The Great Big Alternative Facts Bike Blog Roundup

Events may soon overtake us again, but this week seemed to be the one for #alternativefacts, with Magnatom getting into the spirit by looking at the chaos caused by bike lanes on Bears Way. But why stop there - this week brought plenty more with a reminder that it's red-light jumping and pavement cycling cyclists who pose the real danger to pedestrians, while listening to loud music on headphones while cycling is the real danger to cyclists themselves - well that and the tractors and combine harvesters apparently causing havoc in central London. In Ireland the Irish AA tried blaming breathing for climate change (but expanding Heathrow will be okay as long as everyone cycles there) while clearly 20mph limits would be a war on the hard pressed motorist, even those who actually support them. In America, objectors to road diets claim that they bring more traffic and make the roads less safe, despite some #actualfacts showing that they do the complete opposite in Oakland - but obviously soaring cyclist and pedestrian death rates have nothing to do with the people responsible for the streets, even when they're planning to widen them. Bikes are fine, but they're slow, impractical and inconvenient compared with other forms of transport - and there's nothing irrational about objecting to events that bring visitors and money into your area, as long as you're the New Forest national park.

Improvements by design

Amidst the gloom and doom, it's worth remembering how far things have come with some 15-year-old footage of cycling in New York showing what improvements have been made. And the new Highways England design guide contains some good junction design recommendations but they are still one of the weaker elements - and as Dublin's Clontarf route plans show designs don't always meet the guidelines. Similarly, in Minneapolis, good Complete Streets policies don't always translate in practice while in California they are still working out what such a policy should cover. Still, campaigners often step in to fill the breach with Norwich Cycling Campaingn considering how to improve a local junction and Cargobike Dad proposing Belfast take a lane from the M3 slip road if it wants to show it's serious about cycling. A consultation event for Glasgow's Byres Road may be an opportunity to make a similar contribution - while debate has been raging for months over how to make cycling and walking safer along a highway in East Portland. It matters, because otherwise we may end up with an incomplete and compromised shared use path - or a painted bike lane that is effectively free parking, or indeed a cycle hub that opens by mistake and then has to be closed again while someone makes a sign.

Build bridges (and bike routes) not walls

In the Netherlands, Bicycle Dutch looks at a new bike bridge that joins two villages severed by a canal in the 19th century - and provides a route away from a road that's now a motorway in all but name, while Delaware has also started work on closing a gap in its biggest bike project while in Kerry plans for a greenway are suffering delays but still in the works. Studies suggest a bridge in San Francisco would be useful and widely used for cycling - but is China's first aeral bikeway actually a case of asking the wrong question of our cities? Perhaps we should be looking at tearing down urban motorways instead. And finally, whatever a 'smart cycling corridor' is, the Isle of Wight hopes it will get people cycling.

Going underground

With a cycling and walking 'peopleway' the only hope for Brooklyn when its subway line is closed should bike route maps look more like tube maps? Or are they more effective for showing up the gaps in the existing bike network? Either way, public transport schemes like light rail shouldn't come at the expense of existing cycle routes but could be an opportunity to upgrade them

Let's all move to ...

Impending Brexit may have limited our options of moving to somewhere a little more cycle friendly, but for those with the right passport, there are still options - like Norway where Oslo is subsidising its residents to buy e-cargo bikes to get them out of their cars and their head of cycling policy can look back on the progress the city has made so far. In France, the newly formed bike industry association also seems quite focused on subsidies and tax breaks over investment in infrastructure but Bordeaux has just approved a €70m bike plan. And if you can ignore the orange one, there's always Portland which has just got an extra $10m to spend on cycling and walking while 4% of Santa Clara's transport tax money will go on cycling and walking. On the other hand, if you need to make a quick escape to Canada, then New York might be a better option with the Empire State Trail to stretch from New York City all the way to the border.

Such sums can sometimes look impressive, but in urbanism as in cycling infrastructure, small, cheap, temporary interventions can often help to kickstart permanent change - as Los Angeles must be hoping with it's great streets challenge. And as Ranty Highwayman points out, it often costs no more to do things right as it does to do them wrong - but it can make a huge difference to usability.

Not all politicians...

