Taking your bike on holiday? Road.cc Bike Box/Bag guide

If you’re travelling with your bike you need a decent bike bag or box to make sure it arrives safely. Here’s what you need to look for.

Take your bike in the back of your car and, fair enough, you can often just take the wheels off and/or fold down the rear seats and put it in there. But if you want to get lots of other luggage in too, using a dedicated bag will protect your bike from bumps and scratches, and stop oil from your bike getting on anything else.

If you’re flying, you need to take extra measures. Baggage handlers aren’t known for their finesse or delicacy of movement. No disrespect to those guys but they’re not going to move every bag and case as if it contained a priceless Ming vase, are they? Would you, if you were in their position? Luggage often gets flung about, dropped or stacked sky high, and you don’t want your bike to be subject to any of that with anything other than heavy-duty protection.

We’ve heard tales of people who thought they’d take their bike abroad in a soft bag or a cardboard bike box and it all going horribly wrong. You might get away with it, of course. You might get away with it many times. But what about that one time when your bike is at the bottom of a tower of cases being sorted by a bloke who’s already late finishing his shift?

It happens. Really, it does. And arriving in the Pyrenees with your bike frame snapped in two is, let’s face it, a disaster. Aside from needing to replace your bike in the long term, you need to salvage a trip for which you’ve already paid.

Bike bags and bike boxes might be expensive but chances are that they’re not as expensive as your bike or your holiday. Invest in something that’s right for your needs and it’ll likely last you years.


All the bike boxes we know of and a lot of soft bike bags come with wheels that allow you to pull/push them to and from a car, around the airport and so on, and that’s a hell of a lot easier than carrying all that weight.

Wheels that are recessed into the base of the box are less vulnerable to getting broken off in transit and wheels that can be replaced after a mishap might save you needing to buy a completely new bike bag or box.


You can’t drag your bike bag or box everywhere – you’ll inevitably need to lug it up some steps or over some gravel at some stage. That’s when some form of carrying handle or strap comes in useful; More that one option helps. A shoulder strap will save your arms doing all the hard work.


Locks might be useful but, realistically, how often are you going to let a loaded up bike box out of your sight anyway?

Okay, it’ll be separated from you for the flight, but bear in mind that if you check in a locked bike box and the customs officials want to look inside, they’ll bust the locks open. Think about it. They need to be able to check what’s in there and a simple lock isn’t going to stop them (otherwise drug smuggling would be really, really simple).


Get a bag or box that’s big enough to take your bike easily. If you have a 56cm road bike with a normal seatpost, you’re unlikely to have a problem with any of the options out there.

However, if you take a very big frame, have an integrated seat post (an extended seat tube rather than a separate seat post), or if you have a full-suspension mountain bike, things might get more complicated.

Check the minimum dimensions you need before you part with your cash, and allow a bit of wiggle room. You don’t want to have to remove every component and use masses of force to get your bike into a box; you need something that’ll take your bike easily. International travel can be stressful enough without adding to it with bike packing pressures.

You can often fit other stuff inside your bike box or bag, in the spaces between the frame tubes, although this obviously adds to the weight and that might be a consideration when you’re flying.

If you intend to drive to the airport rather than take public transport, remember to make sure your bike bag or box will fit in your car. As long as you can fold the rear seats down, that’s not usually a problem.

Oh, and remember that you’ll have to store your bike bag or box somewhere at home. One of the drawbacks of a hard-shelled bike box as opposed to a soft bag is the extra storage space you’ll need for it.

Ease of packing

Getting a bike bag or box that’s large enough (see above) is the essential first step, but beyond that some options are much easier to pack than others.

You’ll have to take the wheels off your bike, either spin the handlebar or remove it from the stem, and remove a pedal (or both of them). You’ll likely have to remove the seatpost or push it down too (depending on the size of your bike). You’ll have to deflate the tyres for flying too.

If you have to remove the rear mech and/or the chainset, things can start to get boring. You obviously have to rebuild the bike at your destination, then take it apart for the return journey and rebuild it again when you get home. As long as you have half-decent spannering skills, that’s unlikely to be a problem. It only takes minutes on each occasion, but it just adds to the faff and might shorten valuable riding time.


You need some means of stopping the various bits of the bike from damaging one another. Some wheels attach to the walls of a bike box with their quick-release skewers (we’ve had a skewer take a knock and get ruined in this way, so you might want to consider using old skewers for the job) and and have some form of cover to avoid harm, others have their own separate wheel bags, as do many bike bags.

