The Great Big Be NICE Bike Blog Roundup

Another week, another report launched in a blizzard of clickbaity headlines, this time the NICE report on air pollution that didn't actually recommend getting rid of speedbumps (but failed to mention traffic calming alternatives that do work) and which seemed to be based on fairly weak evidence - but the call for separation from traffic is welcome, especially as even just a 7m gap can reduce pollution by up to 50%.

On a Superhighway near you ...

The other big news was the release of the report into London's Cycle Superhighways with their headline 50% increase in cyclist numbers. This led Dave Hill to do a little traffic counting of his own and find to his surprise that numbers are increasing, although maybe not diversity - Rachel Aldred has done a bit more exploring on that issue.

But perhaps we shall soon be talking about the Cardiff Superhighways as Cardiff's draft cycling strategy emphasises the provision of segregated routes on main roads even if there's a back-streets alternative, starting with a strategic east-west route that's long been needed. Cyclists are often sceptical of elevated routes, but Belfast's proposed skyway plan would join up some key routes in a way that would be difficult to achieve otherwise, while the plans are for Newcastle's John Dobson Street to link into the rest of the network through the city centre. If that all seems too tame, then there's the India's 207km Taj Mahal route, Asia's first cycle superhighway.

Getting the design right

Of course, anyone can label a bike path a superhighway, but as Leeds' experience reminds us if the design is wrong (especially if it's changed after consultation as South Dublin County Council seems to have done on another route) then it won't work. Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester has a new term for a good idea done so poorly it becomes useless - Belfast's bollards on the wrong side of the track might be a case in point as are Toronto's 'seasonal' bike bollards that really don't need to be removed for the winter. Getting the details right is one reason why Scotland's Cycling by Design standards should be strengthened to avoid building conflict into the design - but there are some easy changes that can be made, such as adding centreline markings to two-way bike lanes. And there are some obvious things like not dumping bikes out into traffic for the last five blocks and actually tarmacking a greenway and making it a decent width especially when there's ample room to do so. Junctions get a little bit more complicated, with a half-protected junction in Chicago raising some debate but the 'peanutabout' may be the answer for complicated junctions where a diagonal road meets a grid layout - or perhaps just ban cars, buses and lorries from using it during the day.

Not that building 'quiet routes' can be any less complex - Ranty Highwayman goes into the ins and outs of filtered permeability without blocking access to emergency vehicles - perhaps Hackney council should have a read - while Sustrans is finally moving to remove the barriers from bike paths that have kept out all but standard bikes from using them. Meanwhile, Portland has been trialling traffic diverters and is now to make one permanent after it has proved a success.

Of course, there are design details - and then there are bike routes which aren't, such as Glasgow's '300 km of bike routes' which include bus corridors on dual carriageway without even a bus lane (not that bus lanes and a bit of paint make Bristol's Gloucester Road any more cycle-friendly), or, indeed, the shoulder of a freeway in Austin if you're Google Maps.

Finding balance

When cyclists talk about space for cycling we're often told we need to balance the needs of all road users but which cities really do manage that, as evidenced by their road share and which will be able to follow Copenhagen's lead and see bikes outnumber cars? Vancouver has hit its sustainable transport targets four years early, and is now raising its game while Perth (the Australian one) is planning to go Dutch and cities in Portugal are making changes, although they're a long way from regaining the country's 50% modal share for cycling that it enjoyed in the 50s. The truth is, if we don't want cities built around the car we need to stop funnelling more and more cars into them - but even in Utrecht, it's taken a while to rebalance a shopping street where only 4% of customers come by car - although we're guessing that the mayor won't be getting a death threat from the owner of a shoe shop as happened to the mayor of Ghent when he proposed pedestrianising the city's centre.

Learning from elsewhere

As always, there are plenty of lessons to be had from elsewhere: a visit to Waltham Forest shows up the need for leadership - but also communication - while Portland is cracking on with its Vision Zero plans. It takes a world leader in cycling like Drenthe to be good enough for David Hembrow to settle there (incidentally, one of the Netherland's least densely populated provinces, nailing another myth about why the Dutch cycle so much - oh and it's not the lack of hills). Taking a bottom-up approach helps too - US conservative commentators may disdain the sort of civil activism that keeps cycling on the agenda (who knew cyclists enjoyed going to meetings so much? It must be the biscuits) - with residents in Philadelphia keen to embrace protected cycle lanes and neighbourhoods in Seattle developing their own small schemes to improve road safety. Bremen's Model Bike Neighbourhoods sound like a similar approach in theory - but there are key aspects of the implementation missing that stop them from being as good as they could be - and sometimes you have to be careful that bottom-up initiatives like a survey haven't been carefully designed to give the 'right' answers.

