The Great Big 'Only Connect' Bike Blog Roundup

It seemed to be a week of thinking holistically this week with a ride on an outer London cycle route that led Ranty Highwayman to realise that we need to think about whole neighbourhoods not routes, while the Westway section of the planned East West London Superhighway shows how important the wider network is in making a cycle route a success - and success breeds success as plans to upgrade a buffered bike lane in San Francisco which was already attracting increased numbers of riders and build a bike corridor in Washington DC to join already high-cycling neighbourhoods to the city centre show. Meanwhile, mapping Birmingham's mental cycle route map shows how a few small interventions could do a lot to lay the foundations for a city wide network (or easily build a safe route for cycling along the A12), while contraflows and the creative use of crossings means primary kids could ride from pool to school in Lambeth (just to put that in perspective, the Dutch have been building landmark bridges for more than 20 years to join up their recreational as well as their commuting networks). Networks mean benefits pile up: researchers in Portland find that having a good bike network gives cyclists the options to minimise the pollution they breathe in - while for Seattle, network effects might be key to saving the city's troubled bike share scheme.

A destination not a through road

Meanwhile cars need what is effectively the opposite of a network, at least in our city centres: once we stop thinking about a street as a through road it can be transformed - and so can a whole district if you start thinking about space for people instead of fancy paving - after all you're only punishing the drivers who were taking ridiculously short journeys in the first place. This is something Dublin seems to be taking on board with plans to transform College Green into a plaza with the backing of businesses - while the businesses battling cycle tracks in Edinburgh to 'save a local community' don't seem to have registered that there's not much community there now as long as traffic dominates. Meanwhile some communities in Southern California are rejecting complete streets in favour of through traffic - even though islands of civilised cycleable streets are becoming a tourist destination in their own right (by folk driving there, ironically enough). Perhaps the work of the Better Block Foundation to demonstrate temporarily interventions such as this pop-up bikeway in Portland can help people to think more radically about how streets could be transformed.

Designing cities

We ask ourselves does our city fit us? - but what does that mean in reality? In Japan, cities aren't overrun by cars because the Japanese have to prove they have somewhere to park before they can buy one - whereas in New York corruption is built into the fabric of the city and powerful vested interests have hampered its cycling revolution. In the UK, even new developments are being built to outdated standards 10 years after the Manual for Streets came out - but at least one new development in Cardiff will be ambitiously people-friendly if it's built as planned. Birmingham hears about the benefits of Copenhagenising the city - but the people who have the power to do it were not there to listen. At a finer level, as Philadelphia maps the stress levels of it streets Cycle Boom uses film and skin sensors to divine what our emotional connection is to the routes we ride through.

Consultation watch

Visions are one thing - actual plans are another and as the latest London Quietways open for consultation they seem to be showing a worrying lack of ambition although at least a new path built as part of Quietway 1 will provide a key off road link. In other consultation, Cycle Superhighway 11 will include closing Regent's Park to rat running traffic for all but a few hours of the day but plans for two junctions in what would have been Cycle Superhighway 9 show the difference between what different boroughs are prepared to provide. The deadly is to get a radical rethink after plans were rejected last year. Further out, Waltham Forest Cycle Campaign responds to the latest Mini Holland proposals while plans for a contraflow route in Sutton are welcome but more space could be found for cycling.

Beyond That London

Outside London, the pace is somewhat slower, although Aberdeen is about to start work on cycle paths on a deadly road (well, shared use pavements...) while Manchester's Oxford Road is about to get protected cycle tracks and bus stop bypasses. Work is also beginning on a path along the A10 corridor while Oxfordshire Council is opening a tunnel to provide a safe route to a Didcot Science Park and Cambridge plans a 'park and cycle' facility with possibly also an express bus and cycle route along the M11. There are also plans to improve the towpath in Bath - although not with any great sense of urgency despite it being difficult to spot the difference between towpath and canal in some places at the moment.

Still, lest all this good new give you an unwarranted sense of optimism and progress, there was also news that Essex County Council has spent money to move traffic lights 800m to ease congestion by stopping all those pesky cyclists and pedestrians from pressing the button all the time (surely easier to move the button a couple of metres up the pole?) while Cumbria's temporary bridges don't appear to be very safe for cycling while wheelchair users are getting a raw time in Glasgow during roadworks.