Look for other means of storage for removed pedals, the tools you need for rebuilding your bike, and so on.

If you’re ever in doubt, you can always fall back on the cyclists’ favourite, simple pipe insulation from your local DIY store, to protect the various parts of your bike.


There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to weight. First, you have to move your loaded up bike bag or box around so lightness makes life easier.

Second, you have to stick within airline weight limits. Currently, EasyJetallows you 32kg for a boxed up bike and the Ryanair limit is 30kg. Sticking within those boundaries shouldn’t be a problem.

British Airways, though, say that items over 23kg may incur a heavy bag charge. Larger items (in dimensions rather than weight) like bike boxes can be carried for an oversized bag charge, although they waive this at the time of writing.

The point is, you need to check your allowances with your airline before you travel in order to avoid expensive surprises.

Scicon have published a really useful article on weight allowances and other regulations covering flying with your bike.

Hard or soft?

Soft, padded bike bags are lightweight, easy to store, and they’ll protect your bike from scratches and scrapes. As a rule, they’re also cheaper than rigid boxes. Some come with aluminium space frames and rigid spacers for the frame and fork dropouts to help avoid damage.

Next, there are boxes made from semi-rigid polymers that offer good impact strength. In terms of weight, they’re somewhere between a soft bag and a rigid bike box.

Then there are boxes with rigid walls that provide loads of protection, although these tend to be the heaviest and most expensive options out there.

Between that lot there are plenty of variations.

The Biknd Helium (£479, C3 in UK), for example, is essentially a soft bag with inflatable walls that protect your bike, and it folds down small for easy storage.
Find out more here.
Buy it here

Travel insurance

Get it! Even the best bike boxes don’t guarantee you against damage to your bike, so get yourself some insurance that covers the value of your bike.

B’Twin Bike Cover — £39.99

The B’Twin bag has a large bike compartment, two wheel compartments and a rigid base. It weighs 3.6kg and, like most other bags of this kind, it comes with a shoulder strap. That’s an unbelievably low price!

Merida 29er bike bag — £159.99

This bag is quick and easy to use. It has the advantage of being large enough to take downhill and long 29er mountain bikes.

Find a Merida dealer 

B&W Bike Box — £220.50

An aluminium frame, ABS shell with internal padded walls, and padded wheels protect your bike here. You get four locks and the wheels are replaceable.

Find a B&W dealer

Chain Reaction Cycles Pro Bike Bag — £179.99

You fit alloy crush protection inserts in place of your bike’s hubs in this padded bag, and hold everything securely in place with straps.

Polaris Eva Bike Pod Plus — £259.99

This polymer case is moulded to take the vast majority of road bikes without any trouble. You attach the frame to one side of the clam shell design, your wheels to the other, and zip it closed.

Find a Polaris dealer

Evoc Bike Travel Bag — £239.99

Evoc’s highly rated bag comes with a reinforced fork mount, external-loading wheel pockets, compartments for smaller parts, and multiple handles. It’ll even take big mountain bikes and is collapsible for simple stowage.

Find an Evoc dealer
Read our review of the Evoc Bike Travel Bag

Bikebox Alan Premium Bike Box — £415

This robust plastic case has steel catches to hold the sides together and good wheels to make travel that little bit easier. You can even choose your own stickers!

Merida Premium Bike Bag — £399.99

An alloy internal frame provides your bike with extra protection inside this soft bag. You get separate wheel bags inside.

Find a Merida dealer

Scicon AeroComfort 2.0 — £225

You fix your bike to a frame inside this a nylon ripstop bag, and hold it steady with a strap system. A waterproof polyurethane base and high-density foam padding provide protection for your bike.

Find a Scicon dealer
Read our review of the Scicon AeroComfort 2.0

Thule RoundTrip Transition hard case — £445.49

This ABS hard-bodied case includes an integrated bike work stand that makes taking your bike apart and rebuilding it again super-easy. List price is £494.99 but you can find them for less currently Evans are selling them for £445.49.

Find a Thule dealer

Scicon Aerotech Evolution — £439.99

This rigid bike box is made from a tough plastic polymer and it provides superb protection for your bike. It’s also simple to pack and rolls on four wheels with proper bearings. The RRP of £700 is a sticking point, but shop around and you will find it for less – we found it on Wiggle for £439.99 when we were putting this guide together.

