Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Four Minutes to Cross the Road

Manchester City Council have shown us several plans for Velocity where people cycling will be expected to use toucan crossings.

The way the City Council engineers phase the traffic lights in Manchester this will delay people cycling by quite some considerable length of time and far longer than if they just stayed on the road.

Here is how the phasing of one current set of lights can delay me by up to four minutes on my way to work.

Just imagine the backlash from the motoring lobby if traffic lights in Manchester were set to delay drivers for this length of time.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Yesterday's Manchester Cycle Forum

Don't have time for a full report, but here are a few comments from last night's meeting.

Firstly, Manchester has a new Cycling Champion, Councillor Mandie Shilton Godwin who represents the Chorlton Park Ward and is a regular bike rider. She chaired the meeting quite firmly and had to cut some of the later items short because of a very full agenda.

One nice surprise was seeing council leader Richard Leese join the meeting for the first half hour (he then had to rush off to another meeting). Richard Leese has taken a role in looking after highways during Cllr Kate Chappell's maternity leave.

The other good development was that the meeting was held in a comittee room in the old Town Hall building, so there were no problems gaining access. However, there was the same problem of the room not being large enough for everyone to sit at the table, and several people had to sit at the back of the room.

There was also a presentation about future transport plans and strategy for Manchester. The Manchester Transport plan and the City Centre Transport Plans are both going to be revised over the next couple of years. This will be a big opportunity to steer the council's statutary plans towards walking and cycling and away from increasing road capacity.

The meeting was dominated by presentations from officers on the many and various schemes going through, many of which will go out to some sort of public consultation before the end of the year, and several may turn up this month.

These included:-

Updated plans for Oxford Road - it looks like all the pressure from campaigners has paid off and the engineers have found sufficient space for all but one bus stop bypass and there will be proper kerb separation between the cycle tracks and the bus lanes, except where there are a couple of loading bays needed. The only bad news is that the plans are to open the road to all traffic between 9pm and 6am. The traffic orders will be advertised sometime around the end of October and we need to express support for the scheme.

The Velocity plans do not seem to be such good news. The draft plans we saw at an earlier meeting were very poor, and whilst updated plans are being promised it is very likely that when they come to full public consultation we will have to make further objections to stop some of this becoming a waste of money. Keep an eye out for these consultations and please respond.

Also, the revised City Centre LSTF plans which we have had a real fight over will be coming back for consultation soon - watch this space. There is a replanning of the Deansgate/Liverpool Rd junction which will need careful examination when it is published.

Finally, there were plans shown for the tram Second City Crossing cycle facilities. At this point the meeting turned quite angry. The person who presented the plans turned up with only one copy of each sheet, and they were only A3 size, so quite difficult to see. Basically the only major improvement for cycling will be that the Cross Street tram stop will now be an island platform, like Market Street, to stop cyclists being squashed between the trams. The rest of the plans were very poor. Basically everyone will be expected to cycle in the one metre wide gap between the pavement kerb and the tram rail. This is no better than Mosley street where most people play it safe and cycle on the pavement, or avoid the route all together. The plans for Princess Street were just dreadful, and several very harsh comments were made in the meeting, which became angry at this point. Hopefully, these plans will be re-presented at a separate meeting, but they look so bad that at this late stage it may well be impossible to sort out this mess.

Overall it was a very mixed meeting, but the fact that senior councillors are getting involved is still a promising sign, and the lesson from Oxford Road is that complaining and campaigning does work!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Oldham Cycling Forum

The next meeting of the Oldham Cycling Forum will be Wednesday 17th September 6-7pm at the Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham, OL1 1UL.

Please email or text 0161 770 4676 if you want to attend.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Peak Forest Canal - Ashton to Hyde

This path from Ashton to Hyde along the towpath of the Peak Forest Canal is not marked on the TfGM cycling map for Tameside, but it does appear on the Ordinance Survey Explorer map, marked as a traffic-free cycle route and labelled as the Tame Valley Way. This two and a third mile long section is well surfaced, entirely level and free from cycle barriers along its length. It is a very pleasant bike ride, but slightly spoilt by the smell from the many sewage works along the route. Unfortunately south of Hyde the path degrades considerably.

The Canal starts at Portland Basin, opposite the Industrial Museum which also has a cafe, providing a useful tea stop if you have cycled here some distance. Access from Ashton-under-Lyne town centre is via the Ashton Canal tow path, which slopes gradually down from Cavendish Street, opposite the Asda supermarket, and has no access barriers. However, from this direction you will need to get over the steep cobbled bridge to get to the tow path.

You can't miss the start.

To the left of the sign, go under the towpath bridge and round to the right

and immediately over the River Tame on a stone aqueduct. On the left is the Portland Basin Marina which is on the Alma Street Branch.

The canal then passes under the ornate railway bridge, the former site of Duckinfield Central station.

Beyond the railway, the view of the River Tame opens up briefly

and the path takes on a pleasant rural character.

The path is surfaced with a light-coloured tarmac finish that blends in well with the surroundings, whilst marking it out clearly.

There were a few boats and the occasional angler when I rode the route.

The next bridge is a lift bridge which is the access to Plantation Farm.

Beyond the canal gently curves to the left

and then passes under another railway bridge. This one has rather limited headroom.

The next road bridge is the only serious obstacle for larger cycles

because the path under the bridge is quite narrow and uneven.

To the right side of the canal you get the occasional view of the sewage works and other industrial plants, showing the rural character is a well crafted illusion.

