The Great Big Vote Early and Vote Often Bike Blog Roundup

With the last few days of the election campaign looming, it's no surprise that attempts to marshall the cycling vote have dominated the week. In London, Sadiq Khan became the first of the front runners to Sign for Cycling, followed by Zac Goldsmith and George Galloway - so with most of them signed up how do the candidates stack up now? The Times' transport hustings may have helped; Enfield Cycling was there and wondered of Zac will have the backbone to lead despite noisy opposition - while Save Our Cyclists reminds voters not to forget about the London Assembly elections which are equally important.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland the Election Cycle had done an amazing job of putting cycling high on the agenda with 94% of assembly candidates who have responded supporting increased funding for cycling - NI Cycles looks at where the money might come from if they come good - while Bikefast reminds us that cycle revolution or no cycle revolution it still takes two years for a single crossing to be installed in Belfast, just in time for it not to be needed as much any more.

Meanwhile, for viewers in Scotland, We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote sums up the state of play in the Guardian and then crunches the numbers and draws some graphs with updated figures. Spokes has some advice on how to make the most of the Scottish electoral system - while HankChief is discovering that whatever party policy may be, all politics is local when it comes to the crunch. One of the things which has been instrumental in putting cycling high on the political agenda in Scotland has been Pedal on Parliament, which enjoyed a record turnout again this year and saw politicians vying to woo the cycling vote. Groups like Friends of Bears Way were happy to be there, alongside feeder rides from primary schools - in fact the strength of POP is that everyone is welcome, and that includes the roadies in lycra too.

And there are local elections elsewhere in the UK too - Bristol Cycle Campaign considers the city's mayoral candidates and Southampton Cycle Campaign have been surveying their local election candidates, while NewCycling and CycleSheffield have been writing to the parties. And even in LA they are 'biking the vote' for the California legislature.

Politics matters

As a reminder of why all this matters - you only just have to look at how policies can affect cycling, from the fact that Boston would like to set 20mph speed limits but state law prevents it, to the way that what gets measured, gets managed, and at the moment cycling and walking isn't a priority in the US. Meanwhile Australian cyclists can now retreat to the pavement at least - except in states like New South Wales where tough new fines are causing some to give up altogether, while the road culture in Sydney has become unforgving even for the most experience riders.

Investing in cycling

What all of these campaigns have in common is a call for more investment in cycling - right now if you take London out of the equation, the funding per head in England is set to fall to just 72p per head - a derisory amount according to the shadow transport minister. Even in London, an extra £100m in cycling won't go very far, but a lot futher than if you spend it on any other kind of transport infrastructure - in fact in some circumstances it can be cheaper to build roads with decent cycling infrastructure on them than without (and when it comes to electric power - why not subsidise the e-mobility tool that works instead of trying to bribe people into buying electric cars?).

Elsewhere New Zealand is increasing funding for urban cycling, Cape Town is the latest city to announce an ambitious plan for cycling with 160 km of routes and Kampala is leapfrogging in to the 21st century by recognising the importance of cycling as a means of transport for everyone, not just the poor. Unfortunately, Seattle, having promised much now looks set to take a backwards step on its plans while Westport, Ireland's cycling town, could do a lot more to overcome barriers to cycling (including, yes, hills) - while a vision for Portland could take filtered permeability to its logical extreme.

An image thing

As the House of Lords breaks out the bingo cards to debate cycling, is there any way of overcoming the prejudice against cyclists or is segregated infrastructure the only thing we should be campaigning for? Cyclists may well be damned whatever they wear but there are problems with the way cycling is portrayed which don't help; the baggage local officials carry may be too heavy for them to overcome, while local politicians hear the message that cyclists are a breed apart. Yet, if we set aside the language of 'battle' and 'blame' we might find that there's more that unites us than divides us - such as cabbies and cyclists both wanting to breathe clean air and drivers really not wanting to hit cyclists due to poor road design. In Philadelphia, campaigners are getting their biggest critic onto a bike while Booklyn Spoke has some ideas to make events like New York's Car Free Day more effective at reaching a wider audience while it's also important to make sure campaigners can speak for everyone with more than just token representation.