Theatre Thursday: Shed the monster

Cycling is about more than exercise. It’s a lifestyle choice that lifts your mood and gets you out of the house and out of your stressful little world, even for a few minutes. At least that’s what this film from cycling charity PeopleForBikes is trying to tell us.

The advert’s director Evan Fry told Ad Week that although it sounds corny and pretentious “ever since I was a little kid, cycling in one form or another has been my therapy, my church, my athletic pursuit, my trusted friend and my main vehicle for growth.”

Cycling makes up on 6th of all (Central) London transport

Transport for London (TfL) says bicycles now make up one sixth of traffic in the centre of the capital, with cycling levels in London are now the greatest they have been since it began keeping records at the turn of the Millennium 15 years ago.


Mayor Boris Johnson says that the figures show the need for infrastructure such as the two proposed cross-city Cycle Superhighways, due to be approved by TfL’s board this week.

According to TfL, levels of cycling on the city’s major roads, which make up the TfL road network, rose by 10 per cent in the quarter from 14 September to 6 December compared to a year earlier, and by the end of the current financial year it expects annual growth to have hit 12 per cent.

Last year, for the first time TfL began monitoring the number of trips made by bike within the Congestion Charging zone, and says that 170,000 are being made each day, with bicycles now making up 16 per cent of traffic in Central London.

It adds that between a quarter and a half of all journeys on some routes during peak hours are undertaking by bike.

“Last week I announced my final intentions for the new East-West and North-South superhighways,” said Mr Johnson.

“These amazing numbers show how cyclists are becoming ubiquitous in London and prove, if further proof were needed, why we need to crack on with catering for them.”

TfL said that use of the city’s Cycle Hire scheme had also hit new highs, with just over 10 million journeys made during 2014 – up 25 per cent on the previous year, and 5 per cent greater than in 2012, which had been the year in which the scheme saw highest take-up.

It added that the number of hires made at Waterloo station had increased by 12 per cent, which it said suggested “more people are now using the scheme as a viable commuting option,” and it also revealed that customer satisfaction with the scheme was at record levels.

One of the reasons for the continued growth in use of the scheme is its wider availability – now covering 100 square kilometres and with further expansion planned, there are also more bikes and docking stations.


Mr Johnson said, “Barclays Cycle Hire continues to grow in popularity and there can be no doubt that our trusty bicycles have changed the way people get around our great city.”

Tfl’s director of strategy and planning for surface transport, Ben Plowden, added: “Our aim is to make cycling an integral part of London’s transport network and to be normalised so that anyone can jump on a bike to get to work, to the shops or to discover London.

“Seeing these continuously record breaking numbers of cyclists in London is a great demonstration that our work to make cycling easier and safer, including unprecedented levels of investment, is achieving this aim.”

a hybrid bike built for the future


​HUGE Design, a product design consultancy in San Francisco, teamed up with a local bike builder to create the ultimate utility bike for the 2014 Oregon Manifest bike design competition. The result was EVO Urban Utility Bike, a hybrid bicycle with a modular accessory platform that helps the bike adapt to the user’s needs. A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category When analyzing the current needs of city dwellers, they realized that the one consistent thing that was missing was, well, consistency. Not only does every biker have different needs, even these needs change throughout the week. It is this inconsistency that inspired them to build the EVO. A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category The EVO Urban Utility bike combines the robust nature of a mountain bike with the functionality of a city bike to match the different city environments. It has easily detachable cargo accessories that are attached through quick-connect mounts that quickly lock into the frame, or are removed when not needed. A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category The bike also has an asymmetrical frame that supports holding heavy loads in both the front and back of the bike. That “truss” frame geometry is functional and iconic, while also simplifying the welding and time for production. A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category EVO Urban Utility Bike also has a front fork lockout, making it easy to lean against the wall when loading and unloading. For safe night riding, it has front and back lighting systems, as well an integrated frame cable lock. A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  CategoryA Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category A Hybrid Bicycle Built for the Changing Needs of City Dwellers in style fashion main  Category

