The Great Big is it STILL Winter Bike Blog Roundup

Well, we thought we'd done the whole snow and ice thing last week, but it seems winter just keeps on keeping on, and even though a bit of unexpected snow can bring out the best in everybody, if after several days your 'award winning cycle paths' still haven't been gritted then it all starts to wear a bit thin - no wonder the winter cyclist is such a rare and retiring creature. And while some Dutch cities seem to have this year-round cycling lark cracked, even in the Netherlands things aren't even perfect - could they take a leaf out of a US city's book and offer real time tracking of the city's snow ploughs?

A political thaw?

But could it be that, politically at least, things are thawing? Although governments have long failed to match ambition with funding, Chris Boardman welcomes the amendment to the infrastructure bill requiring governments to provide for cycling, while £100 million is to be set aside for 'cycle proofing', despite nobody being very clear what that is, and, north of the border, the Scottish Government may be reconsidering forthcoming cuts to to active travel spending. The CTC praises the government's bold leadership - although some fear it may be squandered on poorly-designed facilities. All this may be encouraged by the news that 55% of the UK public would back more cycling investment - that'll be 55% who won't be voting UKIP then.

At a local level, the battle goes on for and against Edinburgh's 20mph deicsion - while Lewisham needs to get the rest of its roads down to 20mph too - for although Edinburgh is right to concentrate first on the places where people live, that still leaves some streets that really need lower limits at 30mph. Further west, Bike Gob keeps up the converstation with Glasgow's cycling csar, while in London, Richmond cyclists are pleased (if a little startled) to encounter a 'can do' attitude towards restoring a cut-through route for bikes. Traffic in Tooting hopes to build on local support for a protected bike lane in Tooting, but in Birmingham it seems that cricket still trumps cycling for the second year in a row.

Further afield, the excitment in the US was the Transport Secretary's challenge laid down to US mayors to make their cities safer for walking and cycling - with no new funding, unfortunately but some other nice touches - could Beverley Hills take up the gauntlet? Certainly it seems as if Pittsburgh already has.


Legal matters

Our learned friends seem to have been busy this week with Edinburgh cyclists suing the council for tramline injuries - perhaps an encouragement to Sheffield in its consultation into cyclists' safety around trams. In Ireland, children will not be exempt from on-the-spot fines for cycling on the footpath, but in Chicago older people might be encouraged to while Japan has another of its periodic crackdowns on misbehaving cyclists. Streets.MN makes the case for licensing pedestrians. In Washington, a three-foot passing law proves its worth when the police seemed disinclined to do their job - meanwhile Nebraska considers upgrading its passing law to require drivers to cross into the next lane. In the other Washington, bikes can now run red lights (as long as they're broken), while in Canada, Ontario has another go at passing a cycle safety bill.

Obviously, it's only those scofflaw cyclists that continually break the law - and always have done - but if drivers can't keep a yellow box junction outside a fire station free then what hope have we against scofflaw parkers and their employers? Well, Toronto now has an app for that. And in this week's most important legal news, it is perfectly legal to ride a penny farthing in the streets of San Francisco (good luck with the hills).

All kinds of safety

Healthy streets need to feel safe in lots of ways - with social safety often just as important as subjective safety - in cities like Detroit fear of crime as much as poor infastructure and long distances drive car dependency. Nor is an emphasis on safety about catering to the timid - when even the most cycle friendly communities need to fit bike racks on their ambulances, it's not timid to be worried about cycling in traffic. New York takes a step forwards on fitting side guards on lorries while Crossrail at least gets the hierarchy of responsibility right for its safety warning signs - but in the end it's protected cycle tracks on the main roads where the collisions mostly happen that are needed - something Cycle Smart, and indeed bossy random strangers, still have to take on board. Meanwhile Christ Boardman backs Christian Wolmar's 'vision zero' plans - but will anything protect cyclists from the real hazards of Australian cycling? (it will certainly take more than a few bollards...)

