the Great Big Windshield Perspective Bike Blog Roundup

The West Midlands Police's cycling safety initiative - highlighted in this blog last week - has been met with massive approval from Cycling UK and their own chief constable - but Laura Laker was startled to see that stopping drivers from breaking the law was considered 'targeting motorists' unfairly. The fact is that we're still failing to tackle the real road risks and our legal system still seems to treat driving as an inalienable right rather than a privilege - imagine if 'I didn't see you' was treated as the admission of guilt that it is... And as cars coccoon their drivers in ever more layers of luxury and ease, it's easier for them to be completely oblivious of how their behaviour affects others - with even the mayor of New York succumbing to the driver's perspective in excusing those who endanger others 'just for five minutes'. Meanwhile, although the planned doubling of penalties for mobile use at the wheel doesn't go far enough for their victims, if drivers continue to boast about their transgressions on social media at least they will be easy to catch.

Bloody cyclists

Of course, cyclist have only themselves to blame - holding up brides on their way to their wedding, for example, and going on to be the most evil dictator in history - something to add to the automatic anti-bike-rant generator for future editions perhaps? (although could it be that the Bristol Post is going over to the other side?) We can laugh, but the language the media use when reporting crashes does matter, and it turns out even Dutch delivery drivers take more care with a TV than a bike. More importantly it can help drive sometimes baffling pushback against schemes that would make things better - like the hospital's astroturfing of a campaign against bus bypasses, Seattle's decision not to retain a lane configuration that has cut collisions on a street by 75% (and would essentially be free), and opposition to a trial of traffic diverters to cut ratrunning in Chicago. Sometimes persistence pays off, however: Flying Pigeon suffers through a four hour meeting but finally sees a road diet get approved, while after one final last-ditch attempt to derail it, work starts on the first part of the Enfield Mini Holland scheme.

Counting cyclists ...

After last week's Household Survey showed that there's been barely any change for cycling in England (or at least no sign of that cycling revoloution), this week it was the US's turn with the release of the latest census data showing cycling falling slightly overall. But, as with the UK, there were some bright spots: fewer people driving to work and more women cycling in Seattle, cycling growing in Philadelphia and Washington DC, and reaching an all-time mode share high in Minneapolis, while lower petrol prices haven't lured Portlanders back into their cars. Elsewhere, counts suggest that cycling is on the rise in Auckland, even in winter. Meanwhile, census data in the UK, put to work in the Propensity to Cycle Tool, is showing that we shouldn't neglect the small towns and concentrate only on cycling cities.

Cycle to Kidical Parking Massive Work Day

There was something of a collision of 'days' this week - with Cycle to Work day highlighting the many compromises, half measures and some improvements on Ranty Highwayman's commute - while more than 100 people beat the heat underground to take 'bike trains' into central London. Ranty Highwayman was also out for the London Kidical Massive, reminding people that cycling should be for everyone, while rain did not stop play in Seattle. Parking Day brought out some creative installations in a bid to show some better uses for our streets than storing cars - again Seattle embraced the event - and will be highlighting the benefits of cycling in the most challenging circumstances - from a zombie apocalypse to an earthquake - next weekend at the Disaster relief trials.

What do cyclists want?

Not much question in New York, where cyclists took over 5th Avenue to demand safer streets, with a massive turnout making cyclists more visible; the mayor had already announced more protected bike lanes but it takes more than a patchwork of painted lanes to make cities like New York safe. Elsewhere, cyclists and non-cyclists agree that better infrastructure is what is needed in Belfast - and also San Francisco. In Glasgow, whichever dataset you look at, existing cyclists clearly want the same direct routes that cars enjoy - while North Tyneside Council seems open to suggestions about where cycling infrastructure should go to greatest effect, and even cycling campaigns can sometimes be pleasantly surprised by new facilities. When appealing to the unconverted, it's quickness not speed that makes cycling attractive - although we should remember that one word conceals a multitude of meanings - and it turns out that it's almost as complicated to build a decent stretch of singletrack as it apparently is to create a decent urban cycle track.

Sometimes it takes a trial to settle what people really want (or whether their hopes and fears will be borne out in reality). In Tower Hamlets, the world presumably not having ended, its 20 mph limit is made permanent while Camden is consulting on whether to make the new arrangements on Torrington and Tavistock place permanent - please support them, as the taxi drivers are mobilising against it, for all their keenness to promote safer cycling in London.