Future City Perfection: Gi Bike

GI Bike
GI Bike

Gi-Bike is a connected, lightweight, electric folding bike. The creators aim to revolutionize and transform the way millions commute to work, they state that Gi-Bike has enough features to satisfy all the needs of the everyday commuter. To begin, the bike is foldable, it only takes 1 second and one motion to fold, and can easily be carried like a wheeled-luggage, it features electric assistance, knowing when you need help and will assist you with the electric engine. It also features wheel smart LED lights that turn on at night and includes an app connected to the Gi-Bike´s integrated anti-theft lock that locks automatically once you walk 10 feet away from your bike. The app also allows you to control all of Gi’s features, including its electric assistance, wireless lights, and also provides live statistics measuring calories burned, speed, time, mileage, and much more


See how it works below


What’s keeping Brits off the bike? In a word: fear, says new study

< Continue reading “What’s keeping Brits off the bike? In a word: fear, says new study”

The transport for nursery trips

Sometimes the simple things are so good – dropped the you gets (elfin iPad) youngest off at nursery this morning. She only goes 2 days a week but it is good that she know fits the tag-a-long as she is getting more chance to pedal on the 6km trip there, in preparation for more solo rides.
There are hopefully enough lights, reflectors and Dayglo jackets to allow even the most myopic retarded car driver to spot us.

Safer Roads Through a Diet

Fantastic article film on future transport ideals

Walk Bike Glendale

With the upcoming Glendale City Council meeting on January 31st to review road diet options, we’d like to start our first post by explaining what a road diet is and the benefits of including them in our community.

In the simplest terms, a road diet takes a multilane roadway, –typically two travel lanes in each direction, with parking on both sides–and replaces one travel lane on each direction with a center left turn lane and a bicycle lane on each side.Road diets help to increase the attractiveness of bicycling and walking in a given area and also increase the overall safety for all road users, including drivers. Studieshave found that road diets have helped reduce 19-47 percent of all auto related collisions (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/10053/index.cfm) on streets where they have successfully been implemented.

A road diet was first proposed to City Council by the  Traffic and Transportation staff onDecember 13, 2011 (Glendale…

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If you needed more reasons to get off your arse, out the car and on the bike

Scottish Household Survey: Travel Diary 2009/2010

23 November 2011

Transport Scotland statisticians today published Scottish Household Survey: Travel Diary 2009/2010. This bulletin presents analysis of information collected by the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) in 2009/2010, about travel in a random sample of adults (16+) living in private households across Scotland. Two years data is combined to achieve larger sample sizes, allowing for more detailed analysis, although individual years are reported at a national level. It can be found on the Travel Diary Results page

Main Findings

Travel patterns
1.1 In 2009/2010, 75 per cent of respondents reported travel the previous day; men were more likely to have travelled than women (77 per cent vs 74 per cent).
1.2 Those aged 80 and over carried out the least travel (45 per cent) in 2009/2010. This age group experienced the greatest decline in travel between 2007 and 2010.
1.3 There was an overall decrease of 6 percentage points in those travelling the previous day between 2007 and 2010.
1.4 The majority of journeys were undertaken in urban areas (settlements with a population of at least 10,000) – 64 per cent compared to only 21 per cent in rural areas with the remaining 15 per cent in small towns.

Mode of travel
1.5 Just over half of all journeys in 2009/2010 were as a driver and over a third were by sustainable modes of transport (walking, cycling and public transport).
1.6 Men were more likely to drive than women (58 per cent vs 45 per cent) although women were more likely to walk or be a car or bus passenger than their male counterparts.
1.7 Car usage increased with income; bus usage decreased. Thirty per cent of respondents in households with income up to £10,000 p.a. drove and 15 per cent took the bus compared to 67 per cent and 4 per cent respectively for those with household incomes of over £40,000 per annum.
1.8 The average number of occupants in a car/van was 1.6 across Scotland, a trend that has been relatively stable over the last decade. Commuting journeys had a lower average number of occupants per vehicle (1.2); weekend journeys and those for leisure purposes had a higher average number of occupants per vehicle (1.8-2.5).

Purpose of travel
1.9 Over a quarter of journeys were for commuting in 2010 – a 3 percentage point increase from 2007. Twenty-three per cent were for shopping, consistent with other years.
1.10 Men and those in households with higher incomes were more likely to have travelled for business or commuting purposes. Journeys for shopping or to visit friends/relatives were more common amongst women and those in lower income households.

Day and time of travel
1.11 Although the percentage of journeys during the week peaked during the morning and evening “rush hour” periods (start times between 8:00-8:59am and 4:00-5:59pm), weekend journeys peaked around start times between midday to 1:59pm.
1.12 Rail and bus journeys were most common during the week. This makes sense since these modes are more common for journeys for commuting or education purposes.
1.13 The older the respondent, the less likely they were to travel after 6.30pm – 8 per cent of those aged 80 and over compared to 22 per cent of 16-19 year olds.

