The Great Big Unearthing for Earth Day Bike Blog Roundup

We're used to the fact in the UK that some of our best infrastructure was built by the Victorians (in the form of old railway lines - although maybe not when you have to tackle these ramps on and off them), but now Carlton Reid proposes unearthing some historical infrastructure of slightly more recent origin - the forgotten cycleways of the 1930s, which happen to have some particularly fine examples in the North East. Chris Boardman is on board, among many others, although it's not clear that all of the routes will still be salvageable after all these years - and it's telling that while we are relying on a crowd-funded initiative to try and resurrect an 80-year-old Dutch-inspired network, the actual Dutch continue to power ahead with an animal-version of the green wave for bikes.

Turning out for Earth Day

Last weekend was Earth Day and cyclists marked it with mass rides pretty much everywhere from Boston to Brisbane. Here in the UK there were Space for Cycling rides in cities across England - with fantastic turnout for Manchester's event - while POP went national across Scotland with mass rides in Edinburgh, Glasgow - much to Bike Gob's delight and Inverness and Aberdeen, the latter giving Rachel Squrrel a chance to meet the other cargo bikes in the city. In New York, riders took to a traffic-free Broadway thanks to Earth Day celebrations (and the Science March) - and such open streets events will be returning to cities in Britain as British Cycling launches the 'City Rides' scheme this summer.

Vote bike

As the local elections rumble on, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the general election, Walk Cycle Vote has been looking at response rates to its three asks while Cycling UK looks at both the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and the Manchester Metro mayor candidates. CamCycle has been surveying local election candidates too so the Cambridge Cyclist takes a look at the responses from the Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour candidates' responses, while Cycling Dumfries takes things a step further and gets its local candidates on bikes to give them a new perspective on the town - while continued, petty opposition to Enfield's cycling plans show the importance of getting councillors on board. Finally, there was an impressive turn out for the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign's Big Ride; GMCC are calling for the Mayoral candidates to endorse their ten-point action plan.

Elsewhere, Californian campaigners find that no matter how pro-cycling a candidate may be there's no excuse for racism and offensive behaviour, while residents of Denver get to literally vote bike as the city decides which transport projects to fund from a bond issue - and America's leader of the opposition now appears to be the president of Trek.

What gets planned for ...

Despite continuing evidence that 'build it and they will come works just as much for cars as well as bikes, Ireland's road network indicators show no sign of being about anything but the car - despite all the barriers to cycling. These would be equally familiar to cyclists in the UK, but England at least now has a commitment to long-term funding for active travel for the first time ever while Sustrans has also updated its strategy to make walking and cycling easier across the UK.

Cycling ambition?

Sustained funding can overcome some of the barriers in the way of building properly ambitious cycling infrastructure - including schemes like Enfield's mini Holland which has just unveiled the UK's first ever 'green scramble' junction for bikes, or the London Cycle Superhighways that are wide enough to provide access to the emergency services when the cars are in the way on the road. Compare and contrast with the latest Quietways which are meandering, slow and dump riders back out into daunting traffic, because as long as we continue to 'balance the needs of all road users' then we will continue to serve only the car. In Norwich, at least cyclists and walkers have a chance to comment on plans to improve the A47, but plans for Oxford Street will need to consider cyclists, in one way or another - and Stretford is getting rid of its subways without doing much to make things on the surface better for walking and cycling.

Further afield, things are a little better with ambitious bridge designs announced to get cyclists and walkers across a freeway in Seattle - although some of the options for separating bikes and huge trucks on one street are less impressive. The New York mayor has added another $300m to the budget for Vision Zero street redesigns, while in Washington plans for bike provision on New York Avenue have potential to be an improvement. The picture is more mixed as Dublin works out its Liffey Quays redevelopment, with backtracking on plans to remove cars from one stretch, and alternative designs proposed to get around a pinch point elsewhere.

Enforcement vs Engineering

One week in, Edinburgh's police report a welcome change in driver behaviour as a response to their Close Pass initiative. Leeds Cycle Campaign welcome similar plans for the A660 - especially when you contrast it with less enlightened police attitudes elsewhere - but would still like to see the kind of separate provision that would make policing less important. Engineering approaches are also less likely to tip over into harassment of some minority groups - although they have to be evenly distributed across all communities with poorer neighbourhoods not left behind.

Objective vs subjective safety

When you've been brought up as a child to never ride your bike with moving cars around it's hard to make the switch to urban cycling, without a bit more protection than a bike lane affords, which may be why walking just feels safer than cycling even though rising fatalities in the US suggest it isn't - and why Sydney cyclists would like their College Street cycleway back. In Ireland a recent cluster of cycling deaths may be an anomaly but there's no cause to be complacent. Mixing bikes and pedestrians has its problems too so it's good to see separation going in on Chicago's busy lakefront trail. And for those fuming at distracted walkers, it turns out the real problem with 'wexting' isn't safety, it's that it's terribly inefficient.

