The Great Big It's Good to Breathe Bike Blog Roundup

Every week, we include many links in these roundups showing how bikes in general (and cycling infrastructure in particular) are a Good Thing, helping to solve many of our modern problems - whether it's rebuilding your city and community after a devastating hurricane, reducing stress levels by up to half, or making your city's streets safer for everyone - with massive socioedonomic returns in terms of congestion and healthier populations - and, in fact, actually making road building cheaper if you design it in from the get go. So, naturally, when the UK government finally produces its clean air plan, does it go big on encouraging people to swap their cars for bikes as you might expect? It does not but instead shifts responsibility onto local authorities - even though some, like Newcastle, have already ruled out creating Clean Air Zones despite having lots of pollution hotspots. And while many have picked up on the speed bump issue that was in fact a single line in the overall plan. All in all, it's probably no surprise that cycling levels in England haven't budged despite much fevered talk of a bike revolution

Not that the UK government is alone in overlooking the obvious solution to a thorny problem, with Auckland's Transport policy missing several tricks by forgetting to include its own Urban Cycleways Programme even though it does have a ten year bike plan which includes significant planned investment. In Northern Ireland there's a bike strategy but no executive so implementation is already starting to drift

Battling bikelash

Somehow, despite all the evidence piling up in favour of cycling infrastructure, the backlash continues with businesses in Massachusetts trying to kill plans for protected bike lanes in Cambridge, while Bikemore's battle to retain a protected cycleway in Baltimore shows how important turning up and speaking out can be - especially once critics decide cycling infrastructure is all part of a UN plot. In Seattle, engaging each business door-to-door early on is key to building support for safer streets while in Portland, more progressive employers have formed their own business association to keep the city affordable and liveable. The Dutch have NIMBYs too but they worry about water tables and losing trees more than parking spots, while even in North America developers and estate agents are realising that cycling can be good for business.

Creating a network

Of course, to reap all those wonderful cycling benefits, it's a proper joined up network that's needed, especially when your bike is a mobility aid and getting off and pushing isn't that practical. In Northern Ireland, the old Lussomon railway could make a fantastic route between Armagh and Newry but in Silicon Valley a report opts for an express busway instead of making space for bikes - and even wonderful greenways need to be connected to a bike friendly road network to reap the full benefits - just as the Lockwood Greenway could plug a vital gap in Bath's network. Meanwhile in London, Camden is one more looking for quick wins on its bike network while, now that the Westway option of the East-West superhighway extension has been scuppered, will the new route get blocked by hostile boroughs? In Manchester, changes to a key route offer nothing for active travel with no proper consultation and in Glasgow two key parts of the network are to be temporarily severed, with no obvious alternative. In California, Sacramento takes that vital first step towards a safe bike network, even if it is only 3 blocks long while Portland is to get another protected bikeway, a Philadelphia bridge is finally to be made bike (and wheelchair) accessible and Chicago is using its own version of greenways to add to its bike network.

Building it right

As well as creating a network, it's important to get the details right - unusually, plans for Lambeth Bridge suggest that the political will to make space for cycling is there - it's actually the technical knowhow that's lacking (whereas it seems the opposite is the case in Dublin). For cities in the US a new quick guide to protected bikeways may help, while in San Francisco after a few compromised plans being floated in the past the authorities are now thinking with greater ambition so what are the best options for creating a better Market Street? In San Jose they will be trialling all kinds of options through pop-up bikeways - hopefully not including the cracked, narrow, on the pavement option that drives some cyclists back onto the road. Wellington are consulting over plans for the Island Bay Cycleway which could make things better - or actually worse - while New York have quietly dropped plans to protect a cycle path just at the time when cyclists need most protecting.

Roads are for ...

Of course, while a narrow focus on cycling can be helpful at times, sometimes we need to take a step back and think about our roads and streets more broadly, and there's nothing like closed road events for doing that: not only do schemes like streetplay and Playing Out benefit children and residents overall, they also make people start to think differently about how their streets are used. World Streets look back on the history of the car-free day movement - but it's not just something for cities; rural areas can benefit from the tourism boost that comes from closed road events and days.

