The Great Big Let's Just Call it Bike Year Bike Blog Roundup

With every year that passes, the number of bike weeks and months, to work or for any other purpose seems to proliferate - including even protected bike lane week, which at least answers the criticism that encouraging people to cycle shouldn't just be about promotion but also infrastructure (that said, it seems just having a Tour winner announce he fancies a ride in your area is enough to encourage hundreds onto their bikes - even if he does drop most participants on the hills). And many of these events, big or small, do more than just encourage - whether it's car free days in Paris, showing the importance of thinking big on such schemes - or the simple matter of removing barriers on a popular trail for kidical mass, making it possible for cargo bikes to get through - in contrast to the everyday reality of cycling to school on the other days of the year.

What gets measured ...

One twist on this week's global bike to work day was the involvement of Strava which can now offer cities a wealth of data on their existing cyclists, if not their potential ones, although in many cases, it's not more data that's needed but political will. GICycles looks at how such GPS data can be usefully used while Streetsblog considers why two trails in Chicago see such different ridership levels. Meanwhile in Edinburgh manual bike counts continue to confirm the rise of cycling in the city and make the case for protected bike lanes on busy routes.

Numbers in Safety

Another set of contested figures are those relating to the dangers or otherwise of cycling - even with the tales of gloom cycling is still a rational, but more importantly joyful, choice for the Invisible Visible Man. In Bristol, without accurate figures on cycling levels, increasing casualty numbers don't lead to any real conclusion - while a lack of reported incidents on Sheffield's tram tracks might come as a surprise to all the cyclists who tried to report theirs. One thing which seems increasingly uncontested is that protective equipment like bike helmets should be bottom of the hierachy when it comes to promoting safety - and yet another poll, this time in Toronto, shows that most people agree.

When is a superhighway not a superhighway?

With bloggers everywhere still flabbergasted by London's Cycle Superhighways - the Urbanist asks what makes a cycle superhighway? Some clues from the rest of the UK might be: that it doesn't take your breath away for all the wrong reasons, as in Glasgow's Red Tunnel, it's wider than 75cm at its narrowest point and not boobytrapped with missing manhole covers, as in the Leeds Bradford superhighway, it doesn't make you get off and push as in Birmingham's latest cycle route, parts of it don't have to be removed on safety grounds but still leave you as the filling in a bus sandwich as in Manchester's Portland Street, and it's not ankle deep in mud as in Bristol's Avon Gorge path. Looking further afield, suggestions might include not being frustratingly stop-start as every junction leaves bikes with no real sense of priority, as in New Zealand, not ignoring your country's design guidance, as in Dun Laoghaire, and not making the signs alerting drivers to bikes coming the 'wrong' way too small for them to read. And while it's a sign of a decent width of trail that drivers can mistake it for a road, better intersection design might help keep the motorised traffic off the bike routes in Minneapolis (or an appropriately spaced bollard, of course). Sometimes this is why trialling designs helps - Portland's parking-protected bike lane on Broadway isn't perfect but it needs support - and the city is also trialing a different way of rolling out separation after drivers destroyed plastic wands within days of their installation. It will likely be a long wait before we get rain sensitive traffic lights on major routes though.

A tale of two cities

As consultation starts on Leeds' cycling strategy - and Jan Gehl reminds us of the benefits of a liveable city we could ask what makes a cycling city? Portland is renowned for its cycling culture but it's only now that it's starting to embrace protected bike lanes - and interestingly in one district this is explicitly intended to boost businesses along a commercial street. At one point, Seattle looked as if it were challenging Portland as a cycling city - but the reality is it's not a great city for families to cycle in, as gaps in the network leave them stranded - here's what it would take to make the network complete.

Policy issues

More widely, we need to change our whole policy mindset - although vintage films from the US cast an interesting light on how long-entrenched that mindset is. Here in the UK, Christian Wolmar argues that car-centric policies reflect an unthinking default rather than anything properly thought through while the tools used to analyse proposed schemes are flawed in ways that bias against active travel. Unfortunately, fear of 'gridlock' can still scupper the closure of a road through Tooting Common - even though, yet again, a city finds that closing even a major urban highway doesn't make traffic elsewhere much worse - and there are many more efficient uses of any given road lane than just private vehicles. While you can argue the details of the true cost of driving or benefits of cycling, even for the Dutch a 10% increase in cycling would bring only benefits in many areas. Meanwhile, the US government continues to remove regulations that block cities' safer street designs - and has denied that traffic throughput is the be-all and end-all of road designs, while Washington DC is acting to remove its law on contributory negligence which meant any mistake by a pedestrian or cyclist - however minor - meant they had no claim on a driver who had knocked them down, and the Road Danger Reduction Forum asks if Transport for London is finally moving to tackle the root causes of road danger. And it's worth remembering that not all cyclists' deaths are senseless tragedies - for some, it's actually the way they'd want to go.

Haters gonna hate

None of which stops the anti-cycling brigade from continuing to project their own fears onto cyclists, which may be why they are united in their lack of any evidence - indeed their stubborn continuation in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Sometimes the objections are just bizarre (and enlivened by a dose of mansplaining), some baffling, like Hampton Court Palace's banning of bikes but not cars on safety grouds, and some - like the Chelsea Society's objection to Quietways (fisked here by Ranty Highwayman) - deserve to be classics of the genre (although they missed the opportunity to object on the grounds of the 'historic character' of the streets in question). But while we can mock, get anti-cycle lane signs removed from cabs and even boldly confront beeping drivers - the truth is such reactions are more than just stigmatising, they are positively dangerous - so how refreshing to see that a bike lane plan in New York is treated largely as a news story rather than a chance to bring out the pitchfork-toting mob.

Bike make it better

Meanwhile the evidence continues to accrue that cycling is helpful for everything from dementia to cancer although for the really overweight there are design considerations that may make riding a bike difficult - something the Wheels for All inclusive cycling conference may be considering this week in Leicester? Bikes can also reach disaffected young people in the US - although sometimes they don't realise that things like hire bikes are also for the likes of them, not just the wealthy residents. And cycling also has its role to play in international climate change policy.

Holiday choices

With summer tentatively arriving, many are making their holiday plans - but cycling to beat gridlock during the Rio Olympics suffered a major blow this week. Completing the John Wayne pioneer trail would be a major asset for tourism in Washington State - while the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling will celebrate bike culture closer to home. And for next spring, there really couldn't be anything more Dutch than cycling to view the tulips in bloom.

Election washup

We've had rather too much election news in recent weeks, but as the dust settles, it looks as if Space for Cycling has been the winner in Bristol's elections (and you can relive the mayoral hustings in tweets if you're getting withdrawal symptoms). In London, as Sadiq Khan introduces his plans to tackle pollution, both the London Cycle Campaign and Chris Boardman remind him of his promises for cycling. And finally, as the US election starts to get into gear here at last is something useful to do with all the election signs that pop up during the campaign - build a bike camper out of them