The Great Big Silly Season Bike Blog Roundup

It's August, which means half the world appears to be on holiday, and the other half wishes it was. For those of us stuck at home, there was a certain amount of armchair travelling to be done - from Streetfilms' visit to Cambridge, offering a few pointers to cities such as Manchester, to the Guardian's examination of Davis, California's equivalent of Cambridge where a city which pioneered cycling infrstructure has been coasting for some time. For those looking to experience the delights of cycling infrastructure, Dutch cities are beginning to compete with each other for cycle tourism, although even there not every investment immediately pays off, as Nijmegen becomes apparently the only Dutch city where you can actually find a bike parking spot at the station (and if that doesn't appeal rural Ontario is ready for your visit). For those visiting Edinburgh, you can now hire a bike at the station on a whim as long as the app is working properly - what the article fails to mention is that the minute you wheel your bike out of the station, you'll have to do battle with tram tracks (or the Devil's strips as they used to be known) and some of the least cycling friendly roads in Edinburgh - it's road conditions, not distances that discourage people from cycling to the station at the end of the day.

Building better cities

But as Slow Roll seems to be almost single-handedly bringing magic back to Motown, how is a city to transform itself into the sort of place people write admiring blogs about? One study examines how six US cities turned away from car-centric development, while other experts seem almost wilfully blind to the blighting effect of traffic on any sense of place. Parts of New York realise that cycling and walking help build resilience to climate change and other disasters; when the 'big one' does arrive in Seattle they'll be ready. When it comes to investment, cities need to be clear about their priorities for cycling: do they want to making bad neighbourhoods decent, or good neighbourhoods great? Nor should what investment is made come at the expense of pedestrians rather than cutting traffic. On safety, City Lab considers what design features give big cities safer streets - note that high-speed streets delivering masses of traffic aren't one of them. Nor will driverless cars be the answer (although they might be a lot nicer to cycle around than the normal kind) but one techno fix, "smart" parking, could be a quick way to cut traffic at a stroke. In Zurich, it's not so much the hills as its excellent public transport that keeps cycling levels low - but it still deploys many nice features that ease cycling and cut traffic in the centre.

Motiviation isn't everything

One thing both campaigners and politicians get wrong about cycling is to mis-apply the lessons of high-cycling countries to low cycling ones - or, in other words, think that all women are waiting for is for Denise Van Outen to tell them to cycle to work and they'll hop on their bikes immediately (a tube strike might be more effective - or bribing your teenager with enough cash for a bottle of whisky...). Similarly, while things like the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire can be the prompt to get a few people more active, and anniversary events for the Commonwealth Games can bring tiny kids cycling in Glasgow's city centre (in a suitably fenced off area...), you won't build much cycling if you plonk a bus stop in the middle of your 'legacy' cycle lane as Space 4 Cycling Glasgow are keen to point out. While in some cities, cycle campaigning can feel like being stuck in a mime's glass box - in others, it's amazing how quickly infrastructure can be put in once the political will is there while most just dither in the middle until they've made the decision by default. So how do we get from being powerless to being truly powerful? Obviously not by highlighting dangerous gratings is that in itself is dangerous vandalism (according to Portland) - although it would appear that it works. Or perhaps by harnessing the power of kidical mass or even clitoral mass, an event which sounds like it must have been the most Californian thing ever.

Those scofflaw cyclists in full

One hardy perennial for filling column inches is the click-bait anti cycling rant - with this week's brought to you by Mr Loophole, the motorists' friend who urged drivers to fight back against lawbreaking cyclists (we hope they dob in all those law breaking drivers too) - while back in the day it was the motorist who attracted all the tabloid ire. Of course people, drivers or cyclists, will break laws when police priorities - or even lack of resources mean they're not enforced - or when they feel the road conditions leave them no alternative. The collective 'whatever' at blocking bike lanes is a symptom of a wider problem - even as cyclists get injured as a result. The only thing worse is when collective law breaking leads to higher speed limits rather than improved enforcement.

