The Great Big Motor? What Motor? Bike Blog Roundup

As the other half of the bike world gets all excited about motor doping, bike bloggers needed no such mechanical assistance - although perhaps the UCI could be called in to investigate the Dutch who, not satisfied with building inter-city bike route that are so perfect they're even (whisper it) a bit boring, and even as the rest of the world is just beginning to get to grips with sustainable safety, are already powering ahead with a whole new approach to urban design. Just to put the Dutch advantage (mechanical or otherwise) into perspective - compare and contrast the latest statistics on cycling in Amsterdam with the picture of stagnation in Australia where, even if cycling fatalities are declining the figures for serious injuries are getting worse, while the Dutch continue to look for data to drive improvement and speed up cycling journeys the way other policy makers try and speed up traffic. Here in the UK, bikes might be inching out cars in Central London in rush hour but in the rest of the UK you have to remove car commutes altogether to get any picture of what the alternatives are. The rest are left battling for scraps such as the title of Most Cycle-friendly City in Texas - a competition which you imagine wasn't all that fierce...

Creating cyclists

In news that will surprise nobody who reads this blog roundup regularly (but apparently comes as a fresh surprise to policymakers every year), Toronto finds that a safe, separated cycle route creates new cyclists, including encouraging many out of their cars. Portland might then see the end of its cycle stagnation as it pledges to make protected cycle lanes the default for all its new cycling infrastructure - compare and contrast with Auckland which still seems to consider bus lanes to be enough to encourage cyclists. New York seems to also be learning the lesson, with the Amsterdam Avenue finally to live up (somewhat) to its name with a protected bike lane after a protracted battle - while plans are also announced for a protected two-way bike path to join East Harlem and the Bronx. Reading between the lines, Plymouth might get it too, as it abandons Sky Rides in favour of building infrastructure although that might be as much about the Sky Ride funding running out as anything else. How you build affects the sort of cyclists you create though - Taiwan's extensive but somewhat tucked away bike infrastructure seems to have created more leisure cyclists than commuters because it's not that well connected, while Irish Cycle argues that there's no reason why a greenway can't be a useful commuter route if it's designed properly, and even in rural routes if you're plugging through thick mud that's hardly going to make you want to choose that route to ride to work

Counting on cyclists - or motorists?

The latest flurry about whether traffic regulation (and white lines) damages the economy comes from the assumption that only drivers really count (and you only have to look at how we prioritise parking provision to confirm this, whatever people might actually say - imagine the fuss if drivers were given 24 hours to collect their cars from temporary car park or face them being sent for recycling). We need to tackle the emotional connection people have to their cars (sometimes possibly a little too intimate) which also leads cyclists to always seem to be portrayed as in the wrong by the media, whatever the context.

Yet the truth is that building cycle routes such as Edinburgh's planned East West route which so many people already support can benefit everyone and local traders would be mad to oppose it - and the same goes for the threatened Bears Way near Glasgow. Not that such problems are confined to the UK - Vancouver has a similar backlash from traders at the moment, but at least one Toronto columnist discovered the dangers of online polling as a good way to conclude your anti-bike rant.

We need to start looking at the costs of not providing support (as well as awarding costs to those who oppose them), and start seeing high quality cycling networks as part of a city's plan for growth - while always understanding that when you're really at the bottom of the economic heap cycling isn't always a magic bullet in the current conditions.

Meanwhile bikes bring all sorts of other benefits: the Dutch are planning a cycling-themed tourist attraction, possily unaware that, in some circles at least, their entire country already is one, while the Welsh want to see whether cycling can make women fitter, healthier and happier with a bit of support. The US have just had some sort of sporting event on this weekend, and bike rickshaws might have had to fill the gap where Uber feared to tread - just don't try and come on your own bike. In Ghana, bamboo bikes are getting kids to school and building a sustainable industry all at the same time

