the Great Big Keep on Trucking Bike Blog Roundup

Well, this week started with a bang, with UK cyclists awakening to government advice telling them to avoid falling pianos at all costs in a desperately misguided safety campaign that left not just Cycling UK wondering what on earth they were thinking. Beyond the Kerb gave it a good frame-by-frame analysis, while Chris Boardman pointed out that it was aimed at the wrong audience - while any realistic portrayal of how HGV left hooks really happen would have shown that it was the junction design that was largely at fault. Meanwhile - with a lorry driver only getting a suspended sentence for killing a cyclist in just such a left hook incident, at least the most dangerous lorries will eventually be banned from London's roads - a move welcomed by Cycling UK and the London Cycling Campaign.

Backlashing against their own priorities

With the dust barely settled on that issue, East Dunbarton councillors voted (along party lines) not to extend the Bears Way route, despite it barely causing any delay to drivers - taking a short-term, car centric perspective, despite the decision flying in the face of Scottish government policy to reach 10% of journeys by bike by 2020 - a target it has no hope on earth of meeting now, especially without political commitment to make sweeping changes - and which might have helped Scotland tackle its obesity problems. Indeed, had the councillors but known it, they were turning down one of the most cost-effective publich health interventions there is.

But let's not be too hard on East Dunbartonshire or the Scottish Government, because they are not alone - NewCycling would like to know how Newcastle hopes to meet its policy goals for a better city, while BikeSD points out that San Diego's Uptown Plan is incompatible with its climate action one, and New York is going to have to make huge strides in cycling levels if it's to reach its climate goals. Elsewhere, Los Angeles has shifted the goalposts slightly by counting the bikeways it has designed rather than those it has implemented while London's new target to 'halve' road deaths isn't quite what it first appears. Let's hope that commitments from Northern Ireland to grow the greenway network (and it looks like Bog Meadows would be a good place to start), from Philadelphia to build more protected bike lanes and from Oslo to halve carbon emissions through more bike lanes among other measures, don't prove similarly short lived.

Getting up a head of anti-steam

Meanwhile in London, delays are giving room for the anti-brigade to build up a head of steam sometimes with quite bizarre results - although at least Enfield councillors have proved themselves resilient in the face of a tirade of abuse. In Hampstead those opposing CS11 are crowdfunding a judicial review (here are some key points as to why they're misguided), while Quietway 6 is meeting opposition from residents who would rather it not be routed through a park after a cyclist hit a child - although it's not the most brilliant route anyway overall. In LA, Flying Pigeon tries to get through to people that road diets work for everyone - there's not really any contradiction between inclusive streets and cut-through traffic - and in the end (fingers crossed) backlash ends not with a bang, but a press release and a little re-writing of history

Will nobody think of the cars?

It is of course a favourite (and understandable) objection to cycling infrastructure (or any intervention) that it will create congestion - even though it's the choice to drive (well, that and texting drivers) that really creates traffic tailbacks. But as Paris reclaims its waterfront permanently from an expressway it used temporary closures to demonstrate that traffic really does evaporate when roads are closed - perhaps we should use the planned Tower Bridge closure to demonstrate a similar effect in London (meanwhile, if you're cycling that way, here are some alternatives) - unfortunately Philadelphia did not take up a similar opportunity to tragic effect.

If we build it, will they come?

Just as removing road space cuts traffic, so we've long argued that providing nice spaces to cycle in will create cyclists - and certainly in Vancouver, after a few years, a greenway (quiet routes built using filtered permeability) is now well used and well loved, even among those who don't realise it's to benefit them on foot too. The Propensity to Cycle tool can show how even in areas of declining cycling levels the potential is there - and can also demonstrate how bridges which provide shortcuts can increase levels too - although we need to be clear about the limitations of the data of a tool build solely on commuting data. Certainly the rapid change in behaviour and attitudes brought about by the plastic bag tax shows that 'culture' can be remarkably malleable - while even our famously non-bicycling royals aren't immune to the charms of the bike.