Cycle fashion by law

You would hope that the summer and the silly season should at least mean a reduction in daft cycle legislation - but that doesn't seem to have stopped Pensylvania's legislators from weighing in on what cyclists should wear, and Japanese police from cracking down on how they keep themselves dry on a bike - even as Australia might be about to reconsider its helmet law (and, almost as momentously, Eastbourne inches closer to allowing cycling on its seafront). In London, half of all Londoners want to ban rush hour lorries - but before you cheer, they also want to ban bikes too. As the visibility arms race continues, we should remember that views on safety devices do change over time (but Chris Boardman will continue talking robust good sense for ever). And when it comes to laws on drivers, should the safe passing distance be reconsidered as the 'fall over' distance?

Politics as usual

In fact, the silly season barely seems to have damped down political bike stories this week, with the revelation from Cambridge ex-MP Julian Huppert that our former Secretary of State for Transport didn't think cycling really counted. In London, mayoral candidates are urged to adopt a 10% target for cycling spending - and no, spending it all on filling potholes is not enough to keep the cyclists happy. Elsewhere, Newcastle is failing to consult properly over its City Cycling Ambition Fund plans, and plans for Camberwell town centre offer nothing for cyclists despite Southwark's new cycling strategy while Sutton council needs to learn that actions speak louder than words.

Not that UK politicians had a monopoly on wrong-headedness: in Ireland a senator objects to a cycle path on mental health grounds (no, not his own) which is a new one on us, while a Washington councillor has completely the wrong idea what cycle lanes are for - as, in a different way, does the Canadian prime minister. Still, at least state legislators get a chance to get out on bikes on a bipartisan bike ride (although the police escort may give them a slightly misleading sense of its security) while the bike vote seems to have made a difference in Seattle and one San Diego politician appears not to have forgotten her pledges on bike safey.

Infrastructure news

But what of infrastructure, I hear you cry? Where's my weekly dose of kerb-nerdery? It was a little thin on the ground this week - although there were good pieces from both Transport Providence and David Hembrow making the point in different ways how it's design and not saintly drivers that make for safer cycling. In Newcastle, a cycle contraflow lane seems to put cyclists into the path of oncoming buses - perhaps a few strategically placed lane separators might help. In Edinburgh, taking down barriers rather than putting them up would be a cheap and effective way to improve the city's streets while in some cases a lick of paint can transform a street. On a grander scale, we can argue about the kerb upstands till the cows come home but London's Embankment Cycle track deserves to become a new icon for the city while Derbyshire has benefited from the opening of a new dual carriageway to complete a new almost traffic-free route between Derby and Nottingham. Further afield, Tuscon cyclists get a slightly scary looking 'pivot box' for managing two-stage turns - albeit not as scary as this bike lane; never mind the door-zone, why not put bikes in the reversing zone? Calgary has quietly built some nice cycling infrastructure and may even have overtaken Vancouver when it comes to providing for bikes on bridges.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

As ever, statistics got used and abused this week, with the latest road casualty figures open to whatever interpretation anybody wants to put on them. In Ireland there was a similar debate with figures being presented without any context in a misleading way - an, to add insult to injury, topped off with a victim-blaming rant in the Irish Times. In Minneapolis, the statistics show cycling is safe but it doesn't feel that way after a hit and run. More cheerfully, there's fun to be had with combining bike traffic and weather data while People for Bikes sums up the state of play on kids cycling to school.

Finally, if you have cockles of your heart ...

... prepare to have them warmed, because the summer seems to have brought out more than the usual crop of heartwarming tales, from the man who was inspired by the Proclaimers to cycle across America to win his wife back (he might want to check his geography because that's way more than 500 miles though) to doing Ride London with early onset Alzheimers - while even a wonky bag brings out the best in the Belgian public.