Hearts and minds

Meanwhile the campaigning goes on - with groups from Ottowa and Philadelphia finding that some good, verified facts and figures are helpful in making the case, even if nobody ever believes them - and an online platform with all the information campaigners need could be the next big idea. It's undoubtedly more helpful than firing up the twitter mob - far better to concentrate on those with the power to change things. Zac Goldsmith has been trying to broker consensus in Richmond Park but the root cause of conflict is inadequate design and that can go for bikes and drivers too.

Infrastructure matters

With a new tool for city planners we could start seeing plans for streets in 3D - the sort of visualisation which is helpful for persuading officials to do something hard - and which might also help pick up problems before they are built, such as 'invisible kerbs' on raised bike lanes or parking encroachement on a doorzone bike lane - and show that streets with cycling infrastructure can be beautiful as well as safe. As Seattle continues to upgrade a bike lane with an interim protected bike lane, Cambridge desperately needs to get on with its trial for Huntingdon Road. We also need to rethink the regulations for zebra crossings over cycle tracks - while remembering that not all 'improvements' are actually an improvement.

Building a network

Tireless campaigning does seem to have inched us forward this week with Deptford finally getting a new riverside route that cuts out a significant detour and a busy road - while it only took 10 years to get a shortcut upgraded for cyclists and pedestrians near Bath. Leamington and Warwick are to get another 7 miles of bike paths while a new Cambridgeshire path opens up a significant employer to bike commuting. In London, the Oval and Vauxhall plans for cycle superhighways are approved and Camden council is to go ahead with its West End Project, although it still could be massively improved - and Ipswich has a funny way of benefiting 'all road users'. Further afield, the 'closed' Golden Gate bridge proves a massive draw, while Denmark discovers that longer distance routes attract more cyclists as well as shorter ones. And New York has done a lot in recent years but still has a long way to go to reach the 'interested but concerned'.


In our now-regular slot, yet more evidence of the potential benefit of cycling to the UK economy - while in Washington State, cycling already contributes a huge amount through leisure and tourism - nobody tell the New Forest which has rejected all suggested compromises in its bid to curb cycling. Meanwhile you should be boosting your own productivity with a lunchtime bike ride (after you've finished reading this of course) and if you stop for lunch don't forget to let local businesses know you arrived by bike. It's better than celebrating the fall in petrol prices - because car-dependency costs us all dear. But bikes aren't always about pure profit - Spinlister is as much about community as about profit - and besides, if you want to make your fortune a 99p bike shop probably isn't the way (that's the price of the shop, not the stock).

Cycling for all

Making cycling accessible has multiple dimensions, like bringing bike lanes into the communities traditional advocates don't normally reach - and that includes the suburbs. People for Bikes are looking for research proposals into making bike share schemes more equitable - and Philadelphia hopes to lead the way. In Manchester, women explain why they ride - but do campaigns like 'this girl can' miss out older women? (or even nuns?). We already knew this but it's always worth being reminded of the benefits of cycling for mental health - and that longevity depends on physical activity much more than what weight you are - but cycling needn't stop even when you have outlived your ability to pedal for yourself (although when it comes to it I'd rather have a hand cycle than a rickshaw ride...)


And finally, as always, the bike blog world is full of cross fertilisation, with Lee County in Florida describing what it's like when the 'Bike Friendly Community' guy comes to town, Southwark discovering what it could learn from Hackney, and even a little bit of British transport infrastructure inspiring a viaduct in Utrecht (although Washington State seems to have taken its inspiration from the worst aspect of Dutch cycling). Detroit's Slow Roll has inspired campaigners in Chicago to use bikes to help transform their communities. The experience of the Dutch could allow the infrastructuralists and the vehicularists to be friends. Bogota continues to be a useful example despite flagging investment in recent years. And a little healthy competition is always a useful spur - but if cities are really going to get competitive over whose citizens can cycle further then we demand a handicapping system for the Dutch...