The Great Big Who's the Cyclingest City of them All? Blog Roundup

The release this week of figures from Strava that appear to show London is the most active city for cycling (at least among people who use Strava) left some wondering if that is really the best measure of a cycling city. There were certainly other contenders - with Copenhagen's rush hour timelapse attracting a lot of attention even though it's Copenhagen's relative lack of permeability compared to Amsterdam that creates the more impressive effects, while Utrecht is another city that has been gradually transforming itself to concentrate on moving people rather than just cars. Elsewhere, Chicago might be playing with words to meet its targets but it has still managed to transform its bike network - to the point where even the anti-bike lane politicians want bike share stands in their districts now. San Francisco is heading down the Copenhagen-style raised cycle track path but Boston is hampered by being not one city but many, with very difficult attitudes to street design. And some cities just don't seem to get it at all, with Melbourne's draft bike plan considering discouraging cyclists from some streets, while Glasgow's cycling infrastructure supposedly on a route suited for anyone over ten has a way of bringing out the swears. And of course it's not just about cycling cities either: The US is set to add another 2000 miles to its goal of 50,000 miles of bike routes, while Ireland will be opening the latest link in its cross-country greenway route.

Design issues

This wouldn't be the Cycling Embassy blog roundup without some seriously detailed consideration of design issues - from the design implications for infrastructure when your bike no longer has two wheels, to the revelation that underpasses don't have to be horrible dank holes, to digging deeper into some of the underlying reasons for those design decisions that make cycling infrastructure less than perfect in the UK. Reasons or not, it's still amazing to Lewisham Cyclists that a major road junction in London can be redesigned from scratch without any safe space for cycling, while the ASL-shaped blindspota around an HGV emphasises how our approach to improving safety is all wrong in the UK, where residential access to driveways seem to prevent proper cycle tracks from being planned. In Edinburgh, the police admit that Leith Walk's new cycle lanes are effectively unenforceable while efforts to improve safety around the trams leave those who've already suffered on the tracks somewhat unimpressed. Further afield, Streets MN considers how to redesign a busy road for everyone, while Paris scratches its head over what to do about its crazy roundabouts. In many ways, the US has come a long way from when four-foot wide bike lanes were a distant dream, with Seattle upgrading its bike lanes to protected lanes and Minnesota vastly improving a bridge over a highway

Giving it a go

We love a good street trial here at the Cycling Embassy, with Lambeth the latest council to try out some bold measures to improve the streets around Loughborough Junction. Edinburgh is still digesting the results of its George Street trial; Uncle Kempez, having run out of room on the council's post-it notes gives us the rest of his thoughts. Some people are too impatient to wait for their local authorities and institute their own trials, complete with sunflowers, while Baltimore gets a grant to pop-up a bike lane properly. And as Vancouver makes plans to tear down its flyovers another city tried an incredibly cool approach to consulting over what to do with an obsolete highway...

Political mass

this week saw the first ever EU cycle summit with European transport ministers tasting the simple pleasures of a bike ride afterwards. Bikes turned out for the Conservative Party conference in Manchester - somewhat hampered by the congestion that shows how much space for cycling is needed - while Scotland gets ready for its own electoral season and the Welsh government responds to calls for Trails for Wales. Mayoral candidates in London respond to Stop Killing Cyclists' campaign pledges - could this mean a traffic-free Oxford St by 2017? Meanwhile our new infrastructure tsar is a cyclist - and at least bikes make it into the West Midlands' transport strategy - but it's not backed up by either funding or decent design standards. Further afield, councillors (and local businesses) support calls for wider pedestrianisation in Dublin but contraflo bike lane proposals get defeated by a whisker

Building leaders

It seemed quite the week for building leadership across campaigning - from the ECF describing how it has been professionalising national cycle campaigns across the region, to the White House recognising two champions of change, to Bike Pittsburgh encouraging local neighbourhoods to form cycling and walking committees. The Bike League wants to empower more women to become community leaders - although the women of Florida don't seem to need much help, and a short documentary celebrates other women leaders - perhaps for the rest it's the need to keep your make up flawless that is holding women up (coming up next: Peter Sagan's haircare tips). And it can start young, with some using youth rides to broaden the appeal of bike share among parents, while Seattle wants to build grass roots efforts to support walking and cycling to school.

Mythbusting and backlash

The Enfield mini-holland battle rumbled on with the Guardian reporting on the Battle of Green Lanes and campaigners weighing in from as far afield as Sweden. Meanwhile yet another US city discovers that sales go up if you replace parking with space for people and bikes - not that it will change anyone's mind. In Bristol, the Spectator seems to object even to being held up by bin lorries, let alone bikes, although there's an easy cure for that. The CTC had a go at tackling 10 common questions that the anti-cyclists ask, while People for Bikes does some myth-busting of its own - and Strong Towns looks at five ways engineers deflect criticism for their plans. In Birmingham a pervasive fear of bikes seems to infect even the organisers of the city's bike festival, much to its detriment, while a US city gets bullied out of plans for a road diet and pushback begins in Portland against plans to implement filtered permeability.

Law changes

On the legal side, Cambridge Cyclist suggests a simple law change that might make our roads safer - perhaps something to suggest to Californian legislators who have been busy banning tolls for foot and bike traffic and clarifying the law on e-bikes but not yet adopting a bike-yield law in San Francisco, even as the US federal authorities are planning to drop rules that currently make it harder for cities to build safe streets. And for those taking the law (or its enforcement) into their own hands, one Swedish cyclist ends up in a 10-minute standoff with a truck, while, tempting as it is, we really can't recommend this approach (if only because most drivers would have your hand off.


But let us turn to more pleasant matters, such as the startling discovery by cabbies on both sides of the Atlantic that cyclists can be customers too. Although perhaps not the most lucrative ones: Slough discovers that if you build it and then charge for it they won't necessarily come - perhaps because they're all too busy calculating the costs and benefits of bikes vs. cars for daily travel or going on holiday (although if your holiday involved Oktoberfest, maybe leave both the car and the bikes at home). All this cheapskatery might have a downside - as fuel prices fall again, Americans appear to be falling back in love with the car but at least Bristolians can now send their post fossil-fuel free, as long as it's not going further than Bath.

Bike make it better

The good news doesn't stop there, with yet more stories of bikes making things better (on top of a widely circulated photo warning about what happens when Beijing's 10 million bicycles get swapped for cars). Researchers in Pittsburgh found that closing streets to cars but opening them to everyone else cut pollution to a quarter of its normal level - showing just how much some anti-open streets scare tactics miss the mark. More protected bike lanes in New York would beneft everyone. And could bikes be the answer to India's rural power needs? Or just a means for a fire-devastated community to get around...