The Great Big Love is in the Air Bike Blog Roundup

It's that time of the year again, when you can demonstrate your love by lending out your most beloved bicycle - or even sharing a bike built for two *very* good friends - and then lock it up at a heart-shaped bike rack. And what better way to thank a cyclist who actually did give you his heart than with a 4-day bike ride raising awareness of organ donation? A cardiac specialist would agree it's the best way to keep it in good nick - with our GPs now prescribing cycling, dancing and sex as the new miracle cures, appropriately enough for Valentine's week.

Campaigning news

It wasn't quite love at first sight, but one cycle-campaign-sceptic was pleased to discover local campaigners are mostly nice people for all the shouty impression they may make online. In the aftermath of one such online shouting match, As Easy as Riding a Bike considers the case for bike marketing as 'marginal gains' and decides we really do have more pressing priorities - and have done for 30 years, it would appear - although you shouldn't underestimated the effectiveness of a cheery bit of social media in encouraging people to get out on their bikes. In Bristol a petition has managed to get a slippery bridge resurfaced, but in Glasgow it seems it's more effective to speak directly to 'the man' (the man in the wee sweeping machine, that is) if you want your cycle route not to resemble a cyclocross course. Still, nothing daunted a petition starts for 20 mph limits in Glasgow, following Edinburgh's lead; Magnatom fills in the back story. Where higher levels of government are hostile to cycling, The Bike League advises campaigners to start local and work up - and don't forget the role that bike shop owners can play in developing a local cycle community. Meanwhile one Ontario man is bringing bike repair to places which can't support a bike shop while People for Bikes looks at why people from poorer communities don't use bike share schemes, and no, it's not just about not having a credit card.

Where are all the women? ... Oh

The perennial question (usually asked by the chaps), from time immemorial, has been how to get more women involved in cycling - but it turns out that when you start to look, there are loads of them - so many that when Bike Biz tried to collate the top 50 they ended up with 100. This wouldn't surprise the Americans; the agenda for the National Women's Bicycle forum is bikes + women leaders = big ideas while Sam Ollinger is just one such leader who has gone from bike blogger to advocate of the year during the time we've been doing this roundup. In San Francisco, women cyclists meet for a coffee hour to build a stronger cycling community, the CTC have been getting Essex girls on bikes, while St Paul women on bikes have produced a nice series of videos on why they - and the city - need bikes, and what they need to be able to use them.

Speaking our language

But perhaps we shouldn't have been talking about 'women cyclists' but 'female people on bikes' because it's that sort of tribal language that tars everyone with the same brush while changing the language sends the discussion off in a different direction - although it's worth remembering that in the long run the battle isn't one of marketing but the cycling environment - making it all the more disappointing when transport policy documents fail to mention 'people' at all.

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

What then is the worth of Glasgow Cycle Infrastructure day which eloquently documented the sort of conditions Glasgow's commuters put up with - how many of them would count as suitable environments for children to cycle in? Photos show how a new bus stop buildout makes the otherwise brilliant and instantly popular Bath Two Tunnels route hard to get onto. Images from the Olympic park show that we still continue to make compromises even when we have a blank slate - something Toronto cyclists could empathise with. In Portland, a shot of a street designed as a 'bikeway' helps pedestrians too - although I sure they' prefer an actual sidewalk, while images of Houston's first protected bike lane give hope to advocates in Auckland.

Cycling by design

Not, we hasten to add, Scotland's document by the same name which needs to be replaced (and yet Glasgow still doesn't meet its low standards), but the boring network of dense cycling infrastructure that's needed instead of showy big ideas. Boston campaigners have helped the city develop a cycle track and protected junctions in the city while here Kingston residents seem to want their mini-Holland back the way it was before the council watered plans down to paint on the road (perhaps they've been reading David Hembrow's latest blog, and think that is what Dutch infrastructure is all about). Even a simple bike lane helped turn a Portlander into a cyclist (sorry, a person on a bike), while a tiny connecting track in a US suburb can massively widen a child's horizons - imagine the transformation if US suburbs looked more like Dutch ones (and it would be easier to do too). Easier than hacking away at the side of a motorway bridge to make space for a cycle track, anyway, although we suspect that in a car culture like the UK, the painful bit would be narrowing the road, even if on strict arithmetic if we allocate road space by modal share the cars would still lose.

Still, we are perhaps a little better off than LA where cars are likened to a cancer on the city and pavements are so bad that even wheelchair users have to take the lane. Transport engineers who challenge the orthodoxy risk having their professional licence challenged - but you shouldn't assume you know what opinions a highway engineer holds - exhibit A being our own Ranty Highwayman, here getting ranty about pavement parkers - and instead we should be working towards engineering roads so they all work for everyone.