Not that it needs to be all about closing roads - as livable streets movements generally need to become more inclusive if they're to stay relevant, would a Slow Roll type movement in Cardiff start to connect communities and change hearts and minds the way it has in Detroit? Meanwhile, while efforts to celebrate and encourage women's cycling can help build confidence in getting more women cycling, Claire Prospert doesn't seek to encourage anyone to ride a bike - she wants to create the conditions where that isn't needed. Finally, when it comes to making real leaps in cycling mode share it's sometimes planning laws as much as bike routes that enables cities to get up to 25% of journeys and beyond. Meanwhile, we place our hopes in Chris Boardman (or Rihanna) even though he will need real funding to play with if he's to make much difference = and he's got his work cut out either way.

Political will

As Christian Wolmar argues that cycling should be at the heart of Labour's cycling policy, the comments beneath it make it clear that we've a way to go towards winning hearts and minds. Other politicians were stepping up too - Green MSP Mark Ruskell's proposed 20mph limit bill would offer huge benefits for Scotland so please do support the proposal in the consultation - while Delaware passes a law to allow the Idaho stop for bikes. In Canada one politician seems to be embracing the whole bike thing after a tour of Vancouver - while Seattle has a lot of council and mayoral candidates with progressive views on liveable streets. Stepping back, for Kats Dekker, strength comes from speaking truth to power, however unwelcome.

Those pavement blockers in full

As Wandsworth impounds a bunch of bikes for blocking pavements (and parking spaces), it doesn't seem to be that worried about pavement parked cars - and neither are Cambridge police it seems. Indeed, if Tower Hamlets are anything to go by, what's really blocking pavements are rogue bike pumps - although after there was enough of a fuss a compromise seems to have been found. In New York, lack of enforcement turns a bike trail into a free parking lot while Edinburgh struggles to maintain a route through George Street during the festival, but in Canada, not only are the postal service officially going to stop parking on bike lanes, Toronto gets a dedicated squad of enforcement officers to keep its bike lanes clear. Still the prize for most egregious parking on a bike lane award goes to the car dealership in Washington whose three-storey garage ended up encroaching on a trail.

Bikeshare blues

Meanwhile, hiccups in Wandsworth aside, the dockless bikeshare juggernaut rolls on, with MoBike joining oBike in London (users might want to check their bank statements carefully after using them), Seattleites taking to their new bikes even if they need a native guide to get them to some actual safe infrastructure, and three firms keen to set up in Denver - although Amsterdam has proved a little more sceptical. Meanwhile, Toronto's conventional bike share scheme gets an expansion and so does San Francisco's, although not every district is on board, showing the need for in-depth outreach to some communities.

In Lisbon an e-bike hire scheme might help visitors tackle the city's hills - but won't do much for all the other factors that make Lisbon a scary place to cycle for the average visitor. Not that everyone's on board with ebikes, as Singapore introduces compulsory registration and the US forest Service still bans them from its non-motorised trails.

Vision zero

Vision Zero continues to make some progress in the United States, with Denver's proposed plan seeming to say all the right things but lacking ambition when it comes to specifics - although it is getting parking protected 'pedestrian lanes' while the city waits for decent sidewalks to be built, even if St. Paul is still just considering the idea. New York is prioritising building its cycling infrastructure in the neighbourhoods with the worst safety record. In general, it's still the neighbourhoods which weren't built around cars which are the safest to walk and cycle while in Florida, the most dangerous state to ride a bike, the only protection you get are the temporary traffic cones during construction. And as the US is to get its first ever study into bike safety and train tracks it turns out Dublin has been sitting on a consultant's report for ages.

Enforecement versus engineering

Meanwhile, Vision Zero does seem to have led to some perverse results, with the New York Police seemingly punishing cyclists just for making their life difficult rather than to improve safety - while the wheelchair user who got a ticket after being run over because he was too slow to cross the road shows how there really is no war on the motorist. At least we've got Operation Close Pass - with the Met Police wanting to know where to target next and you can still text and ride in Washington State, although maybe you shouldn't

Kids on wheels

While some drivers need to be reminded that paying 'road tax' doesn't give them licence to drive at a cargo bike full of kids and claim bikes have no right of way on the road, cycling can still be an option for families in low-density suburbs, although the ECF would like industry support for more research into how cargobikes could replace car trips. Generally, if we want to change the way we think about transport we should start with the children and specifically safe routes to schools - but as it's still the school holidays, so a chance to try family cycling in Vancouver or pedalling to the beach in Portland (and now 132 kids have bikes there who didn't before).


We cover a lot of terrible dangerous drivers in these roundups, so we'd like to end with one motorbike rider who chose to crash into a ditch rather than a group of cyclists and suffered life-changing injuries as a result. A reminder that none of us should be defined by our means of transport ... whatever it may be