The Great Big Changing Minds not Just Streets Bike Blog Roundup

We're taking a step back this week on the bike blog roundup and asking how we can change not just our streets but our car-dependent mindsets so that all of our rational, well-evidenced arguments don't just fall on deaf ears, and we can recognise that what for some are the worst places to live are in fact the best - as long as you're not trying to drive. While it will take more than just opening a bike shop (even for Dutch bikes), perhaps part of the answer is getting local politicians to understand their own deep-seated biases - but the difference to our streets that comes during the school holidays just shows how self-reinforcing car dependency can be.

As this thoughtful post shows, there's no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we don't live single-issue lives - but as long as something is only seen as a problem for the 'cyclist community' then it will be marginalised. That's why it's good to have a book that tackles the thorny issues such anti-cycling feeling - because these are the sort of things that drive this sort of backlash over even the most modest plans.

Closing - or rather opening - streets

While temporary infrastructure and road closures shouldn't be used as a get out for building proper infrastructure where it's needed, open street events can be a powerful way of reprogramming the way we see streets and hence a useful tool to change hearts as well as minds - whether it's a week-long closure of an individual street, or events like CicLAvia or closed streets to celebrate Earth Day, or just the natural experiment of a highway closure and the lack of 'carmaggedon' that ensues. And, if all else fails, sometimes people take matters into their own hands...

Building political will

We also need to build political will for more permanent changes - whether that's pedalling on parliament or along the Liffey, or just meeting up with your mayoral candidates for a picnic especially when they've all signed up to improving conditions for cycling. Cycling Dumfries describes the difference the Walk, Cycle, Vote pledges would make to active travel in the town, while supporters of the Roseburn Cycle Route will be voting 'bike' at these local elections. As Cardiff politicians of all stripes agree more people need to choose to cycle over driving, in Derby the support for Space for Cycling goes beyond the politicians.

The work doesn't stop when they're elected though - Andrew Gilligan is certainly keeping a close eye on the new London mayor's progress, or lack thereof, although the new safer junctions programme will hopefully soon tackle the city's four worst junctions. It also means supporting proposals such as for direct vision lorries and rare plans for segregated cycle ways in Westminster

Getting the right political will does mean that change can come quickly once a decision has been taken - whereas without it you just get lack of engagement, daft proposals and politicians who open a cycle conference by objecting to a planned cycle route. The main lesson is to be persistent. And while it's amusing when a taxi campaign badly backfires, perhaps campaigners everywhere need to think carefully about their priorities and make sure they're not being pitted against other road users. At least it seems we now have the UCI on our side with its publication of a Cycling for All manifesto.

Networking or notworking

Bikefast is certainly acting the critical friend over Belfast's bicycle network plan, with its fudged approach and its failure to tackle the arterial roads - but it does still have its plus points. In London, Lambeth's plans to tackle rat running have turned out to be pretty timid, while Seattle's revised revised short term plan is better than it was but not as good as it originally was. Cyclists in California are urged to make the Bay area's District Bicycle Plan be truly visionary, while those in Vancouver are urged to help 'ungap the map' of the city's network. Sometimes these things take time - like 20 years to join to bike trails near Washington - but perhaps Ottawa's 850m, one way only planned cycle track needs to be a bit bolder. Or longer ...

Meanwhile, as New York attempts to connect up the Williamsburg Bridge with the rest of the bike network in time for the planned closure of the L train, in Scotland, promises about bike spaces on trains are being gradually eroded. And at least the difficulty of combining bikes and (multiple) buses gives you opportunities to explore new places.

There's no such thing as free parking

As the Economist gets to grip with the true cost to communities of providing free parking, someone might want to send a copy to Ely where the message doesn't seem to have got through. A place like Tulsa is certainly an eye-opener to someone used to more walkable communities, whereas the historic layout of Savannah preserves it as a people-friendly place, at least in the centre - and New Orleans is poised to take its streets further still. As parents in the UK struggle with the issue of letting a child ride independently, (and removing lollipop people is really not a good start) these sorts of question are in fact a good barometer for the overall strength of a town

Up in the air

As Melbourne becomes the latest city to think it would be easier just to get those pesky bikes out of the way - with some serious design issues - in Bath a cable car approach might actually be the answer to the city's challenging topography. London and Utrecht certainly take very different approaches to bikes and bridges, while Copenhagen's kissing bridge shows the city is not immune to the over elaborate solution to a simple problem.

It's not always good to share ...

Meanwhile, the good old 'shared use' path was a bit of an issue this week - not only will cyclists and pedestrians will have the joy of sharing their path with the UK's first driverless vehicles - presumably it would be too dangerous to put them on the road - but Chicagoans aren't thrilled at the prospect of sharing their Bloomingdale trail with cops on ATVs when they could easily ride bikes. When it comes to on-road infrastructure if you wouldn't walk on it - like this uninviting approach to a junction planned in Dublin - why would you want to cycle on it? More to the point, even bikes and pedestrians shouldn't be sharing on the Coast Road route while Sutton persists with converting pavements instead of building dedicated space for cycling. Then again, sometimes a bit of sharing might be pragmatic, with a possible greenway in Mayo stalled because it might be needed for other uses. And at least one driver in San Diego has figured out that cyclists don't want to share their new parking protected bike lane with their parked car.

Sometimes it is good to share, though, as Hackney launches a side-by-side tandem service for those with mobility issues, Dandyhorse looks at the options for togetherness in accessible cycling. It's good too that TfL are sharing their data with app developers; in the US data like that can build the case for safer street designs by comparing outcomes.

And as some people in Portland clearly don't like the new bike share scheme, others wonder whether the new Chinese GPS based bike share schemes could reverse the loss of Seattle's bike share scheme as well as reversing the decline in cycling in China itself.

Spreading the word

It seems Mark Wagenbuur (aka Bicycle Dutch) has a packed week in Australia spreading the word about Dutch solutions - and the Dutch also take their approach to Norway. For those who don't have Dutch expertise on tap, SF Bike have been summarising the sort of treatments available to make streets safer in the US. And when changes are planned, it's hard to imagine them from a traditional plan or even a drawing - but now there's an app that can take the visualisation right to the street in question.


Law enforcement

With spring arriving, it seems it's time for the New York police to start enforcing made up laws - they'd really love it in Australia - while Chicago campaigners fight back on police cracking down on those cycling while black. Here in the UK, we could maybe do with more enforcement, not less, with the close pass message clearly not making it as far as Sainsbury's head office, while the Michael Mason private prosecution ended in acquittal, leading to calls for a review of the justice system.

Bike make it better

Finally, it may not change any minds, but once more this week brought news of all the things that cycling could improve from the toll of physical inactivity to tackling air pollution in India. In San Francisco, you can now trade in your car for an e-bike - I wonder if they've ended up with 1,000 Deustche Post vans as a result?

And finally, in a story to soften even the hardest heart, a teacher raises funds to give every child in her school their own bike. And yes, now it's time to start campaigning to make sure they have places to ride them...