The Great Big Courting Controversy Bike Blog Roundup

This week, the courts put a major spanner in the UK government works - not just over the EU (although there is one appeal court judge who will find a warm welcome should he need a bike in Soho) but over its failure to tackle pollution. Hopefully this will now mean a serious effort to provide space for cycling rather than just restricting diesels, but it does raise the question of why governments need to be sued before they take action to stop poisoning their own citizens. In New Zealand, a different court has quickly dismissed objections to Auckland's planned Sky Path but not all of the judiciary are so friendly to active travel. Meanwhile in Kerry, a kerfuffle over free cinema tickets for drivers facing fines leaves many UK cyclists surprised to discover that there's somewhere in these islands that actually tickets drivers for parking on a bike lane.

Backlash on the bikelash?

For every action there's a reaction, so after much angst over bikelash in Scotland, the Transport Minister's proposed taskforce to ensure segregated cycling infrastructure goes ahead is greeted with cautious optimism by Pedal on Parliament. Perhaps another sign of the times is seeing The Apprentice tackling cycle safety gadgets despite Alan Sugar's past fulminations the cycle superhighways, while Daily Mail readers must now be terminally confused as it turns out cycling is good for you, not the scourge destroying Britain (no word yet on whether it causes, or cures, cancer). And it's increasingly seen as good for cities too, as the Guardian finds on its road trip to some of the most car-centric cities in the US which are using bikes to tackle long standing problems - understanding that it's prioritising the car that hits cities' finances in the long run, directly or indirectly. Elsewhere a mass-participation bike event goes from problem to opportunity for a small community once it's recast as a fundraising and economic boost rather than a traffic nightmare. In Newcastle, after many years of bikes being banned from the Metro, a trial will allow them on during off peak hours after allowing folding bikes on has proved to cause no problem at all, while the National Parks Service in Washington has gone from Grinch to Christmas Light Fairy. Not everyone got the memo, of course, if this charming taxi driver is anything to go by - while some groups will always use gripes about consultations to filibuster cycle schemes out of existence if they can. And in New Zealand plans to demolish two houses rather than lose any parking for a cycle route show just how deep seated the whole parking issue is...

A numbers game

Remember how the antis claimed that Walthamstow's Mini Holland would clog the surrounding streets? Well, so far it's cut traffic by more than half while in Manchester's Oxford Road almost all the cars have gone, leaving it to bikes and buses. In Copenhagen, bikes now outnumber cars, especially in the city centre - and while Philadelphia still has a way to go to reach those levels, the centre has a 7.2% modal share for bikes. Nor should we concentrate solely on commuting - the bulk of all trips, including cycle trips in the US are not commuting trips, so bike planning should equally prioritise those.

Other numbers are going the wrong way - Ireland's transport emissions have risen 14% in three years and yet the first report of their climate change advisory council doesn't even mention cycling. Newcastle is still using predict and provide for cars but making no effort to build for increased cycle use, while Seattle is pressing ahead with its waterfront highway plans despite every study finding it's a terrible idea. And when it comes to safety, the figures for different modes of transport look very different once you include the danger they pose to other road users, as well as to their own.

Changing the story

But numbers, however impressive, don't always change minds - sometimes we need different stories, such as how lack of dedicated space for cycling is letting down older Brits, even the most determined. Or how the gloriously pimped bikes of Detroit's Slow Roll are bringing together a divided city in a wonderfully inclusive celebration of cycling. Or get the staff of Vogue to talk about the joys and fears of cycling in London (more infrastructure needed - and mind your Celine trousers on the chain). We need to get schools involved in pressing for reach change in the streets around them (although cycling to school is still a joy until you get to the school gates and encounter the other parents) - and how having a family needn't mean buying a family car if you have a family car(go bike) instead - and yes, even the weekly food shop can be easily done by bike, with the right bike, as can getting your kayak to the beach if that's what floats your boat. Indeed, even if you're in a hospice that needn't stop you getting on your bike, with enough morphine and some help from your friends.

Crossing continents

We can all learn from each other - and that could even mean that the Europeans could learn from North American approaches to cycling (certainly the New Zealanders are interested in lessons from a range of US cities) although generally the lessons go the other way. Tokyo's calm streets and huge variety of cyclists might have some lessons for Australia while Princeton has that rarest of cycling indicators, girls cycling to school unaccompanied, despite only half-hearted infrastructure so far. But it's still the Netherlands that offers the most lessons, where planning controls as well as infrastructure mean that cycling to the supermarket is simply the obvious thing to do, even if you can still park for free.

