The Great Big Education, Education, Education Bike Blog Roundup

In a quiet week, there was no question what the big bike blog story was in the UK this week - Chris Boardman reminding drivers about the highway code and specifically how to pass cyclists - something which even a motoring website thinks should be a public information film and something which Magnatom hopes someone in Asda will have a look at. Elsewhere, in the wake of (apparent) victim blaming comments, experts point out that it's the lorries not the women that are the problem in London - although a fall in cyclists casualty rates might at least be down to HGV drivers' greater awareness of bikes around them. Certainly San Francisco cyclists hope that educating tow truck drivers will help their safety - while elsewhere it's about educating drivers (and those responsible for enforcement) about the importance of keeping bike lanes clear that's a priority. Either way, the public don't need to be told that cycling itself isn't dangerous - they're well aware that it's mixing with traffic that makes it feel so risky

Not lost in translation

No question about the biggest story of the week across the Atlantic, either - Davis, California built a protected intersection with the help of a Dutch consultancy and nobody died - in fact, apart from a stray turn lane, Getting Around Sacramento found it all works quite well while Streetsblog talks to the people behind the project about how it came about. In Minneapolis, it would go down better than undecipherable paint on the road, anyway. And here in the UK it turns out we've been able to do simultaneous greens since about 1979, so what are we waiting for? Should we be using Parking Day to trial a few changes on our streets of our own to see how they work? It seems to be working for this temporary pedestrian plaza in New York.

Cycle campaigners are often, rightly, sceptical of paint on the road but when it's clarifying who goes where and making a Portland street the best for biking in the city it does have some benefits (and so too, perhaps, might some paint on the walls: a mural highlighting traffic justice in New York). Portland's paint is part of a traffic-free bridge scheme that drew tens of thousands to try it out the first chance they could get - while cyclists are already flocking to Chicago's latest kerb-protected lane before it's even been completed - it will be interesting to see if Newcastle's John Dobson street has a similar effect once it nears completion. Not everything was good news on the infrastructure front though - a new cut through in Manchester seems to have got a bit lost in translation, while in Richmond a crossing will only be made usable if there's evidence of demand (disabled people count double) and even in Portland it seems cyclists can only have a crossing if they give up a nearby bike lane. And even when they are built, new projects do need be maintained not apparently immediately forgotten as in LA.

Fear & loathing

Anyone who's been involved in cycle campaigning is probably used to controversy - but to an outsider the evangelical certainty on both sides of the argument is very offputting - no wonder people don't want to turn up to public consultations - even in streets which already see a lot of cyclists the rhetoric can get a bit heated but we do need to remember that there's no intrinsic conflict between cyclists and pedestrians as long as everyone has enough room. Unfortunately, businesses do still lobby against protected lanes (rightly or wrongly) while fear of loss of parking is delaying a contraflow scheme in Bath. One way to counter opposition might be to avoid vague jargon nobody really understands - or try providing hard data such as parking counts to overcome blanket opposition - and scepticism - from those against; you'll know you have won the argument when you start getting proposed bike-thru windows on a retail development.

Sometimes the conflict is internal, though - fear of e-bikes is based on a narrow definition of cyclists and cycling - and there's no excuse for this sort of abuse from anyone let alone a fellow cyclist. On the other hand, sometimes an encounter with a driver can be a bit of a joy (and I'm glad I'm not the only one doing Voeckler impressions when climbing up a hill).

History lessons

Streets.MN suggested this week that cities work through five stages of roadspace repurposing, from denial to acceptance - and we had some examples of changes through time, including images of forty years of infrastructure improvement along one route in the Netherlands. But it wasn't just Dutch cities that started making changes in the 70s - Erlangen in Germany also started building its cycle network then (unfortunately it then stopped in 1980) while a Minnesota suburb started building bike and pedestrian infrastructure back in 1980 - even if it had to pay for it through recycling cans, showing that crowdfunding cycling infrastructure is nothing new in the US (and perhaps it may come to that to keep a key bridge open on the NCN network which Network Rail is charging the council £30,000 a year to access). Somewhat slower off the mark, Indianapolis is undoing 20 years of lack of investment in sidewalks, while an Alabama town is using bike tours to bring its own history to life. Even in Denmark, looking back just 25 years shows how cycling rates to school have fallen - perhaps e-bikes might be the boost they need?

