The Great Big Back to School Bike Blog Roundup

With apologies to viewers in Scotland, where the kids have been back in school for aaages, the return to school of most pupils cast a bit of a spotlight on children and cycling - starting with this mini-tragedy in a graph - right across the UK kids would love to cycle to school, but instead are spending ever more time in cars. But who should we blame? The CTC explains how to tackle anti-cycling policies in schools but we should also consider the infrastructure kids are facing, whether they walk or cycle, before rushing to point the finger - something Modal Mom would agree with. While Seattle is tackling this, using speed cameras to fund safety improvements, in Portland they're cracking down on dangerous driving and even the Dutch fret that children aren't cycling to school young enough and concentrate on reminding drivers of their responsibility. In Glasgow it seems easier just to blame the kids and even when announcing new legislation to protect cyclists it seems the onus is still on child cyclists to keep themselves safe, although in fairness they do also put the responsibility on adult pedestrians too.

TfL announces decent infrastructure, shock

This week was also marked by a rare outbreak of unanimity among cyclists and cycling organisatiosn as TfL's announcement of its proposed 'Crossrail for bikes' turns out to be actually worth going to the barricades to defend rather than oppose. It represents a genuine attempt to prioritise bikes - and a step away from the dreaded dual network, a major step forward, and will have knock-on benefits elsewhere in London so it mustn't be delayed or watered down even though there is likely to be resistance from the motoring lobby which is already mobilising against it - while up in Edinburgh, the city's ambitious 20mph plans need to be supported.

Non-cyclists might not believe it, but they should be supporting the bike crossrail plans - because if New York's experience is anything to go by they will likely reduce injuries for everyone, might actually reduce delays and certainly, by keeping bikes and buses apart speed up journeys for bus passengers - not to mention help meet CO2 targets. Certainly fiddling around the margins doesn't help anyone in a car-dominated city.

Back to school for designers

Away from the giddy excitement of TfL's announcement, it was back to business as usual for the average cycling project, with the Transport Research Laboratory ignoring the best of Dutch design when it comes to junctions and Glasgow City Council fiddling about with slightly wider cycle lanes while Salford's schemes won't do much for either novice or experienced cyclists. Ranty Highwayman celebrates Cycle to Work day with a look at the fairly typical UK infrastructure he encounters every day (it doesn't look as if Tokyo is all that different while Greenwich finally removes one buildout only to put another one somehwere else. wonders why we should be celebrating a two-block bike lane - but there were a few glimmers of hope with a new route in Halesworth offering a significant improvement over the previous on-road route, and plans for Ouseburn welcomed (with tweaks) by NewCycling.

Have you got a better idea?

Everyone's a critic, of course, but bloggers weren't just poking holes this week - even the Alternative Department for Transport, poker-of-holes-in-chief of the bike blog world, was suggesting how bollards rather than paint and planters could make a real, and affordable, Quietway in Southwark - because speed isn't everything, we need to reduce traffic too - while the Cycling Dutchman proposes making the centre of Barnstaple accessible to everyone for just £5 per head. Further afield, Crowize Vienna has plans to Crow-ize a junction in Vienna, a street in Copenhagen gets a virtual makeover with some ideas from the Netherlands and even America, and one resident in Portland is trying to build consensus for safer cycling on his street. And while the cyclists of Dumfries may not have found much movement on their suggestions for improving cycling in their town, all those 'sneckdowns' people were so excited about in the winter might actually be bearing fruit long after the snow has gone.


City of dreams or suburb of nightmares


Over in the United States, bike bloggers were still digesting Bicycling Magazine's somewhat surprising top 50 city rankings which seem to be rewarding innovation and ambition rather than actual cycling conditions on the ground - but does at least show how far New York has come in ten years, while it seems that Portland's drivers are finally resigned to there being all those bikes. Elsewhere, New Zealand rediscovers Christchurch's cycling past - and possibly its cycling future while a tour of Tokyo's cycling infrastructure is an eye-opener for host and guests alike.


Not that cycling is all about the cities - even as Andalusia hopes to spread the lessons of Seville to the rest of the region, other cycling cities aren't spreading the message to their hinterlands so well: Portland's suburbs arguably need cycling investment even more than the city does, while in outer New York, where cycling is so rare you might even wonder if it was illegal, bike lanes need to be available to all New Yorkers, and even those in New Jersey. The alternative is rotting suburbs and the incredible waste of sprawl that car-dominated design has delivered.

Safety by design - or enforcement?

Infrastructure improvements came just weeks too late for one cyclist in Seattle, and a fatality in the UK shows that a rumble strip is entirely inadequate protection for roads where HGVs and cyclists mix - especially once HGVs can go at 50 mph. However, the focus has also been on the legal side - including holding employers as well as drivers to account - but also trying to restrict bikes from roads where tram tracks make it all too difficult to ride safely. While New York police continue to crack down on cyclists, no such scrutiny is extended to their colleagues in California where the police response to embarassing photos of them parking in the bike lane is to try and remove the bike lane.

Us and them

But it's not just cyclists vs cops - it seemed like everyone is in conflict with everyone else this week, from the news that the Bristol to Bath Railway path is a hotbed of inexpressed seething resentment, to pressure from the sheer numbers of cyclists causing cyclists to break the rules in Amsterdam, to the drivers that complain about bikes holding them up without noticing that so does everything else. Not that we're averse to arguing amongst ourselves, either, from the cyclist's compulsion to tell other cyclists they're doing it wrong, even when they've been rear-ended when they weren't even moving, to fallings-out between campaigners. As Easy as Riding a Bike is tired of arguing like it's 1934 while Cycle Space gives this very blog roundup a bit of love washed down with a hefty dose of contrarianism. On the positive side, however, a cycle-friendly City Council suggests New York's Bikelash is over while a glow in the dark bicycle offers cyclists a chance, if not to be more visible, then a way to really freak the drivers out...

Bikes and business

Even as Britain's bike 'boom' seems increasingly like a mirage to its bike retailers, and Highland businesses are urged to shoot themselves in the foot over bike events, the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition considers what bikes really mean for business. Meanwhile Not the Morpeth Herald wonders when cyclists will enjoy the same subsidy as drivers when it comes to bike parking - but seeing as we're happier and more productive than miserable old drivers, they do need some compensation.

Meanwhile, the debate continues over whether bike share schemes should be considered as businesses or public transport worthy of subsidy because of their real environmental benefits. In China, bike share schemes have not taken off while Seattle's is threatened by the city's compulsory helmet law, but in Chicago, numbers of users are climbing and more women are signing up even if they aren't necessarily using it, perhaps not surprising when you consider that 51% of America's adult cyclists are women.

And finally


For the reluctant cyclists among you, we were torn this week, between the Dutch and their special cycling umbrellas - and this 84-year-old who has finally and definitively removed any excuses you might have for not getting on your bike.