchards where you can pick your own fruit).

Back in the Anglophone world, Edinburgh gets good press from its cycling spending commitments but the reality on the ground is that its cycling infrastructure is pretty good off road, and pretty poor elsewhere. Looking beyond infrastructure, it's Portland's 'keep Portland weird' vibe that makes cycling relatively normal (for the US) while when it comes to cycling culture, Detroit is steaming up the inside - maybe something Manchester could learn from rather than its somewhat sanitised Sky Rides - but nowhere seems to beat Antananarivo when it comes to finding a handy bike mechanic.

Oh Canada

Is Canada the future? is not a question that necessarily springs easily to everyone's lips - but when it comes to building protected bike lanes it seems to have reached a tipping point/ Certainly in Seattle Vancouver offers a glimpse of a brighter future for its southern neighbour - especially as it adds additional bike lanes (and a public piano with a view) to a popular bridge, while even the smaller towns have ambitions to copy the best of what is being done elsewhere. Not that it's all perfection: Toronto now has the data on where people are cycling so why doesn't it plan its bike network accordingly? And parts of the US are beginning to follow suit, with the first stretch of protected bike lane arriving in St. Louis, despite an actively hostile local press.

What happens if you take away space from cars?

Obviously, if you believe the critics, cutting traffic capacity leads to instant carmaggedon but Bristol will be getting a chance to find out if filtered permeability will lead to gridlock - although Tooting don't seem to see the need for traffic counts to see how surrounding streets are affected. A Munich suburb makes the most of filtered permeability and other bike friendly initiatives to make cycling a doddle. In the US, it's cutting the number of lanes that makes a big difference - with a federal study finding that crashes were down after road diets (at least where cities had bothered to keep 'before' data). More temporarily, 'Better Block' events allow people to envisage their communities in a different way, while it's always good to consider what else might fit in that car parking space. Sadly, though, in Sydney, things are going the other way with a protected cycleway to be ripped out to make more room for cars - no wonder cyclign seems to be on the decline in Australia.

What would happen if we had more cycling?

Australians may never find out - but for the rest of us, there are so many benefits - no wonder the Dutch live on average six months longer than they would if they weren't a cycling nation. Bikes - and especially e-bikes - seem to improve well-being among older people - and for those living with a chronic illness they can be a life saver or at least a life-enhancer. Perhaps we should talk more about the fact that more cycling makes life better for drivers too while despite the usual scaremongering, less driving is helping the American economy although in fairness some businesses are never going to do so well in a bike boom. Even in New Zealand, bikes can give an eight-year-old the freedom to nip to the shops - some tips if you'd like your kid to have a similar freedom to cycle to school. And finally, when you switch to cycling, what starts as your commute ends up a community of fellow cyclists.

Thinking strategically?

Increases in cycling don't just fall out of the sky though - it has to be planned for, so it's good that the government is gearing up its Cycling and Walking Investment strategy for England, even if a hiccup of timing means that actually funding for cycling is about to fall of a cliff for the next 18 months. Wales is failing to make use of the tools it's got in the Active Travel act while Bike Gob spots a few minor errors in Glasgow's cycling strategy - the Dutch, meanwhile, are planning on forging ahead with their latest Bicycle Agenda.

Committing civil obedience...

In an action likely to make the average Daily Mail columnist evaporate in a puff of logic (but remember, those cyclist haters are likely to form the bulk of your jury), San Francisco cyclists protest the latest police crackdown by obeying the stop sign law to the letter and bringing a popular street for cycling to a halt - bikes and stop signs don't really mix that well anyway - and it would be nice if traffic lights actually detected cyclists (or at least let them know they weren't going to). The Irish police, meanwhile, have confirmed that they won't be fining cyclists for not breaking the law, which is big of them - it's always a worry when you discover your city's own bike cops are ardent vehicularists; no wonder bike safety campaigns continue to put the onus on cyclists to keep themselves safe - although at least the Isle of Man is considering a passing law to clarify safety on the roads. And for those scofflaw drivers? Probably best not to mess with the cyclists of Brazil, as they don't confine themselves to moaning about bad driving on social media, they take matters into their own hands. And if you want to avoid getting your precious bike stolen? Invest in a decent lock and use it (or perhaps a pair of pet magpies)

Can cyclists and pedestrians get along?

Sometimes the boot is on the other foot, of course, with cyclists causing problems for pedestrians, even in Tokyo where there has long been a culture of harmonious pavement cycling, which is now under strain. The Netherlands shows that a bit of flexibility about bikes in pedestrian areas can make a lot of sense - but then again it takes a relaxed summer rush hour to make that work while it seems in Toronto the main hazard on its latest cycle path are the pedestrians.

Taking safety seriously

As Vision Zero gathers momentum across the United States, New York is urged to ensure it includes bike infrastructure in all of its street-safety prohects - but a Californian community's sudden concern for bike safety may be more Nimby-ism than genuine. In Chicago, it took the death of a cyclist to overcome scepticism at the state level over protected bike lanes - while lack of safe alternatives leaves a mother in St Paul taking her cargo bike to the sidewalk even though she and her child still get hit by a car. Here in the UK, how many HGV drivers are operating exhausted because they are doing second jobs? But don't let's forget the real menace to everyone, allegedly (including cyclists) - the dreaded seagull.

What makes bike hire work?

As small-scale schemes fail to take off, City Fix considers what it would take to bring bike share to India - you've got to think big. Elsewhere, Sheffield and Christchurch are starting on a smallish scale while London's scheme celebrates with free hire for its fifth anniversary - and Toronto moves its bikes by bike - something we like almost as much as the bicycle sidecar

And finally

The answer to the biggest mystery of all - why do we ride bikes at all? We might pretend that it's because it's clean, and healthy, and fun, and quick. But no, our secret is out at last: we're just doing it to get up drivers' noses. The rest is just icing on the cake ...