The Great Big Priorities Please (Again!) Blog Roundup

It's a well-worn phrase that a picture can be worth a thousand words; in the case of the Department for Transport an organisation chart (and a stock photo) tell you everything you need to know about where cycling and walking lie on the priorities list - while the agenda of a a local transport summit makes it clear what role the Scottish government thinks walking and cycling has for rural transport (hint: none). Richmond needs to put cycling and walking at the heart of its local transport plan - something that (as viewed through Dutch eyes), Australian cities have done little to do. As a city that has prioritised cycling in the past, Edinburgh is coming to a crunch decision - will it take the disastrous decision to water down its key east-west route? Time to encourage councillors to make the right choice - while in Glasgow, campaigners including GoBike join forces to 'Get Glasgow Moving for decent city-wide public transport. In Birmingham, a route the city acknowledges is a major one for bikes is to be closed for a month just to make the steps accessing it marginally less bike-hostile (although it will at least get some lighting to deter attackers) - while in Essex, they have managed to rip up a cycle path and then leave it with no date set for its completion. It doesn't have to be this way: Italy recognises that major cycling routes can be a boost to the economy and part of a stimulus package while in New Zealand, bike path opening ceremonies underline the distinctiveness of the communities they serve and Toronto is starting to roll out the next link in the chain of its ten-year plan for a cycling network; now it just needs to upgrade its bike parking to match.

Who pays the piper

Building expensive infrastructure to support a noisy minority is all very well - but pity the poor carless American renter, paying an average of $621 a year for car parking they aren't able to use - perhaps they should move to Malmo? Perhaps it would help estate agents caught up with what makes a location valuable for some people... And who pays for it all anyway? Well, Toronto cyclists pay 'road tax' just like everyone else - and contrary to some politicians' imagining, far from road tolls paying for bike lanes in Rhode Island, in fact it's bike funding that is being raided when road projects overrun. In Burlington, it doesn't take much anyway to reinstate safe passage for cyclists with a few flexible posts, and if losing (car) parking is the concern, just how much would need to be 'sacrificed' to create a decent network of bike routes on major roads? Nor does it cost much to subsidise bike share membership for low income users - while one big US firm is using charitable donations to encourage its employees to get cycling and walking.

People power

In what must be a twitter first, one politician in San Francisco proposes bicycle licences (so far, so boring) and then - after a deluge of reasons as to why that's a bad idea, actually acknowledges he got it wrong - while another American politician has built cycling right into his earliest campaigning. In London, passers by step in to protect a cyclist knocked off his bike at a deadly junction - while in Seattle crosswalk protests and other actions have helped tame the city's most dangerous street with a road diet. Kevin Mayne enjoys the perspective that a city bike tour with cycle campaigners brings of battles won and lost. As cycling women in Toronto try and build a community to tackle perceptions of lack of safety from four-wheeled (and two-legged) dangers - while in the Netherlands the whole idea of the need to form social groupings for moral support is baffling as even recumbenteers aren't considered an out group.

Open closed streets

Summer often means open street events, or ciclovias (unless you're Belfast, in which case you hold it at the end of October). New York tried something a bit different with a shared streets event that brought 5mph limits and restricted motor access to 60 blocks of the city's financial district - while Minneapolis used its open street event to demonstrate protected bikeways to mostly warm support. Not everyone's quite with the programme, however with the LA police describing cyclists as 'speed bumps' as they let the cars back in. Even better is when the road closures aren't just for the day - Portland uses strategic filtering of traffic to create bike routes without the need for much infrastrucure, while Camden is finally consulting on closing a lane of motor traffic to create a parking-protected contraflow track. And even partial limitations of traffic can have surprisingly widespread effects, as London's congestion charge has cut traffic fatalities even outside the zone.

For and against

We all know by now not to read the comments - but if you can bear it, they do illuminate what we're up against in terms of entrenched attitudes in low-cycling countries - leaving cycling being branded synonymous with antisocial behaviour and banned in places in Mansfield and Newport - even though delivery vans and other motor vehicles can still enter. In Boston, as drivers cause carnage, it's still cyclists who are the problem while driver complaints lead to parking protection being removed from a brand new New York bike lane (now the bikes will protect the parked cars, instead of vice versa). In Minneapolis, however, the positions of supporters and opponents of a trial greenway are both more nuanced than you might expect - while some of those signing a petition to ban cycling on the A24 are clearly not actually supporters, if their names are anything to go by. In some places, it seems some people don't even want cyclists if they're painted on the side of a cow - while others are just keen to hand out unsolicited health advice even if they could potentially benefit from taking some of their own.

The long haul

Regular readers of this blog will know that cycle campaigns often take a long time to come to fruition (even the Dutch sometimes mysteriously delay things for a year) so it's perhaps no surprise that it's taken more than 20 years to replace a bike and footbridge in Pennsylvania, and almost 20 years for a bridge in Cambridge - we should congratulate Portland on taking only 10 years to get funding for a car-free bridge across a highway - and hope that the campaign for cycling provision for those crossing the Mersey doesn't take as long.

Design issues

Of course, even when the authorities start to recognise the benefits of cycling infrastructure concentrating on the number of miles of bike lanes tends to create gaps in the network that limit their usefulness - fortunately there are usually plenty of campaigners around with ideas for how to fill them, such as fitting segregated cycle lanes into the Old Kent Road or connecting up with east-west links on the A1010 in Enfield. In Newcastle, the people of Gosforth have much better ideas for the Blue House road building plans than giant roundabouts eating up the city's green spaces. Southwark cyclists explains how to use a cycle cut through without falling foul of the law - in general, whether you're in London or Portland, cycling infrastructure that isn't self-explanatory (or just plain scary) is a bit of a fail. Conflict between cyclists and pedestrians can be better solved by more room for everyone than imposing speed limits - while in Essex making cyclists wait longer for the lights doesn't improve anything for drivers or cyclists. A new bike lane in Sacramento uses the worst possible design for 'right hook' collisions - while Walton's high street shows that continuous footways can already be done and used safely. In some places, all cyclists get is a shoulder to cry, sorry ride on and even then, they're pretty poor. And in other places bus stops don't just come with shelters but bike share stands and a supply of books - perhaps something for Belfast Bikes to consider as it gears up for expansion one year after its launch.

Cycling for young and old

If you really want to know how good your cycling network is, you don't need a degree in infrastructure design, just a small child on a bike and a day to explore - while if you're a dad with two kids on board you may finally get the respect you crave from the cool bike messengers you meet. As Dave Moulton gets musing on what it means to become too old or infirm to ride a bike, inclusive cycling can provide a route from a wheelchair to a trike with time and patience - while in Chicago's Chinatown it's not the young or the old who aren't cycling, it's those in the middle.

What price a collision?

Two contrasting cases hit the headlines this week as we learned that a midwife's leg is only worth £625 and 5 points on an HGV drivers' licence (meaning he can still drive lorries for a living) - as long as she's cycling - while even a a hit and run on a cycling police officer is only 11 months in prison and a three year ban. In Cambridge, it ought to be a condition of their licence that taxi drivers learn how to drive around cyclists. In Christchurch, a promising young cyclist is welcomed home with a haka after a near-death collision in Italy, but there will be no such homecoming for a visiting cyclist to the Highlands. And while driving bans and punishments are one deterrent - perhaps the best response to a fatal collision is the sort of cycling infrastructure that makes it less likely to happen again.

And finally

This blog roundup is no stranger to encounters with terrifying creatures such as bears, crocodiles (and adorable baby skunks) - but this surely is one of the scariest wildlife encounters we've ever read...