Political will

As ever, changing things comes down to political will and this week actually saw some progress with MPs harnessing the power of social media in the run up to a Westminster debate that unusually generated more light than heat, although no actual change in policy, possibly as a result - you can read some of the highlights here. London's Mayoral candidates are being urged to sign up to Vision Zero, but in Newcastle the city's chief executive still seems reluctant to go on a bike ride on the streets she's responsible for. In Ireland cyclists are setting out their demands in the run up to their general election and we imagine that not spouting nonsense like this or, north of the border this would be quite high on the agenda. As the US presidential election hots up, Bernie Sanders offers up his parking space in return for funding for public transport but what about the rest of his policies (and does he have a dream bike like Jeremy Corbyn)? In Portland, Walk, Bike Vote are back for the city's elections - but with 70% of US mayors favouring bike lanes over car lanes or parking that battle might be an easier one to win - especially where cities don't lose out on maintenance funds when they convert car lanes to bike ones. In Wisconsin, primary school kids turn lobbyist over making cycling the 'state exercise' while Pittsburghers can now legally ride their bikes in parks.

The vision thing

With Vision Zero now reaching Chicago even as pedestrian deaths move in the wrong direction, Transport for London shows signs of moving towards a similar approach. It has at least announced a bus safety plan and building safety into contracts as well as maintenance of headway is a good start. As Seattle prioritises 20mph limits around the schools that need it most, in Lonond reduced speed limits are already reaping safety benefits - so now should we be campaigning to reduce through traffic on residential streets in the same consistent way that we've campaigned for lower speed limits? We should also consider closing a loophole that means an assault and run generates only a £150 fine - but more than anything else we should stop arguing about what's on people's heads and get their bums on saddles instead.

Conflict by design

The need, perceived or otherwise, for personal protective equipment is much reduced when the road environment doesn't build speeding and bullying behaviour into the road environment - or leave cyclists with a choice between weaving through pedestrians on the pavement or cars on the roads. In the US, there's evidence that giving bikes their own phase is safer than 'mixing zones' (where the bike lane appears to just give up at the junction) - allowing them to run the flashing red man might be one way of achieving that, albeit at the expense of pedestrians - while Dublin might want to revise its latest plans which seem to be full of them. Meanwhile, Ranty Highwayman tackles the thorny issue of shared space in his usual detail - an idea that might be based on attractive ideas but which only really works with greatly reducde traffic flow.

Taking action

There seemed to be a fair amount of people taking matters into their own hands this week - with level crossing gates that left cargo bike users (not to mention those in wheelchairs) struggling temporarily fixed by activists propping them open. In New York, activists are criticised for putting up a sign which then gets replaced by a remarkably similar looking offical one while Portlanders are busy identifying gaps in the network and just liking things on Facebook can be more effective than you might think. More tragically, a bereaved family feel they have to turn to crowd funding to get an intersection made safer as a memorial to their loved one.

When you leave it to the authorities, progress can be a little slower: The Rhondda tunnel project inches further forward with a bat survey, London announces plans to make the Hammersmith Gyratory a tiny bit less terrifying and Lambeth is at least making developers take bike parking seriously - it's a shame that Cambridge still lets new developments be all but cut off for cyclists by hideous roads and inconvenient crossings. It's taken four years and the intervention of the Scottish Parliament to get some lights on a bike path replaced further north - while in Tottenham CS1 doesn't appear to amount to much more than a magic painted bike with powers to levitate over kerbs.

Winter cycling

Meanwhile, winter continues - and if can offer as many emotional barriers to cycling as physical ones, although the endless soggy rain doesn't seem to dampen the cycling enthusiasm of the cyclists of Utrecht. Snow falls in the US have launched the usual crop of sneckdown images but it seems the forces of motorism are fighting back by digging out snow piles on the road and dumping them on the (shovelled) sidewalk.

Bike share & bikenomics

We've highlighted a lot of posts on the apparently unstoppable rise of bike share in the US but this week brought news of the threat to Seattle's bike share system due to lower ridership levels - should more have been done to challenge the city's helmet laws rather than try and accommodate them - and what are the lessons for Portland? Meanwhile, the end of sanctions against Cuba might mean a boom in bicycle part sales if this video is anything to go by - while Kevin Mayne has apparently been keepign the entire Belgian economy afloat on bike sales alone; you know N+1 is out of hand when you need a barn rather than a shed for your bikes.

And finally

With the Guardian's Susannah Rustin very sensibly asking why we aren't being asked to cut down on car use the way we're asked to cut down on sugar and booze, xkcd's What If works out that America's cars are so harmful that it would be better and safer to launch them all into space than continue to drive them...