Distance and duration
1.14 Sixty-two per cent of journeys were less than 5 km (approx 3 miles) in 2009/2010, with almost half being less than 3km (39 per cent were less than 2km and 24 per cent less than 1km).
1.15 In 2009/2010, the average (mean) journey distance was 11 km (approx 7 miles), compared to a median of only 3 km (approx 2 miles). This shows that half of all journeys were 3km or less.
1.16 Over 65 per cent of journeys in urban areas were under 5km compared to less than 45 per cent in rural areas; conversely, less than 10 per cent of journeys in urban areas were 20km (approx 7 miles) or over with around one fifth of rural journeys covering the same distance.
1.17 In 2010, a lower proportion of journeys were 1-3km in length and less than 10 minutes in duration than in previous years. Conversely, a higher proportion of journeys were at least 20km and 21-120 minutes compared to previous years.

1.18 Ten per cent of driver journeys were delayed by congestion in 2010 – in line with 2009 levels but a 4 percentage point decrease since 2007 (similar to 2003 levels). This figure provides an update to the indicator used in the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework.
1.19 Twelve per cent of service bus journeys suffered delays in 2010. Congestion was given as the most common reasn for delays to bus journeys with 59 per cent stating this reason for their delay.

Cycle commuters healthier than those that drive or take the bus

bike commuters

from the great ride.cc

Commuting by car or public transport is bad for your health, that’s the not very shocking conclusion of a Swedish public health survey in to the commuting habits of 21,000 people which has been published in the journal BMC Public Health

The snappily titled “Detection Relationship between commuting and health outcomes in a cross-sectional population survey in southern Sweden” was carried out by researchers from Lund University gathered information on full time workers aged between 18 and 65 in southern Sweden. In a press release explaining their findings Erik Hansseen from the university’s division of occupational and environmental medicine said:

“Generally car and public transport users suffered more everyday stress, poorer sleep quality, exhaustion and, on a seven point scale, felt that they struggled with their health compared to the active commuters.

“The negative health of public transport users increased with journey time. However, the car drivers who commuted 30 – 60 minutes experienced worse health than those whose journey lasted more than one hour.”

While most of this might seem confirmation of the staggeringly obvious the Lund researchers say that all might not be as it seems. They point out, (we’d like to imagine while leaning forward at their desks and pressing their fingertips together before possibly taking their rimless glasses off for a quick polish), that some of the health outcomes might relate to the economic circumstances of their research subjects as much as their chosen methods of commuting. Thus poorer people might be more likely to commute by public transport, but their health would also be adversely affected by the very fact of being poor. However the economic argument doesn’t necessarily explain why cyclists and walkers are healthier other than the active nature of their commutes. While in the UK cyclists are generally slightly more affluent than the general population that may or may not be true for Southern Sweden. Pedestrians are likely to be drawn from all economic strata of a society.

That they say, probably while staring out of the lab window at a fiord (do they have those in Sweden – ed), might also explain one of the seeming anomalies of the research, that commuters who drove for over an hour to work were more relaxed and less stressed than those that drove for under an hour. This they posit could be down to the relaxing nature of driving through Southern Sweden or the fact that people driving longer distances could be more affluent, high achieving males who didn’t really have very much to worry about anyway.

The Lund researchers conclude that more research is needed to tease this knotty one out. Well fancy that.

British and Irish cities suck in the european index of cycle friendly cities

London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin are amongst the most car dependent in Europe. The four capital cities of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom plus Dublin in the Republic of Ireland are among the worst of 13 major European cities surveyed by the Campaign for Better Transport Car for its Car Dependency Scorecard 2011. Only Rome, in 13th position, was found to have more reliance on the motor car than London, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and Belfast, which respectively occupied 8th to 12th place.

The scorecard ranks cities on 16 indicators grouped into five main areas – car use, public transport service, public transport cost, side effects of car use and cycling/walking – with each indicator ranked individually then combined with the others to provide an overall score.

Stockholm emerged as the least car-dependent city of the capitals surveyed – Copenhagen, for the record, wasn’t among those studied – scoring well on all indicators other than the cost of public transport. The modal share of walking and cycling was said to be particularly high despite the city’s poor climate in winter.