Money and policy and politics as usual

Funding is undoubtedly key to good provision so could the proceeds of the sugar tax go to creating safe walking and cycling to school? Certainly Irish cyclists would like to see a similar approach. The Scottish government position on cycling hasn't changed much (for good or for ill) while the London mayor dismisses cycle funding fears as 'complete nonsense' - hopefully that's because he's seen how much could be saved by the city, and will be following Copenhagen's lead in investing - while Dublin needs €25m a year for four years to complete its cycling projects. Too late for us, with Brexit on the horizon, but the EU is developing an EU cycling strategy and supporting a cross-border greenway between Derry and Donegal. In the US, it's frustrating to find what the little cycling and walking funding there is pilfered for car projects - while Chicago is struggling to maintain the lanes it has as the funding available is only for building them not keeping them going.

Meanwhile on the policy side, it's encouraging to thsee that the United States' Highways Agency wants to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist deaths - but some policies seem more powerful than others: Space for Gosforth wonders where the North East Local Enterprise Partnership's commitment to reducing carbon emissions sits with its plans for increased road capacity, while transport officials in Washington are trying to sidestep complete street policies when it comes to bridges (as ever the Dutch do things differently, although you do sometimes have to share with tractors). In Christchurch, it seems that parking policy is all about the car (you can bet that one gets implemented ...) while councillors' failure to agree about advertising signs in Dublin might push up the cost of bike share. Meanwhile, Bike Portland finds a mayor who actually looks as if he belongs on a bike, Santa Monical council candidates are asked when they were last on a bike and women cycling executives gather in Washington to look at cycling related legislation.

Designing for safety

Although if you take away the traffic, riding a bike is safer than driving a car - and even for pedestrians a cycle crash is generally better than the alternative - safety does loom large in most cyclists' lives so it's good to see Vision Zero plans proceeding in San Francisco and Portland. While Australia concentrates on passing distance legislation (to be followed by licence plates reminding drivers to obey it perhaps?), and New York makes it illegal for drivers to hit a pedestrian even if they start crossing a bit late (surely it's illegal to drive into a pedestrian anyway, isn't it?), others take more concrete action, like quietly reconfiguring the traffic lights to encourage slower speeds - rather than timing them so that you have speed through them at road works. As Easy as Riding a Bik considers the dangers of poorly designed puffin crossings while Lancaster Dynamo is disappointed to see chevrons rather than space for cycling narrowing the A6 and Dave McCraw finds that some disappearing double yellows make his route home even more 'interesting' - perhaps he should follow some Bremen residents' lead and get the paint out. We're often critical of 'sign make it better' but it appears that electronic warning signs and other measures are making things a bit safer for cyclists on a dangerous junction in Auckland (fixing such junctions properly proves complicated when you get into the nuts and bolts of it) while sharrows might not do much for cycling but they do apparently fractionally slow traffic speeds.

Other cities, other places

As the tales from Amsterdam's summer school continue, the encouraging lesson for Quebec is that cycling doesn't just magically happen, there was change and a story behind it. Valencia has a great network of separated bike lanes, if you can only manage to liberate a bike share bike to enjoy them and Salt Lake City is surprisingly bike friendly too, while Japan has lessons from Chicago when it comes to sharing streets. As experts weigh in on making Montreal safer for cycling, Saint Paul at least has some low-hanging fruit for cycle routes that won't frighten the horses. And as Bristol considers joining the bike share cities, and Bicyclist Abroad wonders at the connection between Coke and cycling in Ireland, a small community in New Zealand already has a tiny free bike share scheme in place.

The future of mobility

There was a bit of crystal-ball gazing going on this week about how we get around: as fast pedelecs are transforming the Dutch commute, the motor manufacturers are getting in on the act although e-bikes won't ever completely kill off pedal power. And should we be looking forward to driverless cars - or will they bring fresh nightmares to our streets?

Bikes for everyone

In a new book coming out, Urban Adonia addresses the puzzling gap between those fighting for urban justice and those promoting cycling - perhaps Muhammad Ali's legacy will start to bridge it. As women (sporty ones, anyway) finally get their own cycling emojis we're sure Jeanie Welford would have been an early adopter, once she'd got her head around smartphones, emojis, and indeed women in lycra rather than floorlength dresses (she seems a game girl). She'd undoubtedly recognise the sentiment in this short film - bikes are freedom, indeed.