The Great Big No Business like Snow Business Bike Blog Roundup

With mild temperatures returning to the UK after a brief week of winter, those yearning for a proper winter had to look across the Atlantic where Snowmageddon closed city streets for cars but opened them for people, including a hardy few on bikes. As sure as night follows day, this should be followed by a fair few posts next week about sneckdowns as the snow narrows streets and tightens corners. Meanwhile in the UK, the inevitable aftermath of even an inch of snow is the lack of winter maintenance of bike paths and pavements - which shows where councils' priorities really lie once the ribbon cutting is over. Blizzards aside, Boston Biker asks if US cyclists are really over-complicating winter cycling - Strong Towns goes beyond the emphasis on gear to talk to some of the midwest's hardy winter cyclists who emphasise as much as anything the benefits over the car. In the UK's more forgiving climate, the main barrier might be the disapproval from other parents that you get for venturing out when it's below freezing - while watching a single junction in Amsterdam on a winter's evening mystifies as much as it explains.

Joined-up thinking

As the gritting or otherwise of cycle paths show, governments both local and national are better at talking the talk than they are at walking the walk - perhaps it would be clearer if Transport Scotland adopted this new logo and strapline. The Vale of Glamorgan also seems to have all the right words but little concrete detail in its local transport strategy - but Belfast is actually putting its money where its mouth is with work starting on the first part of planned dedicated cycle routes that will wipe out both the Cyclosaurus and the Bin Lane while south of the border Dublin announces substantial new money from both the Irish government and the EU. In London, campaigners fear that its nascent cycling revolution might not survive the departure of Boris (and can we just pause for a moment and consider how unlikely that sentiment would have seemed four years ago...) while in Richmond it's time to go back to basics and start doing all those minor routine things that improve condidtions for cycling.

Of course, political will goes two ways; the Danish Cycling Embassy looks at how Danish protests against road building turned Denmark back into a cycling nation. Space for Gosforth have been talking to their local councillor about how additional parking will make a dangerous road even worse. Meanwhile, Edinburgh's planned East West route needs cyclists' support as opposition grows, driven in part by removal of parking, while politicians seem to have got behind the long-running campaign to find a solution to the Gullane-Drem path. London cyclists also need to tell TfL what sort of safer lorries they would like to see.

Regeneration or gentrification

Battles over roads and bike paths are as much about the sort of cities we would like to live in as about the minutiae of parking spaces and bus stops: Odense in Denmark is using bicycle-friendly policies - among other things - to promote its regeneration while Waterford in Ireland is taking the first tentative steps towards a similar approach; for Glasgow, however, building more dual carriageways is still seen as the solution to regeneration, not the problem. The US Transport Secretary understands that highways can be barriers to poorer neighbourhoods but in Washington arguments about bike lanes have become mixed up in a narrative about race and class when really it's as much about parking.

The end result is cities where nursery children can only go for a walk if they're roped together like mountaineers - although at least people are a little more understanding about bikes when there's obviously a kid in tow. Our streets are stressed and confused rather than the quiet and convivial as they are in a cycling city like Amsterdam. However things are changing, even in the English-speaking world, with tactical urbanism going on the curriculum in Portland University's school of urban studies - hopefully with an entire module on traffic cone deployment for slowing drivers - or a salmoning Terminator to keep bus drivers on their toes.

Inter- and inner-city cycling

Creating a well-designed neighbourhood or town is one thing, but it won't make any difference if you can only get to and from it by car; fortunately the Dutch have that sorted too with Hackney Cyclist completing their inter-city cycling tour of the Netherlands with a route from Amsterdam to the Hook of Holland via the Hague, which rather lets the side down with a UK style ASL... Inspired, As Easy as Riding a bike blogs the route from Zwolle to Assen while Utrecht is upgrading its cross-city routes to encourage more of its inhabitants to make longer journeys by bike. One visitor to Copenhagen wonders what happens when you try and follow a cycle path to its end and reaches the sea, although sticking to cycling within the city limits is pretty good too. Amazingly, you can also cycle almost traffic free from from Cardiff to Swansea as long as you have the right bike (and a mountain bike is handy for cycling in Santiago too as the city's cheap but cheerful infrastructure can be a bit rough around the edges) - but with the Taff Trail ungritted this winter, cycling within Cardiff is a bit more of a challenge. For longer routes that don't require full suspension, Highways England's plans for the A12 don't look all that ambitious or attractive for cycling - perhaps not surprisingly given its planned Infrastructure Summit doesn't include any mention of cycling and walking - while in Scotland, Renfrewshire's Community Links Plus bid doesn't exactly quicken the pulse (at least until you're dumped out onto an enormous roundabout). Further afield, Singapore is repurposing its expressway redesign to make space for cycling and public transport, Ottawa has been busy building bridges to connect up routes for pedestrians and cyclists and Toronto is working out how best to continue its rail-side cycle path. Sydney, on the other hand, didn't get the memo and is ripping out cycle tracks, thanks to a politician who looks like an early overseas entry in Boston By Bike's village idiot award.

