The Great Big Hooray for London (and Luxembourg) Bike Blog Roundup

Where London leads ...

With London's emerging segregated cycle network beginning to open for business, to mostly rave reviews, Cyclists in the City wonders whether it isn't time to give Boris some love over what he's done for cycling if nothing else, following Green Jenny Jones's lead. After all, the backlash continues with one radio station claiming 40% of cyclists aren't using the Vauxhall superhighway (based on the superior surveying method of sending a reporter out to have a look over lunchtime) and the mayoral candidates so far would appear to be a major backwards step. Nor was it just the 'superhighways', with plans announced for the City's dangerous Bank junction to go car-free - something even Dave Hill approves of although he can't resist a little sideswipe at cyclists just for old times' sake. And while the Quietways have not been met with unalloyed enthusiasm thus far, it seems that Quietway 5 should be welcomed overall, with the usual caveats, although some parts of the proposed Quietway 7 offer no improvement for cycling at all.

...Luxembourg follows?

Not that London was the only place making progress this week - Luxembourg has ambitious plans (and funding) for the creation of a national bike network, while in New Zealand every week seems to bring a new consultation over a major bike way in Christchurch, while Auckland plans an interim cycle track in double-quick time (although it can still design an multi-million dollar intersection with no provision for cycling at all). In Ireland cycling features heavily in Dublin's city centre plans - although in Basel voters have turned down a city plan for better cycling, walking and public transport. Even in the UK, Bristol's Cycle City Ambition plans feature an east-west and north-south route, 'quietways' and mini-holland style 'traffic cells' which might all seem a bit familiar - while in Cambridge a councillor complains that the city's Poynton-style shared space double roundabout isn't ambitious enough - and proposes banning all but essential vehicles instead.

However, sometimes even London isn't following London's lead - with the Silvertown Tunnel plans likely to be bad news for cycling, bikes ignored in plans to improve Twickenham, and Lambeth's Loughborough road closure trial ending after three months despite showing it had increased walking and cycling in the area.

Priorities, please?

Another area where London might be taking the lead has been the rush-hour lorry ban which Boris has pledged to have a look at - if only to cut congestion - even if his cycling commissioner considers it a distraction from building safer infrastructure. So what should our policy priorities be? The MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group support the CTC's call for more funding for cycling while two-thirds of MPs surveyed by Sustrans would support more funding for cycling (Boris, however, won't commit to a specific sum). Looking more broadly, Kennington People on Bikes considers future transport in London in words and pictures even politicians can understand while Cycle Boom hopes to understand what policy measures would support older people cycling longer.

Design matters

Here at the Cycling Embassy, of course, we think design is key - and lumping cyclists onto the footpath helps neither cyclists nor pedestrians and nor does providing no convenient non-pedestrianised route - we need 'roads for bikes'; Ranty Highwayman has recently built just the thing with a detailed look at what goes into creating one - now we need to start making them as routine as this five-year-old stretch of a route in Utrecht. Elsewhere, Great Gas Beetle uses the London Cycle Design Standards audit tool to show just how bad for cycling one junction is - it would be interesting to see what this cycle lane in Manchester, which seems to bring bikes in direct conflict with buses, would score. In the US, Massachusetts' new bikeway design guide would appear to be a good thing, while Pittsburgh experiments with a 'merge lane' to get bikes on and off a two-way protected cycle lane, Chicago's raised bike lane is almost ready to ride and Seattle is to tackle a large junction to make it usable for all. Some question whether complete streets are really the answer, or tend to confuse 'movement' and 'place' while it turns out that zig zags on the approach to a zebra do serve to slow down drivers, even once they've got use to them being there.

Campaigning coal face

Meanwhile, campaigners - national and local alike - plug away: taking a local councillor out on a bike to look at the details that make cycling difficult, responding to consultations on Glasgow's Victoria Road, or pressing for bike parking to be included in local development plans and a bike network to be included in Sheffield's plans to become an 'outdoor city'. Sometimes it works - a key cycle route (albeit on a bus lane) is to be retained in Cardiff, a contraflow bike lane is protected by bollards in Birmingham and a dark path might finally get some lighting although it would generally be easier if these things didn't take years of lobbying. In Edinburgh, street closures outside primary schools may need more enforcement as they bed in (while in Minnesota even getting a state highway that runs past three schools slowed down to 30mph seems to be a struggle). Further afield, Vehicle for a Small Planet looks at how Boulder's protected bike lane fell foul of internal local politics.