Placemaking vs placefaking

One can't move for placemaking initiatives these days - but have they just become another pop-up gimmick or is the real legacy of something like an '8-80 fellow' lasting schemes like cycleways rather than one-off events? Sometimes, what started as a pop-up can become semi-official as has happened with Portland - and the latest guerrilla intervention in San Francisco might have a similar lasting effect.

Making better cities

As some continue to work through the implications of driverless cars - cities will need to present a united front to make sure that the technology works for their citizens, not the companies promoting it. Meanwhile in the here and now, Cambridge will be getting advice from the Dutch Cycling Embassy while a stay in Copenhagen has given on stuend plenty of ideas to improve cycling in Saint Paul. Over recent years, Reggio Emilia in Italy has achieved almost Dutch looking levels of modal share. In San Francisco things have improved but the city still has a long way to go especially if it wants to see more women cycling. And while every city seems to have 'that columnist', at least in Atlanta he doesn't seem to be denting the popularity of the city's bike lane plans.

The law is an ...

As one man has now spent a year in jail for riding a bike in an annoying manner in Pennsylvania, here in the UK, a ruling might mean compulsory insurance for e-bikes - while plans to open up footpaths to cyclists are meeting opposition from some Ramblers groups. It's not all bad news though - in Texas, lower speed limits would actually lead to better street design as cities have to match their streets to the posted limits. And if London does bring in its direct vision standards for lorries, that would also make it easier for other cities to follow suit. And in Portugal cyclists will be able to continue to choose what to wear on their head on a bike after a backlash against plans for a helmet law.

Mapping and measuring

This week also brought news that - by some measures anyway - bike usage is up on the roads even though the number of people (in England, anyway) cycling at least once a week has barely budged in the last decade. Sustrans Scotland tries measuring the advantages of cycling in terms that the Scots might (stereotypically) be expected to understand, while Bristol Cycle Campaign wants to know why the police's figures for injured cyclists are so much lower than those of the NHS. On the mapping side, the ECF launches its European cycling data map including 'numbers of cycling advocates', however that's measured, while a suburb of Washington gets a stress map of its scariest roads to cycle on. Scary or not, whichever way you measure it, those tend to be the routes that cyclists want to use, for the same reason as everybody else.

Parking news

Another week, another study shows that parking isn't as important for businesses as their owners think it is (apart from bike parking of course which is essential - once you've built your bike network). And GoBike reminds us that we've got until the end of June to respond to the consultation on pavement parking, with some guidance on how to respond.


As Cycling UK announces a new partnership with Halfords a new Bicycle Industry Fund is launched, although it's not clear exactly what it will fund. Elsewhere, this is an interesting look at how a US bicycle campaign is funded - while Kats Dekker is interested in what activism looks like at the grassroots.

Will nobody think of the children

With Stories from the School Run popping up for another year, the Ranty Highwayman considers how to get schools to imagine the streets around them differently to make walking, cycling and scooting to school much easier. It's worth remembering that children can't just find a gap in the traffic to cross as easily as adults can, so people like Ana (and the thousands of lollipop ladies and gents like her) are pretty crucial - but then again some kids are pretty fearless on their bikes (and make the adults who moan about it look like the big babies). We talk a lot here about building actual bridges, but sometimes it's the metaphorical ones which are important to bring communities together (and what better way than on bikes?)

Bikes for all

Not that it's just about children - women can particularly benefit from cycling for their health and other issues - as long as they're not stranded by their bikeshare scheme that's become too popular for its own good. In Africa, it takes a little more work to ensure that girls benefit just as much from donated bikes as boys do. Cycling in some cities can look terribly undiverse - which may explain why Psyklin can barely stop looking at the cover art for the Stumps and Cranks book long enough to enjoy its contents. And, while the public health benefits of wider cycling may not scale once it spreads beyond the motivated riders who do it now in countries like the UK and Australia, the benefits may actually be even greater for some groups, such as those who have suffered a stroke.

Holiday planning

And finally, it's that time of year when people start to think about their trips - many of which may be better by bike, whether it's viewing the cherry blossom or experiencing America's coming solar eclipse - but you may want to give that trans-Canada trip a miss. If you're going to Velo City this year, Bicycle Dutch has a brief guide to the host city, Arnhem, where cycling is just part of the landscape. And if you really want a bike tour to remember, why not do thousands of miles towing a statue of a rhino to raise awareness of its fate? That would definitely be a bank holiday with a difference...