The Swedish capital was followed by Helsinki, Prague,
Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam
and Madrid on the list.

At the other end of the scale, the cost of public transport was the one issue on which Rome scored highly, although the network itself, and issues with reliability and coverage, among others, dragged it down. The Italian capital was said to have a particularly poor record for road safety.

The cost of public transport in London, plus poor air quality and levels of congestion, contributed to the city’s poor performance and are expected to be topics that feature in the mayoral elections next year.

While cycling was seen as an alternative mode of transport in all the UK cities surveyed, the study’s compilers said that uptake was low and singled out air pollution, the expense and low uptake of public transport and levels of congestion as factors behind their low ranking.

On the positive side, London scored well for low car ownership, Edinburgh for journeys on foot, Cardiff for road safety and Edinburgh for passenger satisfaction with public transport.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, comented: “Car dependency damages communities, affects our quality of life and has huge environmental consequences, so the UK cities’ poor standing should be of major concern to politicians.

“To catch up with the best in Europe the UK Governments need to recognise the economic benefits of good air quality and road safety, and ensure public transport, walking and cycling are comparable to car use in terms of cost, journey time and quality.”

The organisation outlined a umber of steps it believed UK governments should take to address the problem, but pointed out that currently, cuts to local bus networks have left many people without local transport and that train fare increases above the rate of inflation will prevent others from using that form of transport.

The recommended measures are:

  • Making public transport fares affordable, with smart cards valid on different modes and operators
  • Improving public transport journey times through bus priority, and investment in trams where appropriate
  • Giving pedestrians and cyclists real priority over other vehicle traffic, including at junctions
  • Supporting a good public transport network during off peak times, including evenings and weekends
  • Recognising the wider factors which affect car dependency, such as planning regulations.


A move back to cycling (and other alternatives) in cities

A great article on te rise of green in europe – a slant from the New York Times but interesting reading.

ZURICH — While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Christoph Bangert for The New York Times

Cities including Vienna to Munich and Copenhagen have closed vast swaths of streets to car traffic. Barcelona and Paris have had car lanes eroded bypopular bike-sharing programs. Drivers in London and Stockholm pay hefty congestion charges just for entering the heart of the city. And over the past two years, dozens of German cities have joined a national network of“environmental zones” where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter.

Likeminded cities welcome new shopping malls and apartment buildings but severely restrict the allowable number of parking spaces. On-street parking is vanishing. In recent years, even former car capitals like Munich have evolved into “walkers’ paradises,” said Lee Schipper, a senior research engineer at Stanford University who specializes in sustainable transportation.

“In the United States, there has been much more of a tendency to adapt cities to accommodate driving,” said Peder Jensen, head of the Energy and Transport Group at the European Environment Agency. “Here there has been more movement to make cities more livable for people, to get cities relatively free of cars.”

To that end, the municipal Traffic Planning Department here in Zurich has been working overtime in recent years to torment drivers. Closely spaced red lights have been added on roads into town, causing delays and angst for commuters. Pedestrian underpasses that once allowed traffic to flow freely across major intersections have been removed. Operators in the city’s ever expanding tram system can turn traffic lights in their favor as they approach, forcing cars to halt.

Around Löwenplatz, one of Zurich’s busiest squares, cars are now banned on many blocks. Where permitted, their speed is limited to a snail’s pace so that crosswalks and crossing signs can be removed entirely, giving people on foot the right to cross anywhere they like at any time.

As he stood watching a few cars inch through a mass of bicycles and pedestrians, the city’s chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann, smiled. “Driving is a stop-and-go experience,” he said. “That’s what we like! Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it easy for drivers.”

While some American cities — notably San Francisco, which has “pedestrianized” parts of Market Street — have made similar efforts, they are still the exception in the United States, where it has been difficult to get people to imagine a life where cars are not entrenched, Dr. Schipper said.

Europe’s cities generally have stronger incentives to act. Built for the most part before the advent of cars, their narrow roads are poor at handling heavy traffic. Public transportation is generally better in Europe than in the United States, and gas often costs over $8 a gallon, contributing to driving costs that are two to three times greater per mile than in the United States, Dr. Schipper said.

What is more, European Union countries probably cannot meet a commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions unless they curb driving. The United States never ratified that pact.

Globally, emissions from transportation continue a relentless rise, with half of them coming from personal cars. Yet an important impulse behind Europe’s traffic reforms will be familiar to mayors in Los Angeles and Vienna alike: to make cities more inviting, with cleaner air and less traffic.

