The Great Big Christmas is Coming Bike Blog Roundup

It's that time of the year when all thoughts turn to Christmas and that tantalising bike-shaped parcel under the tree (which you all fetched by bike of course, right?), and your blog roundup compiler's thoughts turn to her Christmas break, but before I can spend the festive season looking at nothing more demanding on the internet than kitten videos, there's the formality of the last blog roundup of the year to get through. And what better way to start than thinking about the children and the greatest gift we can give them: the freedom to use that new bike to get about (and for the poorest in society young and old, access to a bike at all of course, although the Irish have rejected extending their cycle to work scheme to kids - I hadn't realised the economic crisis had got so bad they'd resorted to child labour...). Sadly, even on our newest cycle routes, travelling with an actual three-year-old quickly shows up the limitations of most UK cycling infrastructure - how do you 'take the lane' with an independent-minded toddler? Sometimes our enthusiasm to spread the word can lead us to minimise the barriers to cycling with kids - but Seattle is crowd sourcing information on the danger spots on its safe routes to schools - a programme which elsewhere has shown to be pretty effective. And it's also important to consider the perspective of the children themselves, whether from the front box of a cargo bike, or not.

Tis the Season

Winter is also the season for cold-weather cycling, whatever your reasons, with the Winter Cycling Congress announcing its programme, and a chance to test your city's winter maintenance promises, like Toronto where the bikes seem to have precedence over pedestrians, or New York where the cars are still paramount - it seems it takes a Finnish city to make really hardcore winter cycling accessible to all ages. And of course there's a chance to play the 'sneckdown' game and reimagine your city's streets based on how much road space is actually used.

It's not about the bike

This time of year can also be a time to think about the less fortunate, with the Guardian arguing there is a compelling social justice case for mass cycling, which could be the way forward. Sometimes with so much injustice around it's easy to get overwhelmed but maybe simply riding a bike can be part of the solution - just as bikes aren't the solution to America's racial troubles but they can be part of creating a more just public space - and certainly in Chicago bike lanes shouldn't just be for the more affluent areas of the city. And there's an economic impact to the cycling gender gap as well - would a female cycling ambassador help? Certainly bike share schemes need to be designed to benefit the poorest in society - perhaps by looking at how other transport initiatives have managed to reach poorer areas (perhaps having 90,000 bikes would be a start). Not that it's just about cycling - a row over a pavement in Tulsa reveals some bizarre attitudes to pedestrians - it's no wonder that walking and cycling campaigners in the US have discovered they are stronger together than apart.

Planning to fail

Hostile attitudes to walking and cycling are all the more bizarre when you consider that if you ask Americans generally what they want, it's bike lanes and pavements rather than wider roads and more parking - even among Republicans. And yet all too often, plans for cycling infrastructure are hampered by planners' insistence on retaining all the car capacity - partly because the standard reference guide for engineers wildly overestimates traffic numbers - and even in Copenhagen, bikes have to battle for space over cars despite how little space they really take up. Meanwhile, although whether young Americans are really increasingly spurning cars depends on your baseline, in Europe, the latest figures show 8% of adults use their bike as their primary means of transport, ranging from 36% of Dutch down to 3% of Brits (or 2% according to the latest Department for Transport figures) and below - fortunately Ben Hamilton-Baillie is here to save us with shared space and the chance to explore the 'good side' of traffic. As Streetsblog considers what makes for good regional planningbodies, Portland seems to have coordinated stormwater work with creating decent bike lanes (well, a bike lane anyway) - but don't forget to consider who will maintain what is built. Menwhile Seattle shouldn't wait for its stalled and increasingly doomed-sounding tunnel and tear down the harbour viaduct now.

Taking the lead ...

With the ECF noting that it's cities not national governments that are taking the lead over reducing pollution, campaign groups from the 8 city ambition fund cities have some advice for the minister, while the European CHAMP cities (Edinburgh is a leading bike city; who knew?) issue their 12 cycling commandments. Certainly London is making a lot of the running in the UK with the GLA discussing progress on the mayor's vision and the superhighways being all about London upping its game according to Andrew Gilligan, even if the City of London hasn't quite got with the programme. The mayor of Rome will keep on cycling despite security threats - clearly the all-powerful bike lobby easily beats the mafia. Meanwhile it's up to us to lobby our MPs over adding cycling and walking to the infrastructure bill, while Scotland's new Transport minister hasn't got off to the best start although there is still a chance for some extra cash for cycling in Scotland.