Devil in the details

Of course, getting the details of that infrastructure right isn't always straightforward even in Utrecht while in London it has taken a second round of consultations to tame a tricky junction on the North South superhighway. Milwaukee is rolling out a rapid programme of painted bike lanes but without some form of protection (perhaps 'buttons', the new armadillos) they are just being used as undertaking lanes. Chicago tries shared space but it's never a good sign when you need to issue a video to show drivers how to use a road while Portland gets a bike roundabout which may also need a bit of guidance for users (meanwhile taking three bikes on three different bus company buses needs a master's degree in transport policy). And I think we're all familiar with the situation when a council cites the design guidance as a reason not to do something for bikes - but then ignores it if it would inconvenience the cars.

A matter of policy

We all know the Dutch are well out ahead - but Utrecht's plans to spend almost 600 euros per head on cycling raised the game somewhat - in comparison, Groningen is 'only' spending 85 euros per person - but then again the Dutch government is spending forty million on bike parking in stations alone - which puts British Colombia's $8m extra funding for cycling into perspective. European authorities could at least apply for European cash for cycle routes (no news on how Brexit affects that for us though) while 80 US cities have applied for funding to make a a great leap forward in cycling numers. On the policy side, London's new mayor is keen to show off his green credentials but so far there's been a lot of fine words but a mixed picture when it comes to actual decisions - while Vancouver's head of active transport policy brings a fresh perspective from her background in Peru, but cycling strategies are equally important for rural districts and small towns such as Waimakariri in New Zealand.


As perceptions of conflict and confrontation put women off from cycling and campaigning alike, campaigning doesn't have to be all about aggro: it can be about bike rides in support of BearsWay and even dressing up as Santa or finding much to enjoy in Ukraine. They're not exactly campaigning events but Ciclovia's such as Belfast's can cast a magical spell on how we see our streets - and imagine what the turnout would be if it October in Belfast had the climate of Tucson. Berlin's Cycle Referendum has lessons for campaigners in Bremen (and beyond). In Portland, the media are finally questioning the role of road design after a cycling fatality. And if this all gets you interested in campaigning yourself, why not come along to one of the Space for Cycling roadshows such as the one just held in Birmingham

Health and safety

It's a sad indictment on London's roads that they have been deemed too dangerous for a foreign secretary to cycle on - but then again the death of one cyclist even as a vigil is being held for another suggests the security services may be on to something - freight groups need to tackle the real safety issues posed by HGVs, not just block people on Twitter for pointing them out. It would help if police forces followed West Midland's lead by tackling close passes, at least of eight-year-olds but apparently they are too busy stopping law-abiding cyclists to investigate near misses, and if you do come off you might be waiting a while before a good samaritan comes to your aid. Still, at least New Yorkers can report bike lane blockers direct to the city - and the Isle of Wight has voted for 20mph limits in built up areas across the island. When it comes to driverless cars fears that dastardly pedestrians and cyclists could hold them up seem overblown (surely that's how zebra crossings are already supposed to work) while pedestrian safety fears mean that now even buses can't use part of Glasgow's Fastlink route.

Beyond infrastructure

On bikeshare, the successful Dublinbike scheme is now threatened by its reliance on advertising funding, while a scheme in Amsterdam will attempt to use mobile technology to succeed as the first unsubsidised on-street scheme. Meanwhile as Seattle considers the future of its bike share, the choice seems to come down to e-bikes or more bike stations, while Manchester commuters are being offered free ebike trials to encourage cycling to work. In Toronto, bike loans and a local cycling mentor give newcomers, including refugees, the freedom of the city - while 'gamification' of active travel like Pokemon Go and Beat the Streets can get kids a little more active (along with the usual dire safety warnings about distracted walking and cycling). Bike routing tools could do more to take safety or routes into account - but issues around helmet hair are questions for stylists, not cyclists to answer.

And finally...

It's been a long and fractious (and, to some of us, nerve wracking) campaign - but as the American presidential election draws to a close, one thing is certain: there's been nothing like enough candidates rapping about bikes. Or possibly, there's already been too much...