Sunday, 2 August 2015

Manchester Sky Ride August 2015 - CYCLISTS DISMOUNT

I have never been a fan of the Sky Rides. They have a corporate branding that makes the ride setup sterile and soulless with no real connection to Manchester. This is in contrast to the Manchester Day Parade which has a great community spirit.

However, the worst thing in my mind about the Sky rides is that they have nothing to do with everyday cycling and fail to see cycling from the point of view of people who cycle. The irony of the route going through zones with CYCLISTS DISMOUNT zones is clearly lost on the organisers.

I spent the morning helping out on the Love Your Bike stall with these two chaps.

Then went out to ride the course in the afternoon with some music.

What is really striking is the overpowering emphasis placed on hi-viz and helmets by the organisers. It is almost as if they want to discourage cycling by making it seem far more dangerous than it really is.

There were a few professional sound systems out on the ride, but far fewer than in previous years. It felt like a cut-price ride this year. I understand that the Sky deal runs out next year, so this is possibly the last Sky Ride Manchester.

I feel it is time to overhaul the whole ride, rather than just look for another sponsor. The current ride fails to have much of a sense of place, instead going through anonymous back streets to reach the velodrome and stadium, rather than touring the parts of the city you might like to visit by bike.

There is also far too much emphasis on cycling as a sport.

This rather sad looking "Sprint Zone" was beyond parody.

Also the route includes some of the worst potholes in the area. This section of Riverpark Road is just dreadful, with some of the holes several centimeters in depth.

So how about a proper Manchester Community Bike Festival with a ride route, a cycle parade and pedal powered events? Above all, lets have an event which atracts people to cycle into the city centre, take part in events and then park up the bikes and enjoy Manchester in the way people flock to the city for the Manchester Day Parade, Dig the City and the Jazz Festival.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Critical Mass July 2015

I have missed the past two rides with various commitments and life events and wasn't in a great party mood having ridden straight from work after another busy day, so no sound system. For a July ride it was a pretty big ride which seemed to gain riders as it went along.

After a very chaotic start with voices calling in opposite directions the ride went down the side of the Town Hall.

Then round Albert Square and left into Southmill Street

and then right onto Peter Street going west.

The ride then crossed the Irwell into Salford.

Despite my failure to bring music there were two sound systems, this smaller one on the trike

and the somewhat louder cycle trailer...

The ride was soon back into Manchester and being held up by the traffic on Deansgate.

Then up John Dalton Street

and into Princess Street where cargo bikes where being compared.

Then via Portland Street and onto London Road

and Grosvenor Street

before turning down Oxford Road where I turned for home.

Next time I'll bring the sound system and get back into the proper party mood for August...

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Bridgewater Cycleway Consultation Reply

My reply to the Bridgewater Cycleway Consultation ends 10th July.

1. Please say what you think of our proposals, telling us what you agree or disagree with and why.
If a comment relates to a specific feature or stretch, please clarify which.

Why do you only allow 10 minutes to fill out the reply?

Why don’t you allow the inclusion of diagrams and photos?

Why have you ignored the responses to the previous consultation carried out last year?

These new proposals are just as bad as before and are worse than the existing road layout for cycling.

The proposals for the Deansgate, Whitworth St West and Bridgewater Viaduct junction are so bad that they will make cycling more dangerous by creating a false sense of security.

The diagram of the junction layout is inadequate for a consultation process - it is too small to see all the details, the dimensions of the lanes are not given and the bus stops are not labeled.

Overall these proposals are simply paint on the road which time and time again have shown to be inadequate at preventing motorists from entering cycle lanes and other cycle facilities as they are not adequately enforced by Greater Manchester Police. The use of pavement for cycling is just dreadful.

Also these plans do not join up with those for the Liverpool Road, Deansgate junction, they show contradictory detail.

The cycle lanes that are proposed run straight into two bus stops - this is just stupid. The northbound bus stop is currently suspended and both could be removed.

The cycle lane drifting into the middle of two lanes southbound on Deansgate will be ignored by motorists as will the left turn only lane and motorists in the left lane will race to get onto the Bridgewater Viaduct, driving through the cycle lane as they do so.

The cycle lanes on Whitworth St West will push people turning right to the left hand side of the road making the right turn more dangerous, the right curving cycle lane across the junction is pointless and makes the junction more confusing.

The road layout in this area needs to be dramatically redesigned:-

The Bridgewater Viaduct, Deansgate and Whitworth Street West are all too wide. They serve to pump high levels of traffic into the city centre and cause rat running through the area.
  • All three roads should be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction. The islands should be removed from the road and the junction turned into a simple “T” junction. Pedestrian crossings should be provided across all three arms of the T junction.
  • Fully segregated cycle tracks should be built alongside Bridgewater Viaduct in both directions with solid kerbing to prevent them being blocked by motor vehicles. These should be taken out of the existing road space to narrow the road and reduce traffic capacity. The existing pavement cycle lane is useless and should be removed.
  • Fully segregated cycle tracks should be built alongside Deansgate in both directions with solid kerning to prevent . These should be taken out of the existing road space to narrow the road and reduce traffic capacity.
  • Fully segregated cycle tracks should be built alongside Whitworth Street West in both directions with solid kerning to keep traffic out . These should be taken out of the existing road space to narrow the road and reduce the capacity for motor vehicles.
  • Traffic Lights at the junctions should only go green for one road at a time to ensure safe right turning.
  • there should be separate green phases for cycles to remove conflict with motor vehicles. This includes the cycles coming from the lower part of Deansgate.
  • Bridgewater Street should be closed to motor vehicles at the junction with Deansgate. Most of the use of this road is rat running and it makes this area more dangerous.
  • The right turn by motor vehicles from Bridgewater Viaduct into the lower part of Deansgate should be removed

2. If specific parts of the proposals could affect you, please give details and clarify which section or feature you're commenting on.

All of it - I live in the city centre and often cycle and walk through this area.

This is one of the most horrible places to walk or cycle there is far too much traffic.

3. Please add any other comments about the route as a whole or specific stretches of the proposals.

The two way cycle track that goes from the end of the Bridgewater Viaduct to the roundabout ends dangerously when heading north. This whole area needs re-engineering to reduce traffic speeds.

It would be helpful if the Council published proper layouts with dimensions.

Bridgewater Way 1 - Deansgate to Throstle Nest Bridge - not fit for purpose

This is the first in a series of posts revisiting the newly resurfaced Bridgewater Way. This first one was prompted by Manchester City Council's consultation which refers to this section of canal towpath when in the works here have more or less finished. This is in itself a repeat of a previous consultation by MCC for the same junction over a year ago.

Taking the position of the sculpture Life Cycle by George Wyllie as the start of this route you turn down the