Taking matters into our own hands

Following on from last week, there were a couple more stories showcasing the awesome power of the traffic cone - which has been pressed into use by one American school's crossing guards - perhaps we should be giving them to our lollipop ladies too? Glasgow's cyclists are urged to come along and support Bears Way next weekend. You don't need to be on foot or a bike to do a bit of tactical urbanism either - if you're stuck with driving, why not give 20's Plenty Tuesdays a go and unilaterally lower the speed limit wherever you drive? However you do it, though, be careful: tragically one woman who used her trike to make San Diego a better place was killed in a hit and run.


The benefits of active travel being what they are, you wouldn't think politicians would need a children's animation to explain it to them, but apparently they still do although London Assembly members are urging London's next mayor to continue to support the city's nascent cycling revolution, and the House of Lords demonstrated cross party support for decent infrastructure - although Britain may have missed its chance to 'go Dutch' back in the 70s when the Dutch were only just going Dutch and fine words without funding will have the same effect now as fine words without funding have done for 40 years. Still, a Nottingham MP has called for safer tram tracks before a cyclist gets killed and a UKIP politician has signed up for Space for Cycling in Derby - Donald Trump however finds parking more important than people's homes at least when it's his development and it's someone else's home.

The magic of paint

No, really - the only thing worse than a paint-only bike lane is a paint-only bike lane where the paint has worn off, proving that it really does have magical powers although not after all the magical power to lure pedestrians to their doom through the mythical 'false sense of security' that US traffic engineers have long feared. However, paint is not enough at junctions without a separate phase for bikes, causing left hook collisions - all the more reason Cambridge should revise its plans for Histon Road to do more for cycling. It's easy to find six places for protected intersections in Portland - but where would they go in your city?

Winter goes on

Spring may be round the corner, but it's not there yet; at the Winter Cycling Congress Modal Mom considered how we need to change the narrative about winter cycling from one of danger and bravery - to one of the sort of decent networks that work all year round - oh and are cleared of snow when it falls (and that goes for pedestrians too).

Law and enforcement

In this week's 'the law is an ass' section, top marks go to creative use of intellectual property laws by a sweeper firm who'd rather the world didn't see one of its drivers using a mobile phone at the wheel - although the courts have redeemed themselves by throwing out the taxi drivers' case against the cycle superhighway that has already been almost completed. When the authorities don't take dangerous driving seriously it sets up a vicious cycle of low expectations and dangerous norms - but stopping a dangerous driver could be something that saves a life before it was taken. New South Wales's proposed 1m passing law could help challenge drivers' ideas about cyclists although the same can't be said for its proposed ID law for those riding bikes - while the Isle of Man may be the first part of the UK to see a presumed liability law. In New York a new proposal could allow cyclists a chance to get a head start on turning traffic - but allowing the city to use speed cameras effectively might do more for road safety overall.

Health and safety - language matters

We often forget that there's a health side to health and safety - but as this powerful story reminds us - when you're battling cancer it's in not getting active that the real danger lies, something that health professionals should remember when using shocking images to promote helmet use and risking putting people off cycling altogether. As Cardiff by Bike asks what it would take to get parents out of cars for the school run, yet another study confirms that it's infrastructure not helemt compulsion that keeps people safe. Not, of course that you're all that safe in a car - it seems there's no safety in numbers among drivers, anyway.


Another week, another study showing that bikes benefit local communities - which comes as no surprise to the Danes - or to businesses in London. If nothing else bike parking provides low-cost on-street advertising to local businesses - in fact that's more or less the business model for Dublin Bikes at the moment - while the Dutch, naturally, use bikes to sell almost anything. And with Frog Bikes bringing a few bike manufacturing jobs back to the UK, there's one man in the Western US who's making a very nice living out of cycling, but sadly by duping kind strangers.

Those pesky cyclists

Perhaps it was the influence of Valentine's Day, but looking back over this week's news it does seem to have been rather a pink and fluffy positive week for a change. Just to counteract that, here's Carlton Reid putting his argumentative skills to great use with LBC's aptly named Nick Ferrari while the People's Front of South Gloucestershire gets stroppy with diesel drivers and Bikefast takes on Belfast's small businesses. Sometimes you have to set diplomacy aside and get a little revenge on an aggressive motorist - I wonder whether the enthusiasm among some cyclists for driverless cars stems purely from the fact that they won't succumb to road rage...

And finally

But let's not end on such a discordant note, so we leave you with this little gem from Bicycle Dutch on how to date on a bike, Dutch style (and a few tips on how not to do it US style...)