Campaigning intelligence

As always, it's good to stand back a bit and consider how our campaigning could be more effective - Back on My Bike has gone further and is 'Embracing the U', while the academic world also has some lessons for the Sticky Bidon and the Invisible Visible man recognises that we need to understand pedestrians' anger however misplaced it may seem - after all, they might include your local MP. Meanwhile we should stop arguing amongst ourselves about whether we need infrastructure or education - in fact for safer streets we need both.

Including everyone

It's also important that our campaigns have a diversity of voices so it's worth reading the experience of these two black cycling advocates who are battling tokenisation and marginalisation in the United States - while perhaps we need more women-led spaces in campaigning here if we're going to change the record. Here in the UK, the All Party Parliamentary Cycle group belatedly recognises it forgot to talk much about women cycling so rectifies the issue - Cycling UK summarises the speakers while Katja Leyendekker talked about inclusion and empathy and reminds us that not many men cycle either. Elsewhere, rather than being a problem bikes are increasingly the solution for issues faced by women and girls and more generally bike share schemes are seen as offering solutions beyond the rich Western world; certainly women in Rwanda are increasingly recognising the liberation a bike brings, although it takes some defiance to excercise that freedom in a place like Baghdad. It helps if drivers don't swear at you in front of your six-year-old as you cycle them to school - no wonder there aren't too many other mums in Lycra at the school gates.

The all-powerful bike lobby

The bike lobby may have got its teeth into Northern Ireland's infrastructure minister as he recognises that his job is to move people, not cars - while Spokes is already started its behind the scenes lobbying for next year's local elections, but we've nothing on the all-powerful squirrel lobby which has taken swift revenge on one Chicago politician. Elsewhere we may need to work harder to counter the everyday car-centric assumptions that are killing us by degrees and to make sure the debate asks the right questions - although the AA in Ireland are now frantically backpedalling over whether it was campaigning for higher speed limits in Dublin. In London, the LCC has some have a cycling monarchy (or at least heir to the throne) before a Cambridge bus intervened.

Safety measures

There was no word on whether the Prince of Wales was taking measures to make himself visible at the time - or indeed whether he was sharing the bus's blind spot with an entire colliery brass band but it's safe to say that Volvo's latest safety campaign hasn't gone down that well. Other safety schemes have met a warmer welcome, with the Ministry of Justice consulting on proposals to treating death by dangerous driving as akin to manslaughter (hands up all those who are surprised it wasn't already) while the AA and Cycling UK join forces to try and close the 'exceptional hardship' loophole for those who text and drive and Bristol Traffic gets 'grass a driver' week off to a good start. On the enforcement side, Greater Manchester Polic have a long way to go before they catch up with the West Midlands force, despite encouraging noises on Twitter, while Chicago cops appear to have time on their hands as they ticket cyclists who anticipate a green light at a crossing. In Australia, New South Wales cyclists won't get fined if they don't carry ID while a relaxed approach to enforcement of helmet laws (or perhaps just a relaxed approach generally) makes Manly a pleasant cycling suburb of Sydney. Meanwhile, a better approach to cyclist safety might include not making it difficult for cyclists to avoid a busy road using Bushy Park - and we think all of us will have encountered that driver, the one who can't seem to slow down even for an instance, whatever the conditions

Bike make it better

Meanwhile the evidence continues to pile up that bikes are the answer, what was the question - from evacuating your city be it during flooding or an earthquake - to preventing cancer (quick, someone alert the Daily Mail) - or even fighting a world war. The health savings alone mean that the cost of investing in cycling pales into insignificance while safe routes to schools can also tackle bullying and harassment by building stronger communities. Businesses are recognising that bikes appeal to the younger generation, and can replace vans in some cities, while Yelp recognises that bike parking is now an important factor for some customers (car drivers already have ample provision in the US) - hopefully HS2 will be similarly forward thinking in its provision for bikes. And while we all know the economic, health etc. arguments for getting an e-bike, what nobody tells you is how much fun they are (wheelsuckers and accusations of cheating aside).

And finally

We hate to tell you this but Christmas is coming and Bike Gob is getting into the spririt of it (not), with a festive message for the drivers of Glasgow. And, while we're not sure that 'bike powered threshing machine' is really top of anyone's Christmas list, these could be some useful ways to while away the Christmas period for the tinkering-inclined.