The Great Big Moving People not Cars Bike Blog Roundup

If there was a theme this week, it was about the need to think about moving people not cars - because thinking about cars alone has repeatedly scarred our cities without ever easing congestion, endangered the lives of pedestrians - and as driving gets cheaper congestion will only get worse. Fortunately this is something many cities are increasingly doing, as Berlin's transportation secretary demonstrates, while Amsterdam struggles with the problems of success: parking bikes, not dedicating space to parking cars.

Challenging myths

But changing things takes political will - and there are barriers to local authorities investing in cycling even if it may not take a whole 12 months to find out what they are. Sometimes it means challenging myths and misinformation that may be mixed in with genuine worries. But it's worth pointing out that building cycleways should ease congestion overall, and that building cycling infrastructure isn't just catering for a small minority even if current cycling rates are fairly low. That's one reason why accurately measuring existing cycle rates - even in winter - its important.

Suck it and see

'Build it and they will come' has long been the mantra of campaigners, and even as the Tavistock Place scheme faces an enquiry it's already proving its worth with cycling numbers up and traffic down while a similar trial in Toronto has seen similar improvements even if drivers face slightly longer journey times. The closure of a bridge for repairs in Bristol has shown how the resulting reduced traffic has improved the area - but Horsham's accidental trial of a lack permeability for cars has shown that just making driving inconvenient won't on its own bring about increased cycling - especially if bikes are similarly inconvenienced.

Plans and consultations

All the more reason, then, for supporting some of the consultations that are coming through - however difficult the authorities may try to make it - such as Glasgow's plans for Sauchiehall Street which could form the template for the entire city centre. The LCC urges Londoners to give Westminster's Quietway plans a little love even though others are sceptical that the quietways offer any improvment over the old London Cycle Network. Bikefast dips its toes into Belfast's bike network plan while Bristol Cycling Campaign gives a conditional welcome to plans to close Tyndall Avenue to traffic. And in an unusual, welcome, and some would say brave move, Cambridgeshire are surveying residents about schemes that they have already built.

Cutting the 'crap'

For really frank feedback, of course, there's nothing like some guerrilla action to improve a bike scheme with a few repurposed items which genuinely can help clear the crap ... and there were a few other bike lanes covered this week which could have done with similar attention. As Melbourne Transport Disasters almost found out the hard way a painted bike lane does nothing to create safe space for cycling, and cases in Portland and Chicago have both highlighted the lack of protection afforded by paint whether along the length of a road or at junctions. In the aftermath of a similar case, Portland has started work on building a new path, while Bicycle Dutch looks at how to upgrade a semi-protected junction to a fully protected one. Unfortunately, in New York there's no such commitment to protection for the upper stretches of Amsterdam Avenue, although Fifth Avenue will get a protected bike lane for some of its length. Meanwhile in San Francisco, poorly placed parking meters confuse drivers, while in Kingston, failure to take space from the cars means once more it's bikes and pedestrians brought into conflict. At the other end of the scale, sometimes plans for bikes get a little over-engineered - there's nothing like a raised cycleway to avoid dealing with existing problems at street level, while plans for a bike lift up the Mound in Edinburgh completely eclipsed any consideration of the other Community Links Plus shortlisted bids

Plugging the gap

Just as important as the quality of the cycling infrastructure, is whether it's connected up to anywhere people might like to go - unlike Denver's fragmented bike network which makes it difficult to go north-south at all in the city. After many years, Seattle may have finally worked out how to plug a 1.4 mile gap in a 19 mile trail, while cyclists in Copenhagen and Malmo now have a pleasant and convenient replacement link between them, which was lost when the Bridge opened up across the strait. And Baltimore is looking at integrating buses and bikes to make both work better for the city.

Vision Zero

As Vision Zero has been gaining increasing traction in North America, here's a good summary of the issues and the cure. Meanwhile Philadelphia commits $5m over five years to its Vision Zero plans - and here's an idea of the sort of things it's doing to make the vision a reality. Sadly, however, Earl Blumenaur's Vision Zero bill faces no chance of passing in the current US Congress.

Prioritising the greatest harm

In time, we may look back at the WMP's close pass scheme and the thinking behind it as a real turning point for policing and cycling with forces across the country deciding to target those who have the potential to do the most harm, i.e. people - or indeed robots - in cars, with research suggesting that stopping close passes could save almost a third of serious cycling casualties. Stiffer penalties for distracted driving are also welcome but enforcement will be key as the law is widely flouted, while the real truth about bus lane cameras is much less exciting than the headlines might have you believe. And the trend seems to be spreading: New York police finally start targeting drivers who harm those crossing the road with right of way, while Australian police give a surprising reaction to another report of a close passing driver - although racial profiling by police is still a serious barrier to cycling among some communities in the US, and undoubtedly beyond.

In the courts, however, it seems we just accept incompetence behind the wheel or when opening a car door. On the other side of the coin, as Bosnia repeals its helmet law, Melbourne cyclists are invited on a 'helmet optional' ride to try and persuade Australia to do the same, while your attitude to breaking the law on a bike may depend as much on the infrastructure (and the rules) as on any inherent tendency towards scofflaw cycling. Meanwhile the Irish Road Safety Association takes exaggerated victim blaming to a new level by accusing pedestrians killed by drivers of being drunk.

Walking, cycling, voting

As elections grind on, Sustrans lays out its wishlist for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor, while local candidates in LA have some pretty progressive ideas about using walking and cycling to cut congestion. In Australia, does Sydney need a 'Bicycle Mayor' (possibly the newest incarnation of the cycling czar...) to help it raise its game, while Santa Monica's actual mayor holds monthly cycle rides that are well worth attending And in Belfast, as political uncertainty grinds on, Bikefast at least gets some reassurance that the taxis in bus lanes trial won't default into a permanent arrangement when it ends. Some encouraging news as Trump's pick for Secretary of the Interior seems to be ... not bad actually, and may join the US Bike industry in the battle over protecting public lands, although others are looking forward to the day when Trump has deported all the illegal immigrants, so there will be no further need for bike lanes.

Meanwhile, in legislatures across the US, laws are being discussed from the largely sensible to the batshit pro-driving, to use a technical term, taking in a bicycle exise tax along the way (but would it be worth it to shout at motorists 'you don't pay bike tax' as they drift into your cycle lane?)

Overcoming barriers

As the Propensity to Cycling Tool shows what the UK could achieve if the conditions are right, Kats Dekker is delighted to explain rather than be explained to why it's particularly important for women. Meanwhile some Manchester women will be riding to the Whitworth to celebrate improved cycling conditions in the city, as part of a month-long celebration of women and cycling. In Egypt, women have to battle for the right to cycle freely at all, but even in the west white and male-oriented cycling cultures can be offputting for many. As winter is finally drawing to a close, one quick way to increase year round cycling is targeting women who do cycle in the summer - just one part of the inspiration and observations delegate took away from the Winter Cycling Congress.

Making the case

As always, there was plenty of positives to cycling this week - from the cold, cash benefits to closing a street (something residents of Fort Myers might want to consider) - to the climate benefits of even modest increases in cycling levels. In New Zealand, a 2km long trail was enough to transform a family's life - while New Orleans has been quietly transforming a whole city since 2012 and now looks to take it up a level.

And finally

We end on a bit of a retrospective note - with memories of the man who brought Auckland its first bikeway back in 1976, followed by an artistic recreation in Glasgow of Amsterdam's original free white bike schemes. Where are they all now, we wonder?