The Great Big Pedal Power to the People Bike Blog Roundup

Last week cyclists were taking to the streets - and that looks set to continue with local elections looming in May with Pedal on Parliament spreading to three cities in Scotland and aiming to be the biggest ever. The Irish will be taking to the streets this week while a visit to Amiens almost includes a chance to join a protest there as cyclists battle with some familiar sounding issues.

For a slightly less direct-action approach to the elections, Spokes are also planning their council hustings on April 6th while the Tory frontrunner for the West Midlands mayoral election is going for the cycling vote big time. Local election candidates are also getting scrutinised in Chicago while in LA, Bike the Vote endorses none of the above for the mayoral election.

Politics matters

If local politics seems a bit trivial given the wider political picture, just remember local politicans can be just as bizarre when left to their own devices - and it's not just American ones: Irish politicians have had to be reminded that they're not in a police state while everyone tries to work out exactly where the law stands on mandatory use of cycle tracks; more research needed, apparently. Sydney's deputy mayor is calling for bike licensing - a proposal that, sadly, would apparently go down quite well in the West Midlands. And, reminding us that it's not just politicians (and voters) that make the cycling weather, Fingal council's chief executive overrides both politicians and residents on cycle route to school - while Seattle's traffic engineer Dongho Chang takes a much more bottom-up approach to the city's streets

Inching forward ...

Meanwhile, it is at the local level that cycling cities and towns are made or unmade, sometimes an inch at a time, and looking at the network is an important part of that. There's good news as East Sussex County Council approve the Horsey Cycleway extension - despite objections over the loss of seven parking spaces. Birmingham is consulting over a new route through Sheldon Country Park and a segregated cycle track along Bristol road but despite promises there will be no underpass under Ely's southern bypass and plans for cycle routes to Dumfries's new hospital are a mixed bag at best, while Eastbourne's sea front cycling plans remain at an impasse. Meanwhile Glasgow updates on progress on its cycling plan complete with some mystery additional kilometres of cycle infrastructure.

Further afield, Seattle cyclists say it with a Valentine as they attempt to lovebomb their politicians into closing a missing link, while there's an opportunity to turn another city centre street into something other than a bike obstacle course. Bike Delaware wants to know where the missing links are as Delaware updates its bike plan after 12 years. In Ireland, Waterford has the stunning idea of actually linking the city to the planned greenway. Portland closes one gap with a good-but-not-great separated path - and plans to close a much more scary one, while Louisville is making changes but still needs to raise its game if it's to catch up with its peers.

... Or transforming cities

Or perhaps we need a wider vision - from thinking about one intersection to connecting a whole community and rethinking our priorities for those crucial transport corridors. Utrecht continues to transform itself, one street at a time, while an Auckland neighbourhood is beginning to rethink transport to centre it around safe streets and green paths. In London, the new Walking and Cycling commissioner has started work with a blueprint for healthy streets, a new emphasis that should be good for London - but does he also have to worry a bit more about safety too? Fort Collins in Colorado is looking to deepen its engagement with cycling despite streets laid out largely in a motor-centric age, but some small tweaks could do a lot to increase permeability for those on foot or on bikes, while in LA obscure-seeming changes to parking regulations have actually freed the city up to transform its notoriously car-centric culture. And as the two Kansas Cities consider tearing down an elevated highway, in North Carolina, thiings seem to be going in the other direction.

Time to be more positive?

It's a common refrain that campaigners should be more positive, but it would help if there was more to be positive about - meanwhile, we're expected to be patient while motorists work their way through a temper trantrum a five-year-old would be embarrassed about. Sometimes impatience is the more rational response, although recent infrastructure changes in London have been enough to tempt one campaigner back on a bike after six years (and what does it say about your local authority when even the cycle campaigners don't cycle?). In America People for Bikes are concentrating on gathering the evidence they need on the grounds that what gets measured gets managed while a panel of experts gather to work on the EU cycling strategy but we should remember that facts alone, even actual factly facts are meaningless without context. And campaigners can build alliances - especially with climate change groups as the bike is such a key part of tackling emissions.