Reimagining our cities - for everyone

But what will it take to get politicians to reimagine our car-centric cities in the face of backlash driven by Fear of Parking Loss? Events like Parking Day are a good place to start, as are last week's open streets events in celebration of car free day - which have reached even Detroit - while a new Expo in Paris will celebrate car-free cities.

The best cities need to cater for all ages, and, while it's hard to get your kids cycling independently in a car-dominated city, properly designed infrastructure make adults much more comfortable with giving children freedom to cycle. At the other end of the 8-80 spectrume, the UK is a long way from building cities older people can cycle in - but routes like the Bruce Vento trail provide low-stress cycling for all members of the family (and, in contrast, city maps shouldn't mistake sharrows for bike infrastructure). Hackney is getting some things right but it needs to do more if it's to encourage cycling in the north of the borough - while, for all its progress, Belfast still seems unable to make space for cycling in some schemes while making sure cars are barely affected. In Utrecht, a junction is reconfigured for people not cars with the full support of local businesses (but some worries from cycling organisations) - while experiments in Amsterdam try to capture the hard-to-quantify experiences that affect cycling

Small changes

Of course, sometimes we don't need huge interventions - a little willingess to experiment with small changes can actually make a big difference in closing network gaps - like putting back a bike route through a car park that had vanished in a resurfacing - or a bridge converted to bikes and pedestrians only after restoration. Or, on the other hand, not locking an access gate on a brand new bike and pedestrian route - or overriding the wishes of the local authority and blocking a change to a by-law to allow cycling on the seafront.

Taking matters into our own hands

In the face of persistent delays and deferrals down to objectors, it's no surprise when people take matters into their own hands and build their own protected cycleway. And if that seems a bit tricky, you could always put up some signs or just keep tweeting until someone decides to remove barriers in your way. You can turn out on your bike for space for cycling - eventually, with patience, you may end up doing a victory lap - or in solidarity against hate - and even if you're only a pair of primary school kids eventually you may prevail (I hope those two girls got invited to this). And nor is activisim confined to the cyclists, these days - with a ghost walker appearing in Portland after a hit and run.

Bikes and development

Bikes might seem to some to be part of the gentrification of our cities, but Reading in Pennsylvania has shown how bikes can benefit a decidedly struggling city - all led by a social enterprise fixing bikes - and perhaps similar schemes in Wisconsin and beyond could have a similar effect. As Sainsbury's brings back bike deliveries after 130 years (and using employees, not gig-economy 'freelancers' too) Portland is cracking down on drive-thrus that don't serve the communities they are located in. And for the country that has everything ... how best to get to a (car) breakdown quickly? By bike of course. Tell the AA...

Safety and enforcement

Meanwhile, we have to deal with the roads we have - could it be that educating drivers to look behind them as they open their doors will help reduce dooring (it doesn't help if lawyers use bike lanes as a loophole to get drivers off when they do door a cyclist. We do need to challenge the double standard that condemns every pavement cyclist, while condoning dangerous illegal parking on bike lanes - perhaps a new site to name and shame the blockers may have an effect. Hertfordshire police seem to have no interest in prosecuting dangerous close passes despite video footage, but the cyclists' new favourite police force seem to feel no such inhibition even when using third party video evidence - while in Sydney a friendly encounter with the New South Wales police builds better understanding on both sides. Still in Australia, where over the longer term cycling is apparently getting safer, the bike helmet controversy is really about not having to do anything else to improve cyclists' safety - although a helmet might be quite useful for protection while banging your head against a wall. Meanwhile Seattle has lowered its default speed limit but it still needs the roads to match - while Oregon still puts costly barriers in the way of lower speed limits in Portland.

And finally ...

After rather a serious roundup this week, we couldn't help but leave you with one bike tour that's guaranteed to stop at every red light - and nor could we resist the Dutch bike path that is genuinely crap... Apologies for the schoolgirl humour, come back for more kerb nerdery next week.