This bridge provides access to Globe Lane.

On the opposite bank you pass Warble Boatyard.

The next bridge gives access across the canal to Newton Hall, a reconstructed 14th century house and on the right is Jet Amber Fields.

There is a final section of a rural character

before the canal hits the M67 motorway where it was realigned.

Beyond the motorway lies Hyde Wharf.

Here the high quality surface suddenly ends to be replaced by a narrow grit track.

Passing under the Manchester Road Bridge the towpath is sent up and over the canal, though there is now a stretch of bridal way on the other side.

From here the towpath is narrow and unsurfaced

and soon degrades into stretches of deep mud, so it is best to leave the path at Manchester Road, unless the weather has been very dry, or you don't mind getting very muddy...

View Peak Forest Canal 1 in a larger map

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Manchester Cycle Forum - Sept 9th

Acording to the council's web site

The Manchester Cycle Forum is a voice for everyone interested in cycling. We meet quarterly to discuss cycling-related issues and promote opportunities for cycling in Manchester. Why not come along and meet with Council Officers, Councillors and other interested parties to exchange views and ideas that can help make cycling safer on our roads.

We are particularly keen to embrace new and novice cyclists who would like to have a greater understanding of cycle projects and be able to gain valuable knowledge from more experienced cyclists. We look forward to hearing from you.

The next meeting will be at 5.30pm on Tuesday September 9th In Committee Room 4 in the Old Town Hall - use the Lloyd Street entrance.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Roe Green Loopline 3, M61 to Bolton

This route is largely traffic free and runs for just over two miles, mostly along or alongside what is left of the disused trackbed of the Roe Green Loopline in Bolton. The Roe Green Loopline was opened in 1870 from Roe Green to Bolton, via Walkden Low Level. A key function of the lines was to support the surrounding collieries in conjunction with the Bridgewater canal, the largest of which was at Mosley Common, one of the biggest pits in the UK at its prime.

This post covers the section from the boundary between Salford and Bolton at the crossing of the M61 to Haywood Park in Bolton where the route simply stops. It is a continuation of a previous post Roe Green Loopline 2, Walkden to the M61.

However, after crossing the M61 the route first has to turn east to get back to the route of the Roe Green Loopline along the route of another mineral line to the south of the housing estate in Highfeld. This line linked Brackley Colliery to the west and Ashton's Field Colliery to the east. As you cycle north along Anchor Lane after crossing the motorway the path is on your right, just before the houses start.

Initially path is very narrow, muddy and strewn with rubbish

and there is this dreadful set of barriers to add to the grim nature of the area.

However, within a few yards, the path improves

and after about 300yds turn sharp left, and climb up to rejoin the Roe Green Loopline.

The mineral line went under the Roe Green Loopline at this point and turned gradually south, with a short branch line turning off, just past this point into the centre of Farnworth.

The top of the embankment is intact here and the path well surfaced.

However, the path becomes the pavement on the left of Medow Walk, once a curving siding,

and runs straight into this set of steps where the bridge under Highfield Road has been filled in. You can tell this is supposed to be the cycle route, because of the grove on the left for you to wheel your bike up... The easier answer is to turn left along Medow Walk and right onto Highfield Road

On Highfield Road this is the left hand entrance to the next part of the path, and the easiest to negotiate.

The path drops down into the cutting again

Before climbing the left side of the cutting at the site of Plodder Lane railway station.

Across Plodder Lane the cutting has been filled in and at this point the markings for NCN55 disappear on the TfGM map.

However, a fairly broad path continues to follow the route of the railway down to Colchester Drive.

Past Colchester Drive it narrows somewhat, but is still navigable on a bike

However, the path starts to twist and turn to the left of the old railway, which by this point is covered in houses.

After several sharp bends the path straightens out again

and drops down with the Royal Bolton hospital to the left and the old railway, now on an embankment to the right. At this barrier the route returns to the TfGM map, which is complete nonsense.

At the end of this section the path crosses Minerva Road and goes down this track to the left of the railway embankment

and past the farm on the left.

The path continues past the farm

and then dips steeply down to Will Hill Brook where the TfGM map stops making the cycle route.

Here the embankment rises steeply on the right

As the path climbs back up to the end of Freshfield Avenue, on the left, it returns to the trackbed and the TfGM map marks this as a cycle route shortly after

Now the path changes character, becoming a wide tarmaced railway path passing under Lever Edge Lane.

The path even has lighting,

but the surface is uneven in places and a bit wet towards Settle Street.

Past Settle Street, the path changes again, and here a school has been built on the trackbed and the location of sidings. Here the path takes the less obvious route to the left of the school

and runs along the left side of the old cutting.

after the school the cutting has been filled in as it reaches Lever Street.

At the entrance to Heywood Park the railway line went underground,

possibly as a cut and cover tunnel under the path, though I've not been able to find any information on it.

At Bridgeman Street the cycle route just stops. There is nothing more marked on the TfGM map and nothing on the road. The path of the railway is marked here by the trees beyond the car park which were in front of the old school, which is in the process of being demolished. At this point the line was joined by the LMSR from the west.

From Shaw Street you can still see the line of trees in the cutting, but beyond Fletcher Street the railway and the site of the station has been obliterated by Sainsburies Supermarket and other retail developments. From here on the road network is dreadful, reflecting the car-dominated retail developments.

View Roe Green Loopline 3, M61 to Bolton in a larger map