Safety by design

Of course, it's easier to be positive when the roads you cycle on aren't actively dangerous - there certainly seem to be design issues behind some of the UK's worst cycling black spots while a surgeon and a coroner call for improvements to a fatal South London junction. Lorries' huge blind spots continue to mean that the slightest mistake by pedestrians or cyclists can be fatal - Glasgow cyclists are invited to help with research into how they can stay awesome around large vehicles. Belfast's bike lanes would be much improved if they were designed to discourage parking - something San Francisco is on the verge of tackling on Market Street. In Auckland plans for a major junction get revamped after the originals get sent back to the drawing board but in Minnesota the state plans to make a bridge harder for bikes and pedestrians to use because it's 'too dangerous' for them. Melbourne Transport Disasters picks a dangerous junction apart in some detail, but a handy rule of thumb is that if an intersection has a nickname it's not usually a good sign - and the only thing better than a Dutch-style protected intersection is a glow in the dark protected intersection (file that one under 'only in Texas'). Sometimes it's the details that make the difference - like a slight smoothing out (and maybe some protective wands) of an on-street junction, or those unseen gadgets that lurk beneath our streets keeping things moving.

Towards vision zero

The good news is that death rates are falling globally for cyclists and pedestrians, although whether that includes the United States is not clear. Florida at least is starting to consider how it could improve its notoriously poor safety record for vulnerable road users while Portland considers emergency speed restrictions, but in Toronto bike lane plans have been hit by budget restrictions despite the city's Vision Zero plans.

Good to share?

Bus lanes make somewhat dubious cycling infrastructure at the best of times but in Belfast, cyclists would rather not share them also with taxis, and resent being treated as an uncontrolled 'safety experiment'. Their counterparts in the south would tend to agree; Bikefast puts out a guide to surviving as the experiment goes ahead. Meanwhile in Auckland, cyclists discover an unexpected down (and up and down) side to shared paths as wheelchair users' rest areas make for an uneven descent.

Police news

Ever since the West Midland Police raised the bar with their Operation Close Pass, other police forces have been trying to lower it again, whether it's simply not planning to implement a similar scheme and letting off dangerous drivers with a verbal warning - all the way to criticising cyclists for not using bike lanes that aren't where the cyclist is actually trying to go, apparently getting the Dutch Reach wrong and issuing a safety leaflet that, well, actually just read it for yourselves as it's hard to know where to start - although they were still pipped at the post by the New York cops who seem to be actively evading traffic laws. More seriously, among minority communities where fear of crime and harassment are even greater barriers to active travel than fear of traffic - police 'safety crackdowns' can have an unintended effect, as a twitter chat on the issues of biking and walking 'while black' brings into focus.

Money talks

As Mr Money Mustache turns his frugal perspective on the value for money you get from building roads (and if you need any more evidence free HEAT webinar would put some figures on the benefits of building for cycling and walking instead) - simply stopping subsidising driving would do a lot to get people out of their cars, while charging the more polluting vehicles more could help start to clean up London's air. Meanwhile, Denmark announces a new national cycle fund - on top of what the individual cities are already spending

Winter cycling

As winter grinds on, the annual winter cycling congress seems to have been another success, with a refreshing focus on maintenance and infrastructure rather than gear (although some gear can be key to making it possible to cycle year round in Minnesota, even while towing a large dog), or combine both with a pedal-powered gritter for your bike lanes, or perhaps a de-gritter (or gravel remover) in Portland. Even in the worst conditions cycling beats the heck out of waiting for the bus - indeed even walking does - but as spring brings out the new riders, remember to be kind and make a human connection to your new fellow commuters

Bike make it better

Not just spring, but train strikes might be bringing new commuters as a bike train will be running from Dulwich to London Bridge - but bikes can do a lot more, from integrating refugees into Dutch society (and a beautiful animated short shows just how embedded cycling is) to turning round a whole life on the back of a planned bike lane. And there was signs of improvement in London with record numbers using the hire bikes and in Dublin where cycle numbers continue to climb at rush hour.

Cradle to the grave

We talk a lot about 8 to 80 cycling, but the truth is the younger you start the better, while we still need to consider what we can do to keep people cycling longer as none of us are getting outside much (except maybe to smoke) - and that means we're missing out on a great source of joy. And finally, with cycling (or at least two-wheeled travel of some sort) celebrating its 200th anniversary this year a look back at the first ever bike ride and what it became