The Great Big Balance what Balance Bike Blog Roundup

There was a bit of a 'big picture' feel to the bike (and transport and urbanism generally) blogs this week - starting with the myth of balance among all modes of transport and the idea that pluraity means giving more and more space for cars rather than excluding them from cities altogether. The roads are not a neutral space and if you design for motorised traffic first and foremost then you end up forcing bikes into unpleasant interactions with heavy traffic leading to the sort of daily cycle commute which is to be endured, not enjoyed. While drivers are very keen to get bikes of the road, they don't seem to notice that it's the storage of their own fellow-drivers' private property which is clogging up our streets - and not cyclists taking the lane for their own safety.

Inclusive of everyone

But before we get too smug ourselves, we need to make sure that in advocating our vision of cycling and cities we aren't excluding some voices from the conversation - and even men who would never dream of drowning out women's voices should take responsibility for correcting it, and also making sure that panels are properly representative even if that means giving up your own seat on one.This is especially important given some ethnic groups bear the brunt of traffic danger - and face additional barriers to cycling that should be borne in mind when designing schemes. Still, as the Women's Cycle Forum in Scotland celebrates its first year, we should always remember that Jane Jacobs herself was originally dismissed as just one of a bunch of mothers - and ultimately she prevailed.

The world beyond cycling

To be honest, for some American campaigners, worrying about bike lanes doesn't seem like the real priority this week when your country is burning, people are so polarised that a courteous pass by a pickup with a confederate flag raises mixed feelings - and if some politicians had had their way driving a car into a group of protesters wouldn't have been a crime. Here in the UK we're not quite that divided yet, but the fallout from Brexit could have an impact on vehicle safety and some MPs seem to genuinely think that road safety schemes are actually just there to raise money - and it's really hard to know just which side to take on the Jeremy Hunt Bike-Bathroomgate row.

Devil is in the details

Nothing illustrates the balance of power issue better than quietways, cycle streets, or other roads where bikes are supposed to dominate: signs alone cannot make these cycle friendly unless through traffic is removed - People for Bikes untangles the issues to help clarify what is needed while Cardiff by Bike looks at what makes a mini Holland scheme. Like cycle streets, bus lanes can look like a way to get cycle infrastructure on the cheap but bikes in bus lanes don't work for anyone, bus drivers included. Will Norman, TfL's Cycling and Walking Commissioner promises that the final designs for Nine Elms will be better and consultation responses will be taken on board - hopefully the same will happen for the cycle tracks along Hackney's Wick Road which offer huge potential but current plans tend to give up at the tricky bits. Perhaps we could do more to trial different approaches as San Jose has done in the last week with its pop up bikeway - while as Pittsburgh gets some new-to-it infrastructure some explanations might be in order. Off-road routes, like turning old railway lines back into (bike) transport corridors ought to be the easier option, making the perfect routes for novice child cyclists but even here worries about surfaces threaten to scupper plans for improvement.

Bikeable places

So how are our towns and cities getting on with redressing the balance of power? Well, Edinburgh has finally published its giant gyratory plans for Picardy Place which doesn't bode all that well, although the council is looking for some small interventions that might improve cycling around the city. In Glasgow, GoBike will be holding the city's new Sustainability convenor to some ambitious promises made in her manifesto, as the council gets on with consulting on the South City Way. In Peterborough the council wants to scrap a bridge providing safe passage across a giant junction on cost grounds - arguing that a bunch of toucan crossings will be fine (for those who have all week...) while Mansfield has banned people from cycling to the shops but a bike race is just fine. Further afield, New York has been transforming its streets this summer, some permanently, some on a more temporary basis, while Tom Babin questions whether Vancouver deserves its bike friendly reputation. In Minnesota a small town and a suburb of Saint Paul go under the microscope for cycling - but no microscope is required for Utrecht's new bike parking garage, which had to be designed to be cycled in as it's too big to walk through.

Safer streets

In this week's not so surprising revelation, America's National Transportation Safety Board recognised the danger of traffic speeds - and more to the point, the need for cities to have the powers to control speeding including removing bans on traffic cameras in some states. In Chicago, four fatalities have at least led to better regulations on safer trucks while, 40 years on, Beverley Hills might be about to get a complete streets policy to replace its bike plan. In all road safety programmes, proper evaluation is crucial - and might also save the authorities from investing in insultingly 'amusing' road safety campaigns which have to be pulled on taste grounds, if nothing else. And, suppressing our amusement at the thought of a steering committee for self-driving cars, it is a scandal that no bike or pedestrian representatives are on it - possibly because they would immediately advocate for banning them around schools, shopping areas and stations.

Bike share

Meanwhile bikeshare in all its forms continues to clutter up the blogosphere, with another scheme launching in Seattle, Oxford drawing up a code of conduct for schemes in the city and BuzzBike overcoming the problem of bikes being left everywhere by giving their riders the bike to keep, which might at least mean that if your bike share scheme goes bankrupt then at least you have something for your deposit. Trump's removal of the Whitehouse bikeshare station probably isn't the worst of his actions even this week, but does have a certain symbolic resonance. And travelling the US by rail certainly gives you the opportunity to compare and contrast the various approaches to bike share out there.

Electric avenue

As the Telegraph discovers that electric bikes will save us all, even the Hovis boy is a convert now he's in his 50s (although some wait until they're 80 to even give them a go). Except for viewers in Northern Ireland, of course, as Halfords suspends sales of e-bikes until the legal position is cleared up, something that may not happen anytime soon.

Words matter too

Psychobikeology found this week that even more irritating than organisations paying lip service to sustainable travel was when even supposedly green ones don't even bother, while, after many years of them getting it wrong, Kats Dekker is pleasantly surprised when the local paper gets it right for once. As Cycle to Work day hoves into view, Greenwich is hoping that points might mean, if not prizes then at least more cycling and walking. And for those who want more, San Francisco Bike Coalition are running a workshop on speaking up for cycling while World Streets puts together what it hopes will become a global resource on the battlegrounds for transport in urban areas.

Business as usual?

Can companies like Ford change their spots and become 'mobility' companies rather than carmakers? Possibly not, but many US employers are investing in becoming bike friendly and now Bicycling Magazine wants to know who they are. In Europe high tech firms are using big data to build better navigation tools for cycling, while in the UK, it probably does help if you give businesses some warning that the road outside their door is about to be closed for a cycling event if you want to avoid backlash.

Bike make it better

As America prepares for the blotting out of the sun, the best way to see it will naturally be by bike if you don't want to add to the five days a year drivers already spend stuck in traffic. And cycling continues to benefit people at all stages of their lives, whether its schoolchildren whose cancelled bus service left them realising it was quicker by bike, or a 75-year-old cycling 'round the world' after a triple heart bypass.

Finally, two tales of longer rides to end the week - from an 8-year-old learning some colourful new vocabulary as he and his father sample the UK half of the London to Paris cycle route - to a somewhat lost soul finding adventure with his dog riding to Colorado on two and a half gears.