The Great Big Actually they DO Own the Roads Bike Blog Roundup

It was a bad - or good, depending on your point of view - week for cliches as the chancellor brought back road tax (for England, anyway), undoing years of Treasury policy and resurrecting a tired old zombie argument that had never entirely died in the mind of the road-raging motorist, not to mention taxing pollution only to create more pollution - we don't think that's exactly what's meant by the circular economy, George...

And cyclists do all run red lights...

As if that weren't enough to keep a cyclist and a road raging Devon parish councillor in discussion points for days, the other big news of the week was that French cyclists are to be allowed to run red lights (in certain circumstances, where there is a sign saying they can, although perhaps they should just adopt the Idaho stop instead) - while it turns out that Dublin cyclists are not above taking the law into their own hands when it comes to red lights, although it would help if they ever got a green one - but the good news is that riders of e-bikes are no more lawless or even that speedy than those on ordinary ones. Of course the real story that got ignored in all the fuss is that Paris has responded to high pollution levels with real ambition - not to mention the fact that the really dangerous scofflaws are those armed with a couple of tonnes of fast moving metal - those bloody drivers - but before you wade in online to correct the haters, do stop and think (and maybe go for a calming bike ride) before you feed the trolls.

Gender gap

Perhaps a more recent entrant in the cycling cliche stakes is the perennial puzzler - why don't women want to go out on our cities' streets and get crushed by lorries in greater numbers? This week it was the gender gap among New York's Citibike users that was attracting a great deal of comment - but whatever the answer is (*cough* better infrastructure), it's not pink streamers. Meanwhile the Women's Cycle Forum leaves WiSoB still a bit short of ideas while Kathy Lette becomes an ambassador for Space for Cycling and urges the powers that be not to "let 'cyclist' become a euphemism for 'organ donor'".

Making space for cycling

So how are our cities getting on with making themselves safe for women and men to cycle? Well, the beauty of the new Cycling Level of Service tool is that campaigners can put a number on just how much a new scheme will improve matters: just 1% in the case of the Westminster Quietway plans, after they ignored the input of their own experts to create a patchwork of poor provision. Meanwhile if Hackney really wants to make cycling 'second nature' to everyone, it needs to radically rethink its plans for Wick Road. Elsewhere some long held dreams move towards fruition, with Tavistock Place finally getting the treatment cycle campaigners originally envisaged, while in Cambridge a north-south route first proposed years ago creeps closer to reality.

Further afield, even in Utrecht it can take a little time to find space for bikes at a busy junction, but they get there in the end. Extending a protected bike lane in Toronto is easier after the initial stretch becomes wildly popular (and actually speeds up cars too), while in New York, it could be third time lucky in a bid to make Amsterdam avenue more like its namesake. After a year of concerted campaigning, a bike route in Portland may get traffic filtering measures - the good news is, that should actually make it easier for drivers to pass cyclists however many there are (or how many abreast they choose to ride). Once you've created that space, you've got to maintain it too: in Seattle, the city is to rethink allowing construction work to close an important bike lane while in LA even door-zone bike lanes are an important part of an overall road diet and shouldn't be allowed to fade away completely. Thinking ahead, the WashCycle considers how you could fit cycling and walking alongside what is effectively an urban highway while Gehl Associates consider how to turn the capital of Kazakhstan into a people friendly city.

Cities under the microscope


Cities like to sell themselves as cycling and walking friendly these days - but how can you distinguish between those walking the walk and those just talking the talk (lots of people actually walking the walk is probably your biggest clue). Still digesting his visit to Leicester, the Ranty Highwayman considers the little details that make a difference in a liveable city - while back alleyways offer a model for visual priority across side streets in Minnesota. After visiting the Netherlands Nantes doesn't really make the grade as a top-10 cycling city yet, although it has some momentum behind it. In Portland, location and a bit of planning means a redeveloped auto-centric area could become an instant bike-friendly district while at the other end of the scale, even a very car-centric Indiana suburb offers potential for active travel if you look hard enough.

Campaigning news

Campaigners across the world have to use the appropriate tools for their area to make a difference - and in the US that obviously means suing the city for not considering walking and cycling in a bridge redesign - especially as their own figures show that taking a lane from traffic wouldn't impact on congestion at all. In the UK, the A10 cycling corridor campaign take up actual tools to improve matters where they can. Everywhere would probably benefit from using street beta testing for planned changes - and asking actual users what they think once changes go in may help counter the online petitioners. It's always worth pointing out that cycling improvements don't have to be a zero-sum game: cities can fix potholes AND improve cycling in one fell swoop - although it seems that New York isn't budgeting for these kinds of low cost quick and dirty solutions for its vision zero plans - while cyclists and pedestrians can make common cause over many changes, instead of allowing themselves to be played off against each other. Sometimes you need a simple inarguable propostion - like allowing kids to be able to cycle to a nearby park - the sort of thing that can easily turn into a national campaign over the years. And while a lot of angst is spilled over dangerising cycling or not - it's worth remembering that humans are anyway very poor at understanding risk so it probably makes no difference.

It's the economy, stupid

One thing humans - especially politicians - understand is money, and more than anything it's the prospect of new jobs that motivate politicians to invest in cycling - so this Portland business owner is probably making an impact, although pointing out that cycling could save your city £20m a year and that inactivity costs Europe €80bn a year surely can't hurt either. For businesses, the ECF have created a tool to help bosses work out the costs and benefits of swapping a van for a bike - while DHL have gone the whole hog and are containerising bike loads for delivery in the Netherlands. At the other end of the scale, Spinlister may just be the excuse you need to buy yet another bike...


This week Mark Wagenbur took a break from making us jealous of the latest piece of Dutch infrastructure and made us jealous of their national bike-and-train rental scheme instead which might be an alternative to squeezing your bike onto the inadequate space on the train. As predicted, cities with tram systems are discovering that once Edinburgh cracked and allowed bikes on trams pressure grows on them to allow them too. And in a bid to widen access to its bike share scheme, Chicago is offering membership for just $5 for its poorest residents.

Beyond infrastructure

We know, we know: infrastructure is the answer, what was the question. And yet, even the Danes have found that, once the infrastructure is in place, you still need to change people's habits to turn drivers into cyclists. When the infrastructure isn't yet in place, a tube strike may do the trick (it's possible that a faint air of smugness may have been detected on social media among those already on two wheels) - and certainly, terrible infrastructure is the best way to promote helmet use among those still willing to cycle. Elsewhere getting rid of free parking at work could have a surprisingly strong effect on commuter choices. And if it's carrots rather than sticks you're interested in - how about letting kids check out bikes as well as books from their local library - or simply releasing a 'pay it forward' bike out into the wild.

History repeating itself

And finally, there seemed to be a historic flavour to a few of the posts this week; what you might call a century of missed opportunites, both at the national level and that of a single street in the US - perhaps because this nineteenth century anti-bike path attitude has never really gone away among some, even as the road builders themselves admit the road network itself is going to have to shrink.

If only somebody would tell George Osborne the news...