The Great Big Can We Have A Cycling Commissioner Too Bike Blog Roundup

The big headlines this week were generated by two high-profile (and near simultaneous) cycling-related appointments. In Manchester, Chris Boardman has been appointed the city's first Walking and Cycling Commissioner, reporting directly to the city's mayor. Boardman argues the city has substantial political will and 'ambitions to be a real leader on active travel' - with a clear focus on enabling 'normal people' to cycle, as well as existing cyclists. Watch this space. While progress in Manchester has stagnated, campaigners are at least hopeful this appointment will be significant.

Meanwhile London's former cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan has been appointed as cycling-specific adviser to the National Infrastructure Commission's Growth Corridor, taking in the cities of Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. The plan is to turn all three into world-class cycling cities - a reflection, as with Manchester, of the rising importance of cycling, at least on the devolved city agenda. It all leaves those of us who don't live in cities with cycling commissioners feeling rather jealous... 

The end of diesel and petrol cars

More headlines were made this week by the government announcing a ban on the sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2040, making it just the latest country to propose such a ban (although a more sluggish one than many others). However the London mayor argues the proposal does not go nearly far enough, and of course the problem with the proposed replacement, electric cars, is that they rely on batteries, which are themselves hardly environmentally friendly. For a whole host of reasons it makes much more sense to shift trips to walking and cycling, rather than to electric cars. Moreover, banning cars by 2040 does nothing to address the air pollution crisis happening right now - an air pollution problem that miraculously disappears every time roads are closed for cycling events.


A familiar story in New York where, following the death of a cyclist in a hit-and-run collision, the police have gone out ticketing people cycling, even on the same streets where a cyclists was killed - a victim-blaming approach that is as evidence-based as bloodletting. The harrowing story of how the NYPD investigated the death of a woman cycling in Brooklyn - but in happier news, Portland police are proactively tackling cycle theft.

Back in Blighty, it's also pleasing to see the slow spread of 'close pass' operations across the country - here's a report from Southwark on the Met Police operation there, and Lancashire are just the latest county to have a new 'safe passing' initiative. But unfortunately - despite a number of deaths - the offence of 'dooring' remains a gap in UK law.


Why do we continue to design junctions with cycling and walking at the margins, rather than starting from the default assumption of the minimum space for motor traffic? We have such enormous junctions in Britain it is entirely possible to find ways to safely accommodate and prioritise walking and cycling, as with this proposal for a roundabout in the centre of Bath. If motor traffic is not significantly reduced on a road, then the only way to properly accommodate cycling must be by designing safe, protected space, something that the U.S. state of Florida is starting to provide on its bridges.

In related, but totally non-shocking news, it turns out that Denver's protected bike lanes have seen ridership soar 128% - doubtless installing more of them on the 5% of Denver's streets that account for 50% of the city's traffic deaths would be a very good idea.

Holistic planning

Every city was once an cycling city, which implies that decisions about how these cities have changed are always political. Indeed, the bigger picture is that there are (natural) limits, and our actions are interdependent, and of course cycling fits into this very neatly, given that 'bicycles are a sustainable solution in a world that is pushing up against unmovable limits'. With mounting uncertainty over Brexit, surely now is exactly the right time to increase our self-sufficiency by investing in enabling cycling, and in doing so we might eventually get ourselves some of these beautiful Amsterdam cycle swarms - but the city itself now has to make a hard choice between cycling and boats, either maintaining the status quo, or building a new bridge across the Ij.

Coping with the weather

When it rains in the Netherlands, the Dutch... just get on with it - and the fact that everyone else might not be as hardy as the Dutch is something that is worth bearing in mind when we try to get people out of cars, although pouring rain didn't appear to stop people enjoying the Moon Ride in Wisconsin. The rain stopped (and the sun shone!) for Cycling Dumfries' Summer Ride, and happily, Just Step Sideways also had what looks like lovely weather for family-friendly Dutch cycling trips - first to a historic railway museum, and then to Leiden itself, with a summary of the holiday here.

Summer rides

Summer is of course the season for closed road events. Manchester's City Ride continued this year under new sponsorship, allowing people to cycle in peace and safety on some of the most hostile roads in the city. As with London's FreeCycle, where thousands of children and families came out to enjoy the traffic-free roads, these events are ample demonstration that if you give people safe conditions to cycle in, they will come out in droves. You should also save the date in September for Ciclovia Belfast - which is now happily becoming part of the fabric of the city. Not such happy news in Denbighshire, however, where for some bizarre reason the county has decided to ban children from cycling in its parks.

Taxes and parking

Free parking actually comes with a very high cost - indeed, if Americans paid the true cost of their parking, it is estimated they would drive 500 billion fewer miles each year. This is on top of the the problem that - in states like Colorado - motoring-related taxes only cover half of the overall cost of roads. Mexico City, at least, is engaging in parking reform and doing away with parking minimums in new development.

What are the implications of Oregon's proposed bike tax? Bike Portland thinks its origins are more cultural than economic, and went on television to do some explaining, while The Wash Cycle are more blunt, and think it's just kinda stupid.


It does seem extraordinary that we can plough ahead redesigning junctions to improve motoring while ignoring any potential safety consequences for cycling. And in general, when 'compromise' is involved in road design, why is it always cycling that comes off worst, even in the UK's best cycling city? Even the way we frame cycling safety ignores the wider problem that most people are too scared to even cycle in the first place. This applies for walking too - if only some people are able or prepared to walk along a street or road, that doesn't necessarily mean it is walkable. The Dutch are fortunate in that safe  cycling and walking is designed into their road network, and they ensure people start to become safe road users from an early age - all part of their system of Sustainable Safety.


Streetfilms have launched a handy series of short campaigning videos on a variety of topics, and on top of that they've released a new look at 'tactical urbanism' - all the cheap and easy ways streets and roads can be quickly transformed. But if they are to be more successful, campaigns to improve streets for walking, cycling and public transport need to be more inclusive, especially as minorities have borne the brunt of car-centric planning - even today, 'Black' postcode areas have far higher levels of asthma than surrounding postcode areas.

Blaming the victim

Honolulu has decided to ban pedestrians from looking at mobile devices while crossing the road - an absurd measure given they haven't banned drivers from looking at mobiles while driving through junctions. More generally these kinds of clampdowns on 'distracted walking' are part of an insidious victim-blaming approach that actually increases risk to pedestrians, in a country where 'jaywalking' remains an offence. Finally, an in-depth academic report on how the language used to describe cycling collisions shifts responsibility onto the victim.

The ongoing autonomous car issue

As a concept plan for specific space for autonomous cars in New York appears (including pedestrians being forced into underpasses and overpasses), perhaps we should remind ourselves that self-driving cars should respond to pedestrian behaviour, rather than pedestrians making accommodations for self-driving cars. There are also some serious implications for motorcycle riders, given that (at present) 'self-driving' cars are not particularly good at spotting them.

And finally

On a bike, it might be relatively easy to brake for baby birds - but dealing with pedestrians in areas where they aren't expecting people cycling is perhaps even more difficult.