This week, Belfast's Fred awards celebrated a couple of politicians behind the province's recent progress, albeit under threat by its snap elections, while New South Wales's new premier might be an opportinity for a new start on cycling and a candidate for Seattle's mayor opens his campaign with a cargo bike full of tamales. In Westminster MPs hear about how the road justice system too often fails cyclists and their families (they might also want to look at prosecution rates in Bristol) while a Colorado Stat Senator wants to allow cyclists to (carefully) run red lights and stop signs. However, others seem to be channeling the new zeitgeist with Naas's former mayor who resigned amid a racism row coming out against bike lanes (although in this particular case he may have a point) and Labour in West Ham calling for cyclists to be obliged to use cycle lanes.

Looking wider, however, it could be that Trump could actually increase investment in cycling infrastructure (alongside more roads of course) but Rhode Island's senator won't be standing up to Trump on climate change and the threat to cut federal funding to Sanctuary Cities could have a knock on effect on places like Seattle's greenway programme. Perhaps the best approach is not just to call for divestment in things like oil pipelines but to simply use less oil ... fortunately the bike has got that one covered.

Campaigning news

For those wanting to change things, cycling groups in the West Midlands are gearing up for the mayoral elections there, Walk Cycle Vote has advice for those who want to run a council candidates' bike ride and if all else fails, you can protest: join the die in outside the treasury on Saturday in London.


. It may be an old fashioned approach in this post-fact world but a new book makes the case for bikes to save the world while, with the death of a cyclist in Seattle reminding us that providing safe streets for everyone isn't gentrification, it's essential, a new guide can help policy makers in America to turn vision zero into policy action. For some, it's seeing changes on the ground that make the real difference - so it's good news that New York may see more car-free streets for this year's Earth Day.


Bike make it better

Whether or not cycling can save the world, it can do a lot. This week saw Kingston GPs able to prescribe cycling lessons to patients while in the US there are pilots prescribing bike share membership as well. In Manchester, job seekers are being offered free bikes to get them back to work while new immigrants to Canada have been exploring Toronto by bike and their images are bringing a fresh perspective to those who live there. It's unsurprising that yet again cycling is the fastest way to commute into Cardiff, although more should be done to make the bus faster, as well as in London even if you inexplicably avoid the Cycle Superhighways. And if push comes to shove bikes help to win wars, albeit more as logistical support than as mobile shock troops.

Cycling for all

It's a well-known alternative fact that cycling is just for fit young men, so let's celebrate the fact that Play on Pedals has done more than just get 7000 4-year-olds onto bikes - it's pointed up the barriers beyond just being able to pedal in a straight line, for infrastructure is needed just as much as cycle training. Cycling with kids does present some challenges - and the LCC is looking for cycling families to help them research what they are, while School Run Stories is popping up again this year to show what active travel to school is really like; no wonder cycling largely remains a leisure activity in England. Meanwhile for those that need a bit more of a helping hand, could this be the answer to turning any bike into an e-bike?

Winter cycling

Another common alternative fact is that cycling is fine for the summer, but there's no way you'd get 200 people turning out on a 'coldest day of the year' ride in Canada - or even just on regular winter days - and while it's a little flattering to be thought of as brave that's the sort of narrative that keeps that particular myth going. Well, that an a lack of gritting: in Portland, winter maintenance plans still don't include the greenway routes but actually it can feel pretty good to just head out and sweep your own bike lanes.

A cultural thing?

While there's no real cultural difference that keeps Brits from cycling when the conditions are right, could it be that different ideas of what is dangerous help to feed into our fears - in America, certainly, there are much greater fears around cycling with babies and children than even in the UK. In Slovakia attitudes are changing around drinking and cycling while even in Denmark, when the talk turns to helmets, rationality goes out the window. We can't rely on driverless cars to save us - it turns out they're all smidsys too although at least the temptation to succumb to road rage will be lower on both sides. Some positive steps have been take to address the real problems though - with HGVs removed from what was supposed to be a quiet rural cycling route and Spain to reduce speed limits at peak cycling times on busy cycling routes, in a bid to bring back the 'Sunday driver'.

And finally

Sometimes you may wonder why we put such an emphasis on bike blogging - but it can lead to real changes. Be inspired (or possibly warned) by Sam Ollinger's story of how what started as a bike blog became a force for change in San Diego