London again

We thought we'd done with London last week, but the establishment is fighting back with the East-West superhighway getting seriously derailed in Westminster and the Royal Parks putting the kibosh on protected cycling in front of Buck house while professing an inconsistent concern for pedestrians elsewhere - time for London cyclists to get petitioning again, especially as the old-style 'superhighways' are effectively worse than useless. This could be bad news for house prices whatever the Institute for Economic Affairs may think about their effect on London's economy.

Meanwhile, not in London...

Across the Irish Sea, Belfast launches Year Zero of its cycling revolution with its bike hires scheme to be combined with free cycle training - we hope it's good, if Belfast's cyclists are to cope with this terrifying interchange, complete with ASLs for the bikes (still, it's better than San Diego's bike hire launch which was celebrated by a driver destroying a bike hire station which subsequently reverted to car parking). In Dublin, consultations begin on off-road routes along the river quays which will help Dublin's traffic flow despite some suspiciously similar sounding objections to space being taken from the cars. In Newcastle, the plans for John Dobson Street are an excellent start, while bikes on buses may yet be coming to Bath as long as the DVSA approves. There are also plans for five new schemes in Devon and a cycleway along a viaduct to connect Nottingham and Derbyshire.


Lest this all seem like too much good news, car culture was fighting back: whatever you might think about the benefits of the UK aiming to be a world leader in driverless cars (and eliminating the 'nut behind the wheel' might seem like a good move at times), making them safer by putting them on the cycle path seems like a complete no-no (apart from anything else, how would they navigate all the obstacles on a typical UK cycle network route?) Meanwhile Edinburgh is going backwards over bus lanes, the very bus lanes that they argued meant Leith Walk didn't need segregation for bikes, and just as Singapore considers bike lanes in bus lanes itself. That's not the only UK idea that's spreading: in Toronto, a garbage truck driver confuses a bike lane for a Belfast style 'bin lane' and trashes it while the Danes have gone from a long-term funding plan to the sort of rolling annual plans that have made the UK the spendid cycling success it is today. And even in the Netherlands, an end to free parking brings unintended consequences to cycling.

Cycling for all

Despite such backwards steps, the Netherlands remains the sort of place where you can take your mate out from the nursing home on a side-by-side tandem - with no need to make a big demonstration of the sort of space such bikes need. But even in the UK, the right bike can help a nine-year-old leave his wheelchair behind, if only for an hour or so, while merely losing the use of his legs won't stop Martyn Ashton doing wheel-based stunts. Even for non disabled kids, there are permanent barriers to cycling to school, with children and teens just as deterred by safety fears as adults, although if you can find the space to do it bikes are just the way to make half term a treat for parents as well as kids

Safety and vision zero

With yet another vigil planned for a fallen London cyclist - following Friday's one in Manchester is it time for our local authorities to follow Seattle and Portland and some council candidates in Philadelphia in making plans to reach zero road deaths? Southwark's cycling strategy does at least inlcude a casualty rate target, possibly the first UK council to do so, something Enfield and Croydon might want to urgently consider although for Sam Saunders, the latest casualty figures raise more questions than they answer. With slower speed limits mooted in the city, Bikeable Richmond investigates the difference slowing down a bit really makes - while in Edinburgh, a business owner celebrates the benefits 20mph limits have brought to him and his area. For drivers worried about being treated like a cash cow, there's a simple solution, while in Southwark they discover that some of those bollards were actually needed, just maybe not a whole forest of them. And while a dooring might be interpreted as carelessness (or bad design), one driver eliminates all doubt that that was what he intended to do.

Politics as usual

As the election campaign gradually hots up, the Times is to host a cycling debate for the general election with no Greens and no UKIP (and no women either, presumably they are all on the pink bus), while the Tories in Bath respond on their transport manifesto. Perhaps we should go further and follow Dallas campaigners who are funding candidates to support tearing down a highway (yes, that Dallas). Meanwhile the lawmakers already in office continue to prove their worth with a mandatory helmet and hi-vis vest law proposed in California - although at least they are no longer attempting to get cyclists to carry a flashing white rear light - Biking in LA marshals the familiar arguments against the plan, while Angela Merkel proves a (perhaps surprising) ally. With Wisconsin's Complete Streets law under threat, Wisconsin Bike Federation provides a brief history of how it got on the statute books in the first place. The US secretary of Transport chooses an unfortunate hashtag but still stays on multi-modal message. Streetfilms talks to four US mayors working to make their cities more liveable - and while Bogota's bike friendly mayor may have gone, its car-free day is still going strong after 15 years.

And finally

Two useful pieces of information for you to complete your week, both of which you hope you may never have to use: a 'bush repair' for flat tyre when you have neither patch kit or a new tube, and if you're beloved bike has been stolen in London, you might want to look for it in Spain...