Michael Kodransky, global research manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York, which works with cities to reduce transport emissions, said that Europe was previously “on the same trajectory as the United States, with more people wanting to own more cars.” But in the past decade, there had been “a conscious shift in thinking, and firm policy,” he said. And it is having an effect.

After two decades of car ownership, Hans Von Matt, 52, who works in the insurance industry, sold his vehicle and now gets around Zurich by tram or bicycle, using a car-sharing service for trips out of the city. Carless households have increased from 40 to 45 percent in the last decade, and car owners use their vehicles less, city statistics show.

“There were big fights over whether to close this road or not — but now it is closed, and people got used to it,” he said, alighting from his bicycle on Limmatquai, a riverside pedestrian zone lined with cafes that used to be two lanes of gridlock. Each major road closing has to be approved in a referendum.

Today 91 percent of the delegates to the Swiss Parliament take the tram to work.

Still, there is grumbling. “There are all these zones where you can only drive 20 or 30 kilometers per hour [about 12 to 18 miles an hour], which is rather stressful,” Thomas Rickli, a consultant, said as he parked his Jaguar in a lot at the edge of town. “It’s useless.”

Urban planners generally agree that a rise in car commuting is not desirable for cities anywhere.

Mr. Fellmann calculated that a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three. “So it’s not really fair to everyone else if you take the car,” he said.

European cities also realized they could not meetincreasingly strict World Health Organization guidelinesfor fine-particulate air pollution if cars continued to reign. Many American cities are likewise in “nonattainment” of their Clean Air Act requirements, but that fact “is just accepted here,” said Mr. Kodransky of the New York-based transportation institute.

It often takes extreme measures to get people out of their cars, and providing good public transportation is a crucial first step. One novel strategy in Europe is intentionally making it harder and more costly to park. “Parking is everywhere in the United States, but it’s disappearing from the urban space in Europe,” said Mr. Kodransky, whose recent report“Europe’s Parking U-Turn” surveys the shift.

Sihl City, a new Zurich mall, is three times the size of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Mall but has only half the number of parking spaces, and as a result, 70 percent of visitors get there by public transport, Mr. Kodransky said.

In Copenhagen, Mr. Jensen, at the European Environment Agency, said that his office building had more than 150 spaces for bicycles and only one for a car, to accommodate a disabled person.

While many building codes in Europe cap the number of parking spaces in new buildings to discourage car ownership, American codes conversely tend to stipulate a minimum number. New apartment complexes built along the light rail line in Denver devote their bottom eight floors to parking, making it “too easy” to get in the car rather than take advantage of rail transit, Mr. Kodransky said.

While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has generated controversy in New York by “pedestrianizing” a few areas like Times Square, many European cities have already closed vast areas to car traffic. Store owners in Zurich had worried that the closings would mean a drop in business, but that fear has proved unfounded, Mr. Fellmann said, because pedestrian traffic increased 30 to 40 percent where cars were banned.

With politicians and most citizens still largely behind them, Zurich’s planners continue their traffic-taming quest, shortening the green-light periods and lengthening the red with the goal that pedestrians wait no more than 20 seconds to cross.

“We would never synchronize green lights for cars with our philosophy,” said Pio Marzolini, a city official. “When I’m in other cities, I feel like I’m always waiting to cross a street. I can’t get used to the idea that I am worth less than a car.”

Cycling: the revolution in London

Just back from a long weekend in London and although not on a pilgrimage to anything relating to cycling I was noticing cycling things at every turn.


I lived in London for 5 years from 1995 – 2000 and cycling then was much more of a survivable occupation to experience and learn from. I learnt that SPD cleats on the shoes were useful not only for the transference of power but more importantly as a retaliatory weapon for the taxis that screamed inches past you and then jutted up right against the curbs to stop you passing them again. A foot angled outwards was great for rubbing against the paintwork all down the side of the car ….
Fast forward 12 years and things have changed. I am not sure what the catalyst for mass change has been, there have been a few mentioned but it is likely they they have all contributed in some ways to the mass adoption I have witnessed.

I think these are some of the bigger influences.

