The Great Big Business as Unusual Bike Blog Roundup

This was a slightly confusing week in which a car insurance firm got all excited about carless cities and Business Insider was posting its tips for cycling in New York (yes, they're a bit lame, but the fact that they're even in there is a start) and the US list of bicycle friendly businesses grew ever longer, triggering what might be the year's most unlikely inter-city rivalry, even if some car firms haven't quite got the memo yet. So it seemed fitting to showcase a whole website dedicated to supporting cycling infrastructure in London - rather than picking out individual posts. Go and have a browse and if you're London based and your own employer isn't on there perhaps you should encourage them to join it.

Cycle Superhighway battle rumbles on

The context, of course, is the proposed 'Crossrail for bikes' and the opposition to it, including a large developer and the Evening Standard which seems determined to put the worst possible spin on every story about it, ignoring the real benefits to pedestrians (even though Living Streets has given its qualified support). Far from being pushed through, given cycling deaths, the plans can't be implemented quickly enough - but meanwhile other cycle superhighway plans are being quietly dropped or delayed, although CS2 will be getting a semi-segregated upgrade and not before time (for anyone who's having difficulty keeping all the various plans straight in their heads Two Wheels Good has a useful roundup).

The London Cycle Campaign points out that, far from causing gridlock, the plans are essential to keep London moving - an unintentional experiment in Glasgow suggests it might even benefit all road users - but we do ned to make sure that we reclaim that term from the motoring lobby and not follow the US down the road of a single metric of traffic throughput which trumps all else.

Politics as unusual too?

Last week we were all about the bikelash, but the CTC argue that the UK might just be at a political turning point, while across the pond cycling organisations are looking at mobilising the bike vote, perhaps in recognition that bike planning needs to be political. Certainly if Chris Boardman has anything to do with it we might be - as he asks for action not words (or as Gil Penalosa says don't let them get away with saying 'oh I love bikes'). For those of us without speaker's passes, bike rallies at the conferences will be encouraging all parties to sign up to Space for Cycling (while in Newcastle the civic cycle ride celebrates the councillors who already have). Further afield, the US Department of Transport now seems to get it, the Mayor of Pittsburgh really gets it, and even MEPs are starting to consider cycling - it seems only the Dutch government is out of step, cancelling its own bike to work scheme. Oh, and Eric Pickles and his parking consultation which really should be withdrawn due to the total lack of evidence, although John Dales responds anyway

Meanwhile, in a local authority near you

Turning point or no turning point, there's nothing like contact with local politics to bring you back to earth, however. Mr Happy Cyclist puts Manchester's cycling ambition into perspective, while an Oxford councillor argues that adding cycle lanes might increase traffic speeds. Bath council is designing for confident cyclists not Amelie, and Richmond's plans for the A308 won't do much for cycling. Suffolk County Council forgets to put any actual strategy into its cycling strategy so Cycle Ipswich tries to fill the gap. In Glasgow, it seems quite reasonable to direct cyclists down a flight of stairs - where do they think they are, Copenhagen? A UKIP candidate is busy astroturfing against 20mph limits while Belfast's plan needs more ambition, although at least Edinburgh can report a solid success. Leeds misses a huge opportunity to improve things for cycling while Hackney offers cyclists nothing on one of the busiest bike routes into the centre of London. The New Forest spends its cycling money on schemes that will largely benefit the private car, in a rush to get it spent before it's gone. But don't be too hard on the poor old council staff - Ranty Highwayman gives us the reality of council life from the other side of the fence.

And further afield

Not that lack of ambition is confined to the UK: we shouldn't be looking to Berlin either. In Toronto one cyclist creates a pithy graphical response to the equivalent of London's Quietway plans while the city sticks in rumble strips and then has to hurriedly re-create a lane for bikes. Miami cyclists can finally use a highway bridge but it's hardly 8-80 cycling (unless that's the acceleration you need to get on and off the ramps). San Francisco politicians actually do want to send the city back into the past while a New York State Senator gets invited to find out for herself how hard it is to find a (expletive deleted) bike lane. Still, while campaigners are sceptical of Paris's plans for 15% modal share it looks as if Helsinki are serious about cycling and even Johannesburg is calling in the experts to help get people on bikes.

Design issues

From Johannesburg to Helsinki it's design that's the key thing - not putting in infrastructure that contridicts our own guidelines for a start, and not designing intersections for bikes and pedestrians as if they behaved like cars; a revamped junction in Utrecht seems to work despite high volumes of bikes. Perhaps what's needed is a no-fault divorce for bike routes and cars - rather than pinch points bringing everyone into conflict - while the principles of homogeneity should help decide when to mix and when to separate - plus those little things, like not sticking signposts right in the middle of bike lanes. As the US department of Transport is to publish its own protected cycle way guidelines, feedback and campaigning have improved designs for a key link in Seattle. And to clarify things, perhaps we need to be classifying cycleways as well as cyclists - Boy on a Bike comes up with one classification scheme.

