The Great Big Alternative Reality Bike Blog Roundup

Note: This bike blog roundup is brought to you courtesy of rural broadband which more or less collapses when it rains. Unfortunately this meant I couldn't do my usual complete scan of my bike blog feeds this week so some blog posts may be missing - apologies. And a reminder that we're still looking for guest blog roundup volunteers so if you'd like to have a go - maybe with a themed roundup - then please let us know

There was something of an extra-terrestrial theme emerging this week with As Easy as Riding a Bike pointing out that, from the perspective of the UK, Utrecht looks like something from another planet, so different is its approach to designing for cycling - and even back in the car-centric dark ages bikes were still included in Dutch designs even in some 'monumental' road schemes. Elswhere, we learned it's possible to tour the solar system by bike (well, at least a model of it) - and Next St Louis likens fear of bike lanes to a fear of alien invasion - although there is a genuine fear of gentrification that may underlie some of the more overblown anxiety. Kats Dekker takes a trip to an alternative reality and fixes a local paper's story for them - while Sustrans launches a street trial kit that allows communities to explore alternative realities temporarily for themselves and campaigners in Kuala Lumpur started with a map and ended up with the beginnings of a transformation. This weekend's Parking Day allowed cities across the US to explore what could be done if the sacred cow of car parking was sacrificed - Seattle appears to have been particularly inventive. And Kidical Massive was another chance to explore an alternative reality, where childrend weren't confined to cars. Manchester took the opportunity to remove the barriers on the Fallowfield Loop to let all kinds of cargo bikes roam, Ranty Highwayman gives us a child's eye view from the bucket of a cargo bike, and it looks like a fantastic time was had by all in London and elsewhere.

London's transformation (and other good news)

Closer to home, it's London that is attracting the most attention - i bike london sums it up after returning to find the city gradually being transformed. As the first tranche of mini-Holland work is celebrated in Waltham Forest (by most, anyway - the LCC's new infrastructure campaigner will be pretty battle hardened), London Cyclist contrasts the differences and commonalities of the three boroughs' approaches, which will offer templates for other boroughs to follow - Lambeth seems to have already picked up the baton, trialling street closures in response to residents' concern over rat-running cars. Responses to the Vauxhall Bridge cycle track have been pretty positive so far while, after complaints and campaigning Tower Hamlets and TfL sort out some of the problems with the roadworks on Cycle Superhighway 3. The Wash Cycle reminds us that cycle tracks can be given and cycle tracks can be taken away - and it would certainly be better if they don't have entrances to drive thrus bringing drivers and cyclists into conflict.

Beyond That London, there was other good news with NCN 5 finally reinstated around Birmingham New Street, an upgraded canal cycle route to link Huddersfield, Brighouse and Halifax and work imminent on a path along the A10. In Canada, Toronto is on its way towards building a minimum grid for cycling with almost 40km of bike lanes planned within a year, although it's still nowhere near Montreal. Pittsburgh is getting new, wide bike lanes, while as Christchurch's latest plans for cycleways involve they seem to be getting better, not watered down, and neighbouring areas are seeing infrastructure going in too.

Let the backlash begin

Of course, as hinted above, not everyone is on board - not even in Waltham Forest where pro-car protesters used 'streets for all' slogans to fight back against road closures - to what can only have been the bemusement of the Dutch ambassador who must be wondering what sort of country he's got himself posted to. Although, it could be worse, he could be in Dublin where opposition from residents delays the Liffey cycle route yet again. In LA, an 11-year-old tells the 'whiny' adults where to get off and ends up becoming something of a reluctant poster child for campaigners, complete with a spot of backlash. As traffic backs up apparently due to road closures and narrowings, it's worth remembering that gridlock has almost always been with us while Streetfilms comes to the defence of New York's wonderful pedestrian plazas.