Design issues

Taking up the cudgels with German cycle campaigners, the Alternative DFT argues that the real barrier to cycling in Germany isn't the law obliging cyclists to use cycle paths, it's the design of the paths they're obliged to use. Certainly the track going onto the Wilmslow Road in Manchester doesn't look perfect although it's still an improvement on the paint on the road it's replacing - but a junction in Oxford that campaigners have petitioned to be redesigned has already seen a cyclist badly hit by a coach. Lambeth's plans for Vauxhall Street will definitely be an improvement but meanwhile something has gone strangely awry with the diversion signs while works are going on. People for Bikes gets a sneak preview of draft design guidance on floating bus stops, while Portland adds another item to the list of things that don't protect cycle lanes - in this case rumble strips - and can't even fend for themselves (hint: try kerbs).

Vision zero

As New York at least sees a marked improvement in road safety, continued foot-dragging on Vision Zero could cost thousands of lives, although it's worse in Houston where they're only just beginning to talk about what it will take to make its streets safer. However, Vision Zero policies can't exist in a vacuum, the impact on those bearing the brunt of police enforcement has to be considered. And even though its road design not eye-catching laws that make roads safer (as Toronto's director of sustainable transport makes clear from her hospital bed, having been doored), the crackdown continues to be on cyclists, with proposals to make them carry ID in Australia - and while cycling through US army bases; you may not have to carry id in Ireland but it's still best not to identify yourself as one M. Mouse if a police officer wants your name and address. Here in the UK, 'health and safety' is considered to be one of those all-powerful forces that rule our lives, yet the Health and Safety Executive seems keener on passing the buck than prosecuting employers - but at least there are plans to keep cars off London's superhighways by the Metropolitan police.

Data driven

It's refreshing, given the opposition of traders to cycle tracks in the UK, to come across some enlightened business owners in Toronto who understand that bikes mean business - and in Denmark a survey has quantified the effect, with cyclists and pedestrians bringing in far more revenue than drivers. We may not be quite there yet in the UK, but at least Belfast's bike hire scheme has been so successful it's expanding early (there's nothing like a conspicuous success to have politicians flock to support something as well) while in Washington, despite some claims the younger generation are definitely driving less than their parents. In Portland a route-rating app is beginning to generate some interesting data about when and where it's most stressful to ride in the city, while in California rather less cheery data covers how and where cyclists are getting hit on the Pacific Coastal Highway. Meanwhile, the Welsh government wants to know about where secure cycle parking is needed as it puts its trains out to tender while those who take their bikes with them on the train are also being asked their opinion.

Barriers beyond barriers

With the statutary 'it's the road conditions' disclaimer taken as read, what are the other barriers to cycling, especially among groups who don't traditionally cycle? 'Brothers on Bikes' is tackling attitudes among ethnic minorities while even cycling very infrequently is enough to make people who normally drive more supportive of cycling infrastructure. Kennington People on Bikes finds that simply not having a bike, or being able to ride one is a more widespread problem for kids than you might think - although at least when one scheme's bikes were stolen people have rushed to replace them. Perhaps less expected is the fact taht using a bridge or an underpass to cross a busy road isn't considered 'cool' among teenagers (not sure that there's an answer to that one) - even so, programmes to make it safer for kids to walk and cycle to school shouldn't be stoped merely by considerations of expense. Nor should we let bike snobbery stop us from using a bike, as long as it rides okay and gets us where we want. Some places seem to have loads more 'normal' cyclists than others but are there simple things that we can do to normalise cycling - like getting the face of Australian road cycling on TV to embrace a little everyday city riding? Belfast takes one important step with a student accommodation block with almost 200 spaces for bikes and only 12 for cars, none of which will likely be driverless ones, or indeed grumpy Eurostar employees with all those pesky bikes about. But finally, we did uncover the real hazard facing cyclists, at least in Australia - arachnophobes perhaps had better not click this link...