The Great Big Don't Mess Up My Hair Blog Roundup

The big story of the week was the DfT's Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) - or lack of it, both investment, and strategy. Chris Boardman subjected it to some withering mockery, 50 MPs signed a critical letter in the Times, while others felt cycling is on a road to nowhere under a minister whose answers made people die a little inside. Investment for any kind of 'cycling revolution' appears to actually be falling substantially.

All-in-all, the minister's performance on the day the CWIS consultation closed drew strong criticism, not least because of his comments about hair being a barrier to cycling for women, which provoked an open letter from the Embassy, and also a a very personal response from Kats Dekker about genuine barriers to cycling. And, of course, the headline message should be that the vast majority of people - men or women - aren't cycling, and for well-documented reasons.

No investment, no strategy

The problem appears to be both a lack of investment in the first place, and also lack of clear guidance on how any cash should be invested - a problem also documented at a local level. And even the (weak) targets that are set in CWIS must have some kind of monitoring to indicate that the strategy is working. In the meantime, £20m of 'soft' initiatives are only really going to amount to a drop in the ocean.

Of course, concern has been raised not just about progress at a national level, but also in London. While there are schemes winning awards that people can genuinely get excited about, the momentum absolutely has to be sustained under the new mayor. With the new infrastructure in central London already attracting 1,200 people cycling per hour at peak times, it's ruining the perception of cycling by, err, making it look normal. Really, cycling infrastructure is just about a more equitable and sensible use of street space, even if London - like other UK cities - isn't getting everything absolutely right. But will Sadiq keep his promises so that growth in cycling can continue? There is a need for leadership, given that even Hackney don't appear to be able Quietways to a good standard.

Embarrassing design

Thankfully for those us who need a laugh, Britain still retains its ability to waste money on joke cycling infrastructure - whether it's a 'bypass' straight into a car parking bay, or a 'cycle lane' as long as it is useful, Even when it comes to removing an advertising hoarding in the middle of a cycle lane, we still manage to get it wrong, by parking a van in the way. But closing a major cycle route with no alternative isn't just a British thing - New Yorkers have to dismount following the closure of an important route, a classic example of treating cycling in a way we wouldn't treat any other mode of transport.


Oslo is putting Britain to shame, spending £1.4bn on cycle networks, by 2025. This kind of investment makes sense, given that, if EU citizens switched from cars for just 5kms of cycling per day, the monetary value of the resulting health benefits could reach €120 billion. Even getting people to cycle to the hospital in Nijmegen saves the hospital €15m on a parking garage. Paris, at least, appears to be entering into healthy competition with London, announcing new 'superhighways' and opening a short stretch of one, while Gladsaxe in Denmark is getting superhighway tunnels lit with beautiful lighting.

Rounding things up

Of course, this week's blog roundup wouldn't be complete without, err, a roundup of blogs from Sally Hinchcliffe, both old and new. But while bloggers campaign for change, it does actually require people to go out to fix, maintain and even build the kinds of streets we want, although maybe we shouldn't rely solely on engineers to design them. The appetite for changing streets in Portland to make them more liveable is growing, but China seems to think the answer is to keep the streets full of cars, while putting buses in the sky. Maybe they should be looking at the Propensity to Cycle Tool to envisage better uses for space on their main roads.


Cycling deaths have returned to London's streets, amidst a spate of deaths nationally. Lorries unsurprisingly are a particular danger and an HGV was involved in the latest death in Croydon on a terrible stretch of road. Instead of discussing these deaths in a ghoulish way, it might be more constructive to engage with ways to make deaths less likely. Meanwhile the case for pedestrianising Oxford Street becomes urgent again following two serious injuries to elderly pedestrians in two days.

America takes faltering steps

This handy summary of the best American cities for cycling is timely, given signs that the tide of US automobility might be starting to turn, with the US Transportation Secretary himself talking about shifting away from car dependence and even suggesting “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” Even 'Motor City' Detroit is engaging with more sensible ways of moving people around. Unfortunately, however, even slight changes in Seattle have led to allegations of a war on car drivers. It might actually be a simple case of the fact that suburban values won't work in urban areas - suburbs are strange, mysterious places - and also about attitude adjustment.Prioritising other modes of transport for a change isn't a 'war on cars'.

New York is certainly seeing more and more people cycling, thanks to better infrastructure; let's hope future changes aren't blocked by vocal minorities. At least the appropriately-named Amsterdam Avenue is getting a protected lane, and in New York State the city of Buffalo is looking to transform itself with cycling infrastructure.  

The Big Picture

Cycling might even stop us eliminating ourselves from the planet - but even if things don't get quite that serious, we already know that at the very least more cycling just means a better city, solving problems like Car crashes are sadly still the predominant cause of injury-related death for children in New York. These aren't 'accidents', a word which it turns out has a similar origin to 'jaywalking' in transferring responsibility. We also have a tendency to submit to Cycling Stockholm Syndrome, mistakenly accepting that we are the problem; a toxic mix when combined with sexual harassment.  Meanwhile, a lack of alternatives for getting kids to school in Britain means that declining or cancelled bus services have resulted in an extra 100 million car trips every year.

Obey the rules

It turns out that - just like in every other study - rumours of cyclist misbehaviour are greatly exaggerated, with only 1 in 8 cyclists jumping lights in a study of Irish junctions. New South Wales evidently isn't getting the message, though, with cycling fines increasing dramatically while (strokes chin) just four have been issued for motoring offences. Cycling on the pavement is often a legal grey area, with rules varying from country to country, and even from street to street, so there is certainly a pragmatic case for allowing it with children in the absence of good alternatives. More generally, there are five things you should really know about cycling with kids.

Just get out there

Sometimes it's just good to get out on a bike, regardless of how daunting the ride (and indeed the weather) might seem. At least if you're near Dumfries, you might even win a prize just for cycling to the shops, instead of driving. It's certainly good to see reporters out on bikes, experiencing problems and issues first hand, although the perils of sharing space with the world's largest aircraft might not be a pressing journalistic assignment. And a reminder for drivers getting out there that speed really is an illusion - you're just arriving at the back of the next queue faster.

Don't get jealous - Derry City Council employees have Elephant Bikes to do daily trips (and they're also available for hire by tourists). Portland, meanwhile, is embracing electric bikes cycles as a way of opening up cycling to new users, and Edinburgh is of course hosting its Festival of Cycling very soon.

Just no - stop it

We'll leave you with some very bad ideas - how about rules of the road for pedestrians? (No. Just no. Definitely no.). Not quite as bad, however, as some passive-aggressive (very aggressive) stickers a van driver thoughtfully decided to add to his vehicle.