None of which will stop the hardened antis, of course, who will continue to claim that bike lanes cause pollution, and congestion and chaos (except when they don't...). Really what they're doing is defending their own privileges, like the nice perk of free Central London parking and as a result, in Dublin anyway, scuppering plans that would have benefited everyone.

Won't anyone think of the children?

Concentrating on children's needs can be an effective tactic - and even in London the reality of cycling with children is far from rosy. In fact, as the school run stories have made clear, it's a problem nationwide from a parade of barriers and chicanes in Edinburgh to a a gauntlet of badly parked cars in London. Schemes like Playing Out aren't cycling schemes as such but they take back the streets for kids (and adults) - and certainly beat the hell out of teaching them to 'walk defensively' and using graphic images to scare them into wearing a helmet (or just staying home with the games console).

Or everyone else ...

Not that it's just children that will benefit - cycling can be a real boon for those with disabilities, and sometimes older riders need a little encouragement (and a cafe stop) to encourage them to cycle - but as one of Indianapolis's biggest bike share users shows it can be transformative, even into your seventies.

Build it right ...

London's new superhighways continue to attract attention with before and after images making it clear what a transformation has been wrought although London's not the only city seeing dramatic (if local) change - Ottawa has seeen a lot of changes in five years, while New York's Pulaski bridge bikeway is a huge improvement on what theere was before. Of course, what London calls a superhighway is what the Dutch would call a fairly bog standard bike route - we don't need to pilot these sort of things, just roll out what's known to work

... or not at all?

As The Invisible Visible Man points out, half-hearted infrastructure that doesn't take space from cars leaves cyclists damned if they do, damned if they don't - but what percentage of hearted do we need before something is better than nothing? Quietway 1 is about 80-90% there although it would be better if the Millwall cycle path - 20 years coming - wasn't part time to keep rival football fans apart. The problem is that designing things in isolation might make things worse for some groups, if there's no consideration for the wider picture. Corporation Street bike lanes in Birmingham have local cyclists baffled but were an honest but flawed attempt to keep cyclists safe around tram tracks - while Nottingham's door zone bike lanes get a little guerrilla paint (Auckland is trying raising them instead). Leigh's guided busway path seems to have been designed with horses rather than bikes in mind, while Glasgow's miles of cycle infrastructure turn out on inspection to have been designed with buses in mind, as they are in fact just bus lanes. And there's no amount of paint or signs that will make a cycle path across a motorway sliproad somewhere you can ride a bike with your family.

Beyond commuting

As Strava launches its Global Bike to Work day, Modal Mom argues that cycle to work campaigns largely miss the point - or loads of potential trips although if you do look at commuters e-bike loads can be an effective way of switching people out of cars. Congestion at big events can encourage cycling but Christchurch isn't keeping up with the demand for bike parking that results. Spacing in Canada makes the business case for shops and businesses, while the Cargobike Festival aims to make cities more efficient for everyone by taking delivery vans off the streets - while a pilot car free scenic route in San Francisco will certainly encourage tourism.

Any questions?

Sometimes, campaigning can just be about answering the unanswerable questions - like is there really no space for cycling in Carshalton? What did Lancashire's Local Sustainable Transport Fund get spent on? Why would you mess about with little pockets of 20mph roads when you could do the whole city? Why might a councillor support Vision Zero but vote down a cycle track? And, most important of all is it really too rainy in Belfast to cycle?

Crossing borders

A bike blog roundup wouldn't be a roundup without the usual crop of aspirational Dutch infrastructure - with Utrecht under the microscope by the not-completely-impartial Bicycle Dutch (you can see all his Cycling City of the Netherlands videos in one place here) - or indeed a visiting transport official being blown away by cycling in Denmark but more unusually this week we have a Dutch view of cycling in Seattle (spoiler alert - it was terrifying). And disappointingly, one of the international cycling good news stories of recent years has ht the roadblocks as the Afghanistan women's cycling team is scuppered by corruption and mismanagement; rumours that Shane Sutton is heading out to finish them off for good appear entirely unfounded...

And finally

We all know that no time spent on a bike is entirely wasted - but scientists have now proved that riding your bike somewhere takes you no time at all, statistically speaking. We're all for that!