Politics as usual

This blog round up is being compiled at a time when the smear of riding a Mao-style bike is beginning to look somewhat tame in UK politics - or indeed the implication that Eastbourne's cycle campaign is in fact a Lib-Dem plot. But more seriously, this week MPs debated sentencing for dangerous driving as campaigners welcomed a review into how road safety is being enforced or possibly not enforced, for viewers in Scotland. As Chris Boardman points out that the obvious solution to the national crisis of air pollution deaths is more bikes, Defra would appear to agree - but mostly leaves any actions up to local authorities. How that is likely to go depends on the authority - some of them are good enough to win awards while others need to go beyond talking about 'step changes' and actually start making them. In London, Tory mayoral candidates seem reluctant to sign up to cycling pledges in case they look too like Boris - the road danger reduction forum also has some policy asks - but we'll know London is a properly cycling city when an impending mayoral election suddenly prompts the incumbent to discover a newfound enthusiasm for cycling to work. Meanwhile, as Washington DC contemplates a cycle and pedestrian safety act that would put it at the forefront of American cities, Australia is to lose a daft cycling law (no, sorry, not the helmet one).


This week saw the big Interbike cycle show in Las Vegas - Surly explains why they won't be using sex to sell bikes - Total Women's Cycling is tired of everything a pair of socks represents, but it's not just women who are badly served by a bike industry that continues to concentrate on selling aggressively athletic toys to ageing enthusiasts instead of nice, slow, liberating three-speed city bikes. Stepping beyond bike sales, the governor of Colorado knows a good investment in his state's economy when he sees it while Cumbria is counting the boost that a major cycling event provides to its economy - but bikes are also a crucial means to get around in some of the most disadvantaged parts of LA, where safety isn't just about traffic, but violence too. Tourism and leisure could be the answer to Melbourne's ailing bike share scheme but elsewhere monthly passes and community outreach are key to making sure these schemes benefit everyone. And finally, bike-friendly cafes and coffee shops everywhere can look forward to an uptick in their sales as coffeeneuring returns for its fifth year.

Lies, damned lies etc.

This week also saw the latest US Census-based survey on bike commuting with Portland (possibly) seeing a surge in numbers after a period of stagnation, Philadelphia losing ground as cities like Chicago catch up and Seattle being challenged by faster-growing rivals while Transport Providence wonders why it isn't doing better. A similar survey in Auckland prompts a detailed look behind the headlines at who really cycles and what they think about it - as in the UK you could argue it's men as much as women who don't cycle - while a new traffic free route appears to have created new cyclists not just attracted existing ones. In LA, meanwhile, there's debate over what should really be measured when we talk about 'miles of bike lanes'.

Design issues

Of course, it's quality as much as quantity that counts - and Massachusetts looks set for better quality bike routes with its new design guide complete with pervasive protected intersections, henceforth just to be known as 'intersections'. No such luck in the UK where concerns are still being raised about the quality of the designs for the Great North Road in Newcastle - and motorcyclists aren't that keen on mixing with killer whales. Still, perhaps it beats Cleveland which is putting its buffered bike lanes in backwards deliberately - perhaps in the last stand of the vehicularist cyclist ideology.

Safety first

Lest we forget why all this is important, Cargobike Mum gets a pretty poor welcome to London as a car hits her from behind. In London, Blaze Laserlights are to be trialled on Boris bikes - useful, or just another step in the visibility arms race? - while CAA wonders if reminders on wing mirrors could reduce doorings. An app to flag up nasty potholes online and in real life has the slight flaw that for it to work you have to actually go over the pothole instead of around it, while some early advice on cycling safety might still be useful today, complete with some nifty animations, although no word on how to stop yourself getting crushed by a lorry.

Travellers' tales

No blog roundup would be complete without a crop of 'UK blogger visits the Netherlands and discovers it's everything it's cracked up to be and more', with Pushbikes noting its holistic approach, although before we get too starry eyed there is still some sub-standard stuff around and it's possible to get lost despite Dutch excellent wayfinding - something Laura Laker discovered too. Orange is not the only colour, either - there's still lessons to be learned from the not brilliant infrastructure in Vienna while the Danish Cycling Embassy is of to seek inspiration from Germany and Switzerland

Bike make it better

Finally, we always like to leave on a cockle-warming high, so here are tales of kindness of strangers for one man and his rescue dog, and two Portlanders using bikes to bring peace to troubled streets in their neighbourhod. In Chile, bikes are the way to get around after an earthquake, while Imogen Petit couldn't build the Calais refugees a house but she could bring them bicycles so that's what she did. And finally, for all you singles out there, here's why cycling is better than Tindr. Enjoy!