Plan to fail

Or perhaps a plan - like Dublin's new traffic plan which has people up in arms, even though it's the sort of thing it needs to retain and attract companies like Google. Part of the fuss has been driven by a survey of shoppers which only surveyed those who had come in to shop specifically thus excluding those who might benefit the most from the planned changes. Meanwhile Los Angeles' new transport plan might finally put an end to its car domination - although it's worth remembering that it's not the plans but the execution that counts in the end. Some plans are best left on the shelf - such as Southwark's plans for Camberwell Green which could be so much better, while Ipswich's plans could do with some additional guidance on design. And plans can change - as usage of Tavistock Place grows, Camden are planning to reallocate roadspace in better proportion to actual usage - while one city in California might be regretting its decision to reject plans for traffic calming.

The view from elsewhere

Summer travels mean more views from elsewhere - although first up is a warning that studies that fail to take into account infrastructure and cycling levels may end up misleading - perhaps better to attend Amsterdam's summer school and learn from the real experts (or maybe just get a backie from a local). Certainly Amsterdam and Copenhagen have lessons from Delaware, and even LA has lessons for Portland although Berlin doesn't have many lessons for Odense. Dublin's bike lanes and HGV ban make for much easier cycling than in the UK, even with kids, while getting lots in Paris is an excellent way to see if the city's network really works, even outside the city centre. The Netherlands is the perfect place for a beginner's cycle tour while New Zealand might be the best place for cycle touring full stop but sometimes what you learn on tour is that there's no place like home - even if home is Bath, and despite the best efforts of the council. And sometimes the best companions for your tour are the local politicians and officials responsible for your local cycling infrastructure.

Turning tragedy into change

One of the big trends in recent times has been the spread of Vision Zero in the US - driven to a large extent by families turning grief into action to fight for safer streets - although sometimes crackdowns on traffic violations can end up increasing conflict, if it's done in the wrong way. In LA, data on casualties are being used to identify the junctions which most need changes, but in San Francisco, changes to make a street safer after a hit and run have met with five years of delays. In Surrey, a missing bike deepens the mystery of one cyclist's death, but if drivers won't even slow down for bears what hope do mere cyclists have?

We fought the law

Paris's decision to allow cyclists to turn right on red at some junctions continues to attract comment with the Green Party wanting to see similar changes in the UK while in Toronto it's the Idaho Stop that cyclists want. Whatever the pros and cons, red-light-jumping cyclists are just red herrings (presumably if they're going the wrong way up the street they're red salmons...) when you look at the real problems - such as proposed laws banning bike lanes on busy roads in North Carolina, or blocking slower speeds on streets that need them most in Minnesota - and, of course, Australia's helmet law which has done more harm than good. Here in the UK it would help if those tasked with promoting cycling knew what the law was (in case you're wondering here's a handy guide).

Unexpected benefits

Better to concentrate on the benefits - sometimes unexpected - of a life in cycling. Such as outpacing a car if you're on a sufficiently tiny rural road or heading to a popular festival. And then there are the benefits to others, such as bringing education and empowerment to developing countries, offering mobility to everyone not just six-foot blondes, spotting and saving a motorist trapped in her car and just getting yourself out from under your spouse's feet. Even local authorities might save a bit of money if they switched to cargo bikes for their trail maintenance (if the City of Edinburgh wants to try it they can always hire one out to have a go) but however beneficial your bike journey has been, don't undo all that hard work by chaining it to a tree. The trees don't like it, and bike thieves might have axes...

And finally

If lumberjack bike thieves don't quite tickle the imagination, spare a thought for Kentucky's hard-pressed motorists suffering under the onslaught of 10,000 rampant Amish on bicycles bringing the state to a halt.