Facts on the ground

So how is the all-powerful bike lobby doing in actual infrastructure terms? Well, the first London Quietways are due to open in May 2015 - with Sustrans taking the lead, in partnership with Wheels for Wellbeing and Royal HaskoningDHV among others. There are certainly consultations galore (or 'consolations' - not sure if that was deliberate or a Freudian slip) - and the Vauxhall Cross consultation has been extended. Richmond is to trial simultaneous green lights for cycling - although it's still struggling with plans to make Richmond Park work for everyone. And there are attractive plans (but no funding) for a green bridge over Leith Walk (but sometimes these pie in the sky ideas actually come to fruition so hang in there). That's more or less the end of the good news - London still needs to raise its game in Archway, while plans for Crystal Palace need a more radical approach. In Manchester tram works mean cycle routes will be closed for months and while campaigners have co-ordinated their response to poor plans for cycling around the trams, consultation should really go beyond just cycling organisations. In Bath a park and ride scheme doesn't seem to have considered cyclists at all while if its vision for Leeds is the best it can come up with, then British Cycling needs to make way for a new generation of campaigners - especially with a revolution underway.


Resistance to cycling is odd, when you consider how much economic sense it makes for cities - and continentes, with the ECF drawing up a cycling investment plan for Europe. London businesses can join the Zero Emissions Network to get help with greener transport - something Amazon may already be considering as it realises if you want to be really quick, it's bikes not drones you need, while one pedal-powered chocolatier is already walking the walk, as it were. If you want your car share scheme to work in a bike-obsessed city, you need bike racks on your cars - and if you want your hotel to stand out then bike friendliness helps. And, in 'kickstarter' news, an Oregon firm smash their target for a folding longtail cargo bike - possibly because it seems immediately more useful than this tiny little e-bike (wake me up when they electrify a Brompton...)

Driven to distraction

With apologies to Ranty Highwayman for stealing his excellent blogpost's title, there seems to have been an epidemic of victim blaming going on as long as the victims are pedestrians or cyclists - while of course it's fine to drive into the back of a lit-up cyclist in the middle of Regent's street. The UK's obsession with dressing everyone like builders is spreading to Portland while a California lawmaker seems determined to make bikes more dangerous (and damned confusing) at night. Talking of bizarre legal initiatives, Newfoundland seems determined to go beyond the evidence and bring in a helmet law - something even Boris recognises is a mistake - responses to the propopsed 'smart hat' are instructive about attitudes to safety and cycling. Fortunately the EU will be getting safer lorries without delay, but in Canada 'not enough' people are being killed by trucks to warrant side guards - just make sure you've got enough bystanders handy when you go under the wheels - while London bus operators reject safety proposals on the grounds that time is money. Not that it's just about collisions - Rachel Aldred explains why near misses matter while Mr Happy Cyclist discovers that the police are genuinely ignorant about what safe cycling on the road entails - and it's possible that drivers can't help their road rage: it's being in a car that makes them angry. A review of collisions in LA suggests where best to put the infrastructure - while in London 20mph limits should be everywhere.


Crossing continents

But let's not end on a gloomy note. There was the usual amount of cross-border bike infrastructure love about, from the latest installment from Bicycle Dutch (oh, okay that's probably quite depressing from a UK perspective) to a round up of the best Dutch bike bridges. Groningen really is the cycling nirvana it's cracked up to be - although perhaps the Dutch aren't so keen on cycling in the rain as is sometimes made out. Looking elsewhere, even an unremarkable Danish junction has lessons for Canadian road engineers, whil a little bit of Detroit comes to London - while Copenhagenize considers how bikes have wormed their way into various languages... although we should remember that for the Dutch, their sturdy upright single-speed bikes are just a utilitarian means of transport and definitely not for time trialling into a Force 8 headwind with for fun. At all. Because that would be silly.