Remembrance - or polarisation

Vision Zero campaigns seem to have given the annual World Day of Remembrance new impetus in the states, with hundreds turning out in New York and the mayor pledging to take policy further while in San Francisco, officials are starting to see that fatalities are preventable not just one of those things. In Portland an army of ghosts marked Portland's traffic victims and were promptly removed by officials 'on safety grounds'. Meanwhile Stop Killing Cyclists are planning London's third annual mass die-in on November 27th.

Despite the importance of what's at stake, the debate around cycling in the UK seems to have become polarised and personal with the Bears Way cycle route consultation the latest to attract unreasonable levels of ire - even from people responding in person, not hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. While it may be possible to divide and rule the motoring lobby if we consider where there are common interests - understanding that drivers, like undiagnosed diabetics don't realise that what they crave is killing them - to be honest, it's more the cycling lobby that's at risk of being divided. We need to treat vehicular cyclists as misguided souls rather than butting heads with them all the time, and not get too hung up on the politics of cycle clothing. It might be that we're just riding the wrong kinds of bikes at least in London - but then again, switching to a nice upright bike seems to bring more close passes than on a road bike even in Cambridge. Sustrans finds that moving away from a 'decide > announce > defend' model helps bring about successful change, while after bringing together academics and activists Kats Dekker learns that we need to break our campaigns down to bite-size chunks to help everyone understand what we're talking about.

Who ya gonna call? Mythbusters!

Some of this might mean chipping away at the myths that emerge whenever change is proposed: Cycling Christchurch has handily packaged up all those studies into the benefits of bikes to businesses to defend the city's latest cycle track plans, while Sustrans' Bike Life survey of Bristol quantifies the benefit to the city's economy. Orange 20 Bikes just goes ahead and does all the impossible things that the critics say you can't do on a bike - while Bike San Diego looks at some of those cycling in the city and finds they're very far away from the white, male middle class stereotype. In some places, you might even find yourself attending a bike-borne job interview. And with 'Black Friday' looming, Urban Alberquerque will be looking to see if all those giant car parks are really needed on the busiest retail day of the year, while for those who #optoutside, you can get free parking in California's State Parks ...


Every week there seems to be a story about a driver being treated leniently - such as a fine and community service for a driver who deliberately drove at a cyclist in a rage for not using a cycle path - while the police seem to concentrate on cracking down on cyclists even as it's drivers who are mainly breaking the law. At least this week saw a road haulage firm lose its operating licence after putting profits over safety, even if it did take two years. Elsewhere, there were reports that Irish cyclists might face fines for cycling with headphones - or then again, maybe they won't. In Germany, pedestrians might get the right to cross against the red light without facing a fine, while here in the UK, MPs are urged to support the pavement parking bill. In Italy, a town finds a good use for traffic fines - bribing people to cycle to work - while Pedal Parity wonders if the Sound of Music requires an R rating in Australia ...

Data matters

This week the Incidental Cyclist considered whether to Strava or not to Strava as a way of making sure the data given to her city reflects utility cycling as well as the sporty kind. As cyclists in Toronto take to Twitter to try and crowdsource data on all those near misses, discussions at the POLIS conference underlined how important it is to get the right measure of exposure when calculating the risk of cycling. As the Dutch national bike counting week revealed some interesting variations between cities, Cambridge has seen cycling rising and traffic falling over the past decade, while in Australia, Victoria's Parkiteer station parking programme has seen steady growth. But perhaps the data we really need is not on existing cyclists but on drivers who might be persuadable based on the journeys they undertake.

Bike make it better

With the Paris conference on climate change looming, fairer funding for cycling is needed to help tackle climate change; calls backed up by a report that more cycling could cut global carbon emissions from transport by 11% but we're all a long way away from reaching the mode share that would make that a reality. However, at least open streets events can do something to make American cities less divided - and bike tours are helping to connect Atlanta to its past and advocate for a better future.

Meanwhile, back in reality

And finally, with all the excitement of new infrastructure in a few places, it's sometimes important to have a little corrective by reminding ourselves what cycling can be like in the here and now. BikeGob captures the conflict we all feel encouraging people to cycle in a city like Glasgow - it would be nice not to have to put 'I might die' on the 'cons' list of your choice of transport. Not just in Glasgow either - in Minnesota, winter cycling can mean the choice of facing an unlit greenway or a dangerous road, neither very welcoming. In New York, a journalist discovers the joys and terrors of cycling in the Big Apple - still not for the faint hearted, especially over cobbles. And nor will technology save us: laser 'bike lanes' prove a nice conversation starter with other cyclists but are unlikely to even be noticed from a car. Which means we just have to keep on campaigning for the real thing...


"this five-year-old stretch (link is external) of a route in Utrecht" - not in Utrecht, but in 's-Hertogenbosch.