The law is an ass

It's a curious contradiction that cyclists are often prevented from doing something 'dangerous' and thus forced into much greater danger - with the Italian Minister of Transport the latest weighing in against bike contraflows. Yet an experiment with right turns on red has proved successful in Basel, while opening up a little-used stretch of pavement might transform a stretch of road in the Yorkshire Dales. SEattle can't quite bring itself to repeal its helmet law - and hasn't got its helmet vending machines ready in time - so it's giving out free helmets in the hopes that riders will give them back. A tragedy in Central Park gives the Invisible Visible Man a twinge of guilt at the thought of a fast run through Central Park, but in reality a reckless cyclist should not stand for all cyclists - although perhaps 'Burma Shave' style signs might encourage consideration among all road users.

Reclaiming our cities

Parking Day - plus a few rolls of turf, trees in pots and the loss of a few parking spaces shows just how transformative a space for people can be - although sometimes a city's bikeable districts can be too successful for their own good, while in New York it's the drivers doing the reclaiming of space, by parking over the bike lane. Lambeth (yes, that Lambeth) has plans to reclaim Loughborough junction from cars for residents - while in Manhattan everyone seems to want complete streets now that they've seen what has happened elsewhere. Florida embraces complete streets in order to improve its horrible road safety record. In Tucson, congestion caused by too much foot traffic seems a nice problem to have (especially as they respond by closing an underpass to cars). Cycling Christchurch explains why it's important to keep putting in the submissions even if it seems like nobody's listening - and beware the motoring organisation talking the language of 'choice'.

Safety first

Sadly, here in the UK, cycling casualties are increasing faster than cycling while a look at fatalities in the US shows where the real dangers lie, with many fatalities due to cyclist being hit from behind (and one deaf-blind tandemist is almost added to the statistics on the second day of his tour of the US. Certainly the low autumn sun shouldnt' be treated as 'one of those things' - and neither should deaths from HGVs with a redesigned lorry cab likely to save hundreds of lives (and unilateral action on sideguards from the mayor of Boston showing what political will can do). The figures on child seats and child trailers are illuminating even if it seems that the magic helmet will protect your little one from sticking their feet through the spokes and cuts and bruises - while it really is time to stop worrying about Ebola and start worrying about cars.

Cycling by numbers

with the rise of the bike counter showing how numbers can be a boon for biking, US blogs were still digesting the latest census figures on cycling and walking to work. Pittsburgh has seen the biggest rate of increase while even LA has seen significant increases although Chicago might have seen a dip and Portland is still pondering how its figures have come to stagnate. For those of us in the UK, there's a new tool for visualising commuting flows in and out of local authority areas. And over in Belfast, where taxi reform is raising the spectre of taxis in bus lanes, NI Greenways does the digging and finds out just how many taxis that might entail and just how delayed they might be now.

How multimodal is your commute?

Bikes, buses and taxis sharing lanes aren't the only multimodal issue - although it's good to see that bikes and trams are getting alternative routes in Tuscon (plus is that the first recorded use of a 'toucan' crossing in the US?). Bath is to look at putting bikes on buses while a hospital in Portland shows what a cablecar can really do to transform your bike commute (Boris and his Dangleway take note). Californian cyclists wonder if they have to choose between bikes and bogs on their trains. And while the old canard about people swimming across rivers not being evidence for the need for a bridge might have to be reconsidered as one commuter goes properly multimodal with an inflatable canoe. As you do in Oregon.

Cycling for all

As at least one Birmingham cyclist bucks the stereotypes cited by the city's councillor, we do need to remember that cycling is only as discriminatory as we make it. Future Bike asked participants what the elephants in the room were - and how they could be overcome. Perhaps one way would be the first annual journal of cycling and feminism - or perhaps events like Babes in Bikeland for all its less than right on name, will help create the female cycling revolution.

History lessons

Of course we all know how the bicycle helped emancipate women, but that wasn't the only history lesson this week, with a new cycling history showing that not much has changed since 1880. Somewhat more recently, WashCycle exhumes a photo from 1973 that seems to show cyclists literally taking a couple of lanes, while Bicycle Perth (the Australian one, not the Scottish one) wonders what might have happened if the city had continued with its lonely segregated lane after 1986 - and here in the UK, a rather longer segregated route between Manchester and Liverpool just quietly gets on with making life better for cyclists of all kinds.

And finally

It was hard to decide which story cheered us up most this week - this heroic escape from North Korea by (what else) bicycle - or this fitting fate for wannabe bike thieves...