Fear’s fair – but how rational is our risk assessment?

Fear's fair - but how rational is our risk assessment?Keen to ride your bike around town, but worried it’s a risky business? You’re not alone, and that’s why we work for safer streets for people on bikes. But hold up! When you crunch the numbers, even under current conditions, riding a bike is not nearly as dangerous as you might think, compared to other things we get up to. As reported in the NZ Herald, new research from a team led by Prof. Alistair Woodward at the University of Auckland shows that biking is about as safe as doing DIY around the house. We’re glad to be able to share Alistair’s own blog post on the project (also published at Sciblogs)…. “It is too dangerous” is the reason given most commonly for …
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Heading in the right direction? Experts put Auckland in context

Heading in the right direction? Experts put Auckland in contextLukas Adam has recently finished a spatial planning degree at Oxford Brookes University in the UK, and is moving back to Auckland to put theory into practice. As he discovered in his dissertation research, planning for cycling in spread-out cities like Auckland is mostly about infrastructure, but you can’t ignore the context… What’s the single biggest barrier to seeing more people on bikes in dispersed cities like Auckland? Safety (both real and perceived). What is the most effective approach for improving safety? Building physical infrastructure. Will ‘carrots’ alone be enough to encourage more people to bike? Probably not. Can’t we just cut and paste what they have done in the Netherlands? Not really. These were some of the messages gathered …
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On habits, habitats, and happy communities – a report from the Asia Pacific Cycle Congress

On habits, habitats, and happy communities - a report from the Asia Pacific Cycle CongressBikes and bike people poured into Brisbane recently for the 2015 Asia Pacific Cycle Congress, which attracted around 230 delegates from Australia and New Zealand, and a keynote speaker from San Francisco. This year’s focus: the economic benefits of cycling, links to the health sector, and new opportunities for the biking industry. Claire Pascoe, NZTA’s Senior Cycling Adviser, was lucky enough to attend, and soaked up tons of bike news to share with us. Here’s her report: It was a refreshing (and unfamiliar) feeling to take along a presentation on behalf of NZTA that was a truly good news story of such a significant scale – “Yes, you heard right, we’re investing around $400 million …
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Bikes love local businesses – time for more vice-versa?

Bikes love local businesses - time for more vice-versa?Of all the arguments in favour of encouraging city cycling, perhaps the hardest for some people to swallow is that bikes are good for business. Why? Because many business owners believe that parking and cars  – rather than the people who arrive in cars – are the main source of their business. Parking, in particular, is a sacred cow of epic proportions, and it’s an article of faith among some retailers that taking away parking spots to improve safe passage for people on bikes will result in the rapid decline of any nearby business. But the research firmly says otherwise. This article looks at a recent collation of 12 studies on …
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Bike Boom – a book for all of us!

Bike Boom - a book for all of us!Today is the last day to chip in and reserve a copy of Bike Boom, the new book by Carlton Reid. Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence in Cycling is a sequel to Reid’s earlier best-seller Roads Were Not Built for Cars, which grew out of his excellent blog of the same name. (The earlier book was so popular it’s already out of print and a bit of a cult object! Luckily a reprint is on the way, and an e-book version is available). Reid’s first book, Roads Were Not Built for Cars, did exactly what it says on the tin – and more – by revealing the story of how modern roads were, in fact, built for bicycles. Read a great review here. In a nutshell: paving …
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Inequality and cycling in Denmark

In a previous post, we looked at whether cycling is something only the wealthy do. It turns out that even in the United States, people on low incomes do cycle more. Presumably because it offers them a cheap and reliable (especially considering the United States’ poor transit options) form of transport. But can cycling really help those on lower incomes? Could cycling become a factor in rebalancing some of the growing inequality we are seeing in NZ? Should investment in cycling be seen as a way to help low income families do more with their money? Evidence from Denmark indicates that the answer to all those questions is a definite …
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UPDATED – Obesity and cycling: The NZ disconnect

UPDATED UPDATE: And Chris Boardman in the UK has also named cycling as a great way to combat obesity. UPDATE: I thought this post deserved a bump when I saw this article by obesity.org which states that: New research ties bike-friendly infrastructure changes in United States cities to increases in “active commuting” by bike-riding residents, which can improve and sustain weight and reduce cardiac risk. The NZ Herald has run yet another scary article on the growing obesity epidemic in New Zealand. According to the article, we are now the fourth most obese country in the world. As much as I agree with the emphasis on the culture of unhealthy …
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Economic benefits of cycling

