The Great Big Coughing and Choking Bike Blog Roundup

This was a week in which air pollution hit the headlines, particularly in the capital, which saw record levels of air pollution - a 'very high' alert, exceeding the annual limit in just five days - but also across urban areas in the UK.A London air pollution scientist set out some of the action required, but unfortunately there isn't much sign of a concerted response to the problem as yet, beyond a proposed lower speed limit on the M1, some audits from the Mayor of London, and Westminster charging more for parking for diesel cars.

Action in other cities appears to be more substantial, with Paris offering discounted public transport fares alongside complete bans for older diesel engined vehicles, and Lyon introducing alternate day driving bans. Bans are a relatively common strategy across Europe in response to air pollution peaks, with Milan and Rome having used them in the past, and Oslo employing a daytime diesel ban (the same city is also subsiding cargo bike ownership).

Certainly we shouldn't employ the logic of an Edexcel exam paper which implied that cycling 'causes' more pollution than driving, a question that has been thoroughly debunked. You might be able to avoid pollution by cycling underwater - but that probably isn't going to be a long-term solution to the problem.


The pragmatic approach to dealing with pavement cycling by police in Camden made the national news, particularly covered by the BBC - and their close-passing operation has now been expanded to London as a whole. Meanwhile the same policing strategy - developed by West Midlands Police - is going national, and encouragingly drivers tend to admit (and rectify) their behaviour immediately. Closes passes aren't personal, but they certainly feel like it.

Thousands of drivers were caught using mobiles during a week-long national crackdown - which suggests the problem is still endemic, and even bus drivers seem to be far from immune - perhaps Transport for London could take note of these (extensive) recommendations?


The worst of all worlds - some disappointing new cycling infrastructure proposed in Dublin, but there's better news in Belfast, where the proposed Middlepath scheme has been broadly welcomed. The Sauchiehall Street Avenue scheme in Glasgow should have cycling infrastructure in it, but it appears to be worryingly absent from the plans. Maybe we'll start doing things properly in England, at least, with a promising new design standard from Highways England. Talking of doing things properly, there's a typically in-depth look at the best ways to use kerbs in designing cycling infrastructure from Ranty Highwayman, and we may see a new Garden Village with exemplar walking and cycling design. In other important design news, the best cycling manual out there - the Dutch CROW manual - has just been updated, and is in English (although it isn't cheap!)

There's little point building isolated 'cycle routes' - they have to connect up with where people live and work, forming a useful network, and importantly quiet cycle streets should not be the backbone of a cycle network, but should merely fill in the gaps (and should do so properly). Montreal is creating more and more car free streets, while BicycleDutch makes a short but instructive bike ride in the centre of Rotterdam, another city that is making rapid progress.

A plea to President Trump may fall on deaf ears, but it's surely worth pointing out that infrastructure spending should go principally on maintenance, and on small-scale projects - and here's a more general look at what the Trump presidency might mean on the policies that matter. Meanwhile in Montana there was a (short-lived) Bill attempt to ban cycling on rural roads without a shoulder - leading BikeSnob to pose the question, is America dumber than a bag of chips?

The cold lingers

It's often claimed that people stop cycling in the winter, but this clearly isn't the case in the Netherlands, where people just carry on cycling because that is simply how they get about. So maybe people just need a bit of advice about how winter isn't that much of an obstacle. Evidence from Camden suggests that we don't stop cycling (much) either in winter. All this means that winter maintenance of cycling and walking routes should be taken seriously, and yes, that includes pavements too. We should also remember that cycling in the winter provides contrasting but equally wonderful scenery to the other seasons, something that Sally Hinchcliffe was appreciating - even if she didn't appreciate the punctures. And it's not so much cold that has to be dealt with in Vietnam, but rain - and lots of it.

The joy of cycling

He may be a presenter on perhaps the most famous car programme in the world, but that doesn't mean that James May can't be a fan of the bicycle - indeed, he argues it is 'one of the most important inventions in history'. The coaster brake is another important invention - one that takes some getting used to, but is a joy to use. We certainly need the 'traditional' bike shop to stick around - here is the industry view on its future.

Meanwhile Bike Snob NYC ventures out without a cycle helmet, following in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe, and Darkerside is getting back into action after an unfortunate encounter with a pothole. One way to motivate oneself is cycling clubs, which can be a tremendous fun. And finally it's good to see that rumours of conflict between cycling, walking and horse riding in the countryside are greatly exaggerated.


Copenhagenize has been fighting the good fight against helmet compulsion, arguing that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. This week we've also discovered that shockingly (but unsurprisingly) there are large differences in safety between London boroughs, thanks to Rachel Aldred, who has been crunching the numbers on cycle safety in the capital. When it comes to cycling 'innovation' on safety, perhaps the most innovative  thing we can do is to actually start building cycling infrastructure, including protected junctions in New York, which is lagging behind other U.S. cities. Unfortunately in London, that progress on infrastructure may start to slow - perhaps we need to come up with an adapted strategy in the face of the the political challenges ranged against cycling.

There are ten cities in the United States that are poised to make a big jump in cycling numbers, but in the US more generally it seems that fear of profiling is affecting cycle uptake. This is also a period of great bike share expansion in North America - 119 US cities now have a scheme, ranked here - but there are success and failures to learn lessons from. Fortunately there is an increasing body of expertise and evidence on bike sharing.

Cycling remains a vital mode of transport in Africa, yet the potential for cycling in Africa is enormous, so it's important the continent doesn't make the same mistakes as Europe and learns from best practice. Wherever we live, we should focus on the fact we need People on Bikes, not 'cyclists'.


This week saw the announcement of another large-sounding amount of crumbs-from-the-transport-budget-table from the government for cycling - where this cash is coming from is murky, and some of it may well go on car sharing schemes and bus information projects. Helpfully the Great Gas Beetle has a helpful compilation of links to all the Sustainable Travel Access Fund bid documents, and there is at least some reviewing of what has happened with the previous small sums put towards sustainable transport.

More encouragingly, the Manchester Mayoral candidate Andy Burnham is pledging a £17 per head, per year investment in cycling - the question is whether our politicians will make these kinds of commitments and stand by them.

And finally

If cycle parking hangars are being rejected by Westminster Council, while car parking is acceptable, then there is one obvious solution - design cycle parking hangars that look like cars!