The Great Big Cold Enough for you? Bike Blog Roundup

With the winter closing in, at least in the Northern hemisphere (other hemispheres are available), the Winter Cycling Congress wants to know if your city is a winter cycling city - although it looks as if Aberdeen is ruling itself out from the get go. The Dutch (of course) have a firm grasp on the finer details of keeping cycling infrastructure clear of ice and snow - making one Ottawan cyclist jealous. It's not always as easy as you might think to take the lane to keep out of the icy patches leaving some cyclists taking matters into their own hands (hands kept cosy with some DIY bike mitts perhaps) - or failing that, maybe you do really have to be Danny MacAskill to handle winter UK cycling. The London bus strike may have done some good for active travel, but if you think you're hard merely cycling or scooting all through the winter think again.

World class cities?

OK, so your city may not be a winter cycling city, but is it a world class one? Dead Dog Blog runs the ruler over Edinburgh while Tucson considers what it would take to make itself a 'Platinum' grade bike friendly city - one top tip would be not having your drivers attempt to run over the people making the assessment. Another might be giving cities longer than a month to put together a City Cycle Ambition Grant - although that might be better than taking 17 years to get a bike route even to the drawing board in the UK's premier cycling city. Fast Coexist looks at seven cities going car free, at least in their centres, while Cycling Christchurch braves the chill to examine Washington's developing protected bike way network, and the Dutch just keep on getting better and better. Here, we should brace ourselves for more rubbish - although sometimes a decent piece of (mostly) connected infrastructure will sneak through.

First they ridicule us, then they fight us ...

... then we win, right? So it's perhaps a sign that we're winning that as Edinburgh moves towards 20mph limits across the city it's having to defend itself with a mythbuster page that could almost have come from a campaigning bike blog - as the panickers emerge from the woodwork having missed the last few years of consultation. And it's nice to know that we are at least ahead of the Danish on this matter, if nothing else. Elsewhere, London's central bike grid is under threat from local councils while a Kingston councillor claims that the borough's mini Holland scheme should be to benefit motorists and pedestrians as well as cyclists. Bikes must also be winning in Portland if drivers are reduced to fantasising about driving cyclists off the road (top tip if you want to do it for real - don't punch the one wearing a helmet on his camera unless you want to be all over youTube, although do pick the one who won't press charges), while it seems as if they're still at the ridicule stage in Australia.

Health and Safety

With Vision Zero beginning to get some traction in the United States, Nevada has a simple video selling the concept in six simple questions - although it's not car crashes that are killing 676,000 Europeans a year but inactivity. In Ireland, it seems, they're still asking the wrong questions while American plans for 'Vehicle to Vehicle' communication technology may make things worse for overall road safety. District 5 suggests a more radical solution - sadly, this is satire but the Thudguard crawling helmet (no, really) is not.

Fortunately there is a growing awareness that while individual drivers should be held to account for their actions, the road design must take some of the blame with attempts to create 'safe' roads leading to higher speeds - something that is now beginning to change in the US. Even in the Netherlands, poor design still creates conflict while bidirectional cycle tracks can carry greater risks than one-way ones - although that won't stop even the Dutch from salmoning - and sometimes things aren't all that clear when it comes to who has priority.

Making space

It's a peculiar but widely held view in the Anglo Saxon world that our cities are simultaneously too cramped or too spread out for cycling - but even on a narrow, busy road, you can still find space for cycling - especially as what people call narrow varies from place to place anyway. Nor is sprawl uniquely American - Dutch suburbs are guilty too, they just have added bike lanes, bringing hope to those attempting to retrofit US suburbs to something more sustainable all round. Getting rid of the cars altogether can make space for both bikes and pedestrians - in New York, campaigners are pushing radical designs to do just that on 42nd Street. Meanwhile in Seattle details emerge of a planned alternative to a corridor that doesn't work for anyone - and even in LA persistence pays off with bike lanes ruled back in for a contentious street.

More politics as usual

Back here in the UK, the Scottish government is told to think again over its budget for active travel - while in Westminster, funding for pilot 'total transport' projects is announced. Living Streets would like all parties to sign up to an Active Travel bill for the coming election - and maybe if they do we should take a leaf out the American campaigns' books and write them a nice thank you letter - especially those who have gone so far as giving up their cars altogether.

All politics is local

Not that campaigners have much to be breaking out the thank you cards for yet - at least among local councils. In Manchester, a cycle route starts fine and then dumps you out onto the inner ring road before petering out altogether, while in Cambridge the council continues to rely on shared-use footpaths. If it wanted to, Glasgow council could avail itself of some low-hanging fruit on a road that's already being resurfaced and a bridge that cuts out a significant detour - we won't hold our breath though. Cycle Sheffield has some advice for the city's planned Business Improvement District while Bristol Traffic considers a city gateway that doesn't welcome people on foot or on bikes. In London, Camden inches forward with its West End Project - but needs to get the plans past Transport for London. And finally, covering the ultimate local authority matter, Ranty Highwayman considers what's in a pothole - apart from a puddle of dirty water, that is.

Campaigning matters

While potholes and politics are important matters, sometimes you need to bring in a bit of humour into cycle campaigning - otherwise how will we bring in tomorrow's campaigners (apart from those who naturally make the leap from cycling to activism, or possibly troublemaking). Either way we should avoid putting the onus on individuals to solve society's problems - although a little bit of social media might help unblock bike lanes from antisocial parking, while the Bike Show wants your near miss stories. For a wider impact, four short videos might help make the case for separated cycle tracks.

Equality matters

The internet has done great things for cycle campaigning, but it throws up some ugly stuff too - we need to think through policies like bike registration that can have unforeseen consequences for those 'cycling while black' - as well as the impact of shared space on more vulnerable people. Fortunately cycling is something that can provide freedom for the old as well as the very young - and just possibly, it's that freedom that could help with 'teen bike rejection syndrome' - that and perhaps the ability to cycle in silly shoes (or maybe just turning your family bike into what is basically a car).


The internet has also thrown up crowd funding - something the cycling community seems to have embraced, with mixed results. Meanwhile the #shopbybike hashtag threw up some great examples of, well, shopping by bike across Ireland (can't really recommend just balancing a loaf of bread on your handlebars though) - while having some off road infrastructure makes carrying stuff - including the all-important cake - easier by bike. In other parts of the world, cargo bikes don't just save businesses money they can support huge numbers of livelihoods - while in the developed world, bike share companies are continuing to evolve - and spread from parts of LA to Belfast.

The law is an...

Today's jaw-dropping lawsuit of the week is brought to you by Canada, for a change, while this week's award for missing the point of a tragedy goes to the Greater Manchester Police - perhaps instead we should be taking a leaf out of aviation's book - or even Cambridge's. Even the Institute of Advance Motoring agrees that drivers need better awareness about how to drive around cyclists - although tragically, it seems you can still kill someone and not notice and still be cleared of careless driving - and in parts of the US there's still no law against dooring people.

Good news

But let us once more end on a more cheerful note - from the fact that bike counts have almost doubled on Minneapolis's first prtected bike lanes, to growing bike-train commuting in California (as long as everyone can still squeeze on) to new bike bridges and an expanding green wave for cyclists in Copenhagen. And if you need some figures to support such a scheme in your area - a low-cost bike counter could help provide the data.

And finally

Rather than our usual whimsical tail ender, we'll leave you with two personal bike stories that stopped us in our tracks - from what it's like to be hit from behind - to the world's most forgiving (or possibly gullible) bike theft victim.