From much of the rhetoric heard around cycling, you would think that it was an activity that required huge amounts of spending with very little economic return. However, the clear evidence is very much in favour of the opposite view. The investment needed to encourage cycling as an everyday activity is tiny compared to roading or public transportprojects and the return on that investment is huge. To back that up, there are a number of articles based on studies easily located by a quick Google search. Here are some that came to my attention. In 2013, a study cited by the then Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, found that: The economy …
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Cycling and noise pollution

One of the major things that seems to hit people when they move to a real cycle city, is how quiet it is. Even very busy roads are quiet when the majority of the traffic on them is made up of bicycles. Anecdotally, we can all relate to what an unpleasant experience it is to live, work or even just sit down for a while near loud traffic. It is one of the main gripes that people normally have with living in a large city. Of course, it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when even Auckland was dominated by the clanging of trams and the dinging of bicycle bells with …
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Cycling and women’s rights

In the last 100 years, New Zealand has often led the way in women’s rights, from being the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote to having women dominate our political and legal scene. The bicycle played a part in this revolution and not just in New Zealand. This article points out how in the United States, the bicycle gave women a new freedom of movement which inspired a movement away from traditional roles and attitudes. There is a great chapter in the Kennet Brothers history of cycling in New Zealand, Ride: The Story of Cycling in New Zealand, that describes in some detail how …
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Air Pollution: Inside is Best, Right?

When I lived in London, I used to regularly jog along the Thames at lunch time. My co-workers often used to tell me that they wouldn’t do it because I was breathing in all those fumes from vehicles. They felt the air was much healthier in a car or bus. I never cycled in London (in the late 90s noone did except bicycle couriers) but I am sure I would have heard the same arguments against cycling. And in fact this BBC article makes exactly that claim. However, an experiment in London has shown once again that “common sense” assumptions are often wrong and the truth is counterintuitive. The experiment was carried out …
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What do we want? Copenhagen!

This video of riding through Copenhagen helps to remind us of what we are advocating for in Auckland. A city where riding a bicycle is a viable alternative for people of all ages and genders, 8-80 cycling: Journey Around Copenhagen’s Latest Bicycle Innovations! from STREETFILMS on Vimeo. The video includes a ride over the amazing Cycle Snake Bridge.
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Hi-Viz, Low Effect

This article from the Canberra Times refers to a recent study by the University of Bath and Brunel University that tested the extent to which cyclist clothing affected how close drivers of cars overtook cyclists. One of the research team, Dr Ian Garrard from Brunel University, used an ultrasonic distance sensor to record how close each vehicle passed during his daily commute in Berkshire and outer London. Each day, he chose one of seven outfits at random, ranging from tight lycra racing cyclist clothes (signalling high experience) to a hi-viz vest with “novice cyclist” printed on the back (signalling low experience). The conclusion of the study was that clothing had …
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Cycle friendly work place: Level Portland

Cycle friendly work place: Level PortlandHave you ever heard people talk about a cycle friendly employer and wonder what that would really mean? Would you like to be a cycle friendly employer but you don’t have any ideas on how to achieve that? Well check out what one company in Portland has done to make itself more friendly for cycling employees. The perks at New Relic include: inhouse cycle mechanic tune ups 1,000 square foot (93 sqm) of cycle parking onsite a shoe-drying rack that during the winter had inserts with built-in heating elements a rack of personalized shower bags hanging in the adjoining locker room (with shower, of course) a wall of rubber coat-hooks …
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Safety in numbers: Let’s get out there!

A common theme among cycling advocates is that the more people cycle, the safer people on bicycles are. Recent evidence from New York appears to bear this out. This phenomenon has been backed up by various studies and reports. A somewhat contrary view is presented by David Hembrow (of View from the Cycle Path) who holds that the very safe cycling environment in the Netherlands is not the result of safety in numbers but of good infrastructure that separates people on bikes from people in cars. There is something to be said for that but I think we all know how much better it feels to see other people on bikes around …
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