  • Infrastructure Investment – ok this is the biggie. Ken Livingstone and now barmy boris have been in charge and during their fiefdoms a massive £?m has been invested in cycling infrastructure whether it was canal paths, dedicated cycle lanes or barriers that are cycle and not car friendly. All give the user the feeling that they are regarded as separate transport and are being invested in.
  • Ken again made a change that has benefitted cycling. The congestion charge introduced into the capital in 2003 was slammed by the motorists and their organisations but overnight Londoners opted for public transport and quite often their bikes.
  • Cycle to work scheme (Cyclescheme and other incentives) – Although this was introduced in 2005 it has reduced the expense of setting up and made both employee and employer focus on bike transport. Suddenly the shops were full of people looking at sub £1000 bikes.
  • Boris bikes or barclay bikes rentals are now everywhere. I think this has a combined effect of both being in the public eye and also as a clever scheme to encourage cycling for a shorter trip. The beauty of the scheme for me is the fact that they are perfect for one way hires – going across town to a pub with no worries about leaving the bike or being a victim of thieves and your pride and joy disappearing whilst you are with friends. In a city like London where space is at a premium, tourism a large draw and where theft is higher this really taps into a perfect sense of place.
  • There has been a shift in recent years away from tv and couch potato lifestyles as people realised that the Atkins diet was of less help in their struggle against a paunch than merely getting off their growing arses and doing some exercise.
  • Lastly I think that the terrorist attacks on the underground and on the bus in 2005 forced commuters to look again at a form of transport that was free and didn’t involve crowds or congestion.

So who cycles in London these days? The short answer is everyone although there is a group of 30-50 year olds who are definitely out of practice and are a bit fearful of traffic in the capital.


Glasgow and most other big cities need to take a good hard look at cities like London and those abroad like Copenhagen and new York where cycling is being properly encouraged and planned instead of being just a thing to tick in grant and funding applications. They need people in place who cycle themselves, who understand the needs and fears of cyclist and who have the financial back up to make it happen.


Brompton – a cure for life

“That’s so cute,” exclaimed a non-Bromptonite upon spying my Brompton. “Make no mistake,” I countered, “this is a serious machine capable of establishing world peace.”

I had made my choice to cycle in a place where everyone drove big cars of at least 4 or 5 litres …. I was loaned one of these monsters but my soul was dying and crying to be set free … I wanted my bike (well truth be told any of them) but then plane travel and desire made me choose the Brompton

My world now consists of cyclist and non-cyclist and more specifically Bromptonites and non-Bromptonites. The Brompton can save our planet, especially for city dwellers. For starters you can carry it, folded, past British train personnel without irking their wrath, indignation or refusal to let you board. Once folded you can take it just about anywhere. Pubs, offices, trains, tubes, offices, restaurants, clothes shops, coffee haunts and even in the boot of a car.

In a Brompton future everyone will be fit and healthy – the maximum weight a Brompton can carry is 110 kg (242 pounds) – not many will fall outside of this category apart from rugby players, heavy weight boxers and the morbidly obeses with their personal feeders. Not many people break the ‘point one of a tonne’, 100 kg (220 pounds) or 16 stone, which means almost everyone could ride a Brompton. It is a beautiful and functional machine that may not have the best ride of any bike on the planet (Salsa Mutluk perhaps) but it is nippy, comfortable and a feat of engineering.

Expensive but worth it and a small price to save the planet.

Glasgow scourge of cycling

Not only do we have to do with possibly some of the worst potholes this side of the 3rd world but then there is the case of the council putting in ‘amenities’ in order to check boxes and say they are supporting cycling in order to qualify for grants.

Help raise awareness by flagging good and bad practices amenities in your area ….. CycleStreets

Here is a case in point – there is a shortage of bike parking throughout the city, then when you do get cycle facilities like here at EAT deli in Clarkston – a good lamp post design easy to install then along comes the council and throws down some rubbish bins so that bikes no longer fit …..

space for teddy but no bikes

But not just councils here is a pic from the B&Q at parkhead where the bike racks are either obscured by grass or garden sheds in the summer .


I escaped on the bike – a day less working

Managed to escape the edit and get out in daylight … we went as a family down the road to Mono to hear a music session. Frightened Rabbit were playing one of our favourite bands … first however past an exhibition where we spent £250 on a new painting for the house ….

at the lights

Ruby 6yo rode her IslaBike and Bella was on the back of the Yuba Mundo … I got to ride the Klein Single Speed – sexed up with the (easy to puncture) Schwalbe Fat Frank white treads.

There is alway time to stop and practise balance with the family – a life work balance