A guide to blogs by cycle campaigners
A guide to blogs by cycle campaigners
Every Sunday afternoon, I open my feed reader and contemplate the 600+ blog entries awaiting my consideration for the Cycling Embassy Blog roundup. Over the years that I have been compiling this review of the world of online cycle campaigning, I've seen bloggers come and go, but the volume never seems to diminish. Blogging has become an indispensable part of the campaigner’s toolkit – albeit one now supplemented by videos, Twitter and other social media platforms. Here are some of the blogs that should be required reading for anyone who doesn’t just want to cycle themselves but wants to see conditions improved for everyone who rides a bike.
A technical perspective: Ranty Highwayman
Ranty Highwayman is that rare creature, a local authority highways officer who understands good quality cycling infrastructure – and can also communicate the barriers that he and his colleagues face when it comes to building it. If you want to understand what makes a really good cycle path work, right down to the kerbs, then this is required reading. He's recently acquired a cargo bike (and a third child) so there are excursions into family cycling as well.
A campaigning perspective: As Easy as Riding a Bike
Sometimes it can be hard to see how Dutch best practice could ever be achieved in the UK, but Mark Treasure, chair of the GB Cycling Embassy, blogs regularly about the issues important to campaigners in the UK – whether it’s countering the latest anti-cycling rhetoric or dissecting the latest proposal being passed off as ‘Dutch style’. Strongly argued and always rigorous, Mark’s posts shine a light of sanity into some of the more heated debates in cycling.
An academic perspective: Rachel Aldred
Many bike bloggers cite research but Rachel Aldred is actually doing it. As the force behind the Near Miss Project and Propensity to Cycle Tool – among other academic studies – she is generating invaluable evidence for campaigners and policy makers alike. Unusually for an academic, Rachel’s blogs make quite complex topics such as traffic modelling accessible to the lay reader.
A Scottish Perspective: Mind of a Helmet Camera Cyclist
Dave Brennan (or ‘Magnatom’) has been videoing and blogging his rides on Glasgow’s challenging roads for years, but his blog is not just a litany of close encounters with murderous tankers to a soundtrack of inventive Glaswegian swearing (although there is plenty of that). Since 2012, Dave has also been one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, the grassroots Scottish cycle campaign, which means these days his confrontations are as likely to be with government or council officials as with road raging drivers.
A Northern Irish perspective: NI Greenways
There’s been a flowering of bike blogs in Northern Ireland recently but NI Greenways is the granddaddy of them all. Originally a campaign for greenways on disused railway lines, it helped sow the seeds of Belfast’s growing cycle culture – which has recently started to make itself felt in policy too. Using wry humour backed up by rigorous argument, it has made Belfast’s ‘Bin Lane’ and ‘Cyclosaurus’ the poster children for half-baked cycling infrastructure – both of which are now being replaced by better designed alternatives. Cycling UK backed NI Greenways' Election Cycle manifesto as part of the Vote Bike campaign.
A Welsh perspective: Cardiff By Bike
Sometimes it can seem as if the only place doing anything for cycling in the UK is London, but the 2013 Active Travel Act, backed up by the Welsh Cycle Design Standards, make Wales the place to watch for campaigners. As well as celebrating cycling in Cardiff as it is now, Cardiff By Bike keeps a beady eye on the implementation of the Act and how it is playing out in Cardiff.
Typical post: We Have Some Interesting New Traffic Signs Regulations
Similar bloggers: Cardiff Cycle City and CycleStuff
A family perspective: Back on my Bike
Compared with the US, the UK has a dearth of blogs exploring family cycling, which is a shame because there’s nothing like trying to shepherd a child on a bike to clarify how far we have to go to become a truly cycle-friendly country. A lifelong cyclist, Suzanne is confronting that reality every day now that she has a toddler (sometimes literally) in tow. Her blog mixes campaigning with active travel and family cycle touring, but adorable toddler photos notwithstanding, there’s plenty of well-justified anger at the conditions she and her son have to negotiate to get around.
An inclusive perspective: Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down
If cycling with children brings cycling issues into sharp relief, cycling with a disability demonstrates both the potential of cycling as a means of mobility and the barriers that keep it out of reach of all but the most determined. Kevin Hickman has done a lot to encourage traditional campaigners to look beyond bicycles to trikes, handcycles and the whole gamut of adapted cycles, and he does so with a mordant humour. Although he doesn’t write anything like enough himself, the blog includes a steady flow of bike-related videos from elsewhere.
A Dutch perspective: Bicycle Dutch
I’ve largely concentrated on the UK here but no review of campaigning blogs would be complete without a trip across the North Sea. For many of us, David Hembrow’s A View from the Cycle Path was the one that opened their eyes to Dutch cycling infrastructure. Hembrow doesn’t blog as regularly as he used to – although his archives are still required reading – but his collaborator Mark Wagenbuur blogs weekly about the latest developments on cycling in the Netherlands. His short films are invaluable for demonstrating how Dutch-style infrastructure works for everyone, but be warned – they can make the average British cyclist extremely jealous!
Typical post: Utrecht, Cycling City of the Netherlands?
Also, to blow our own trumpet, Cycling UK's blog has a range of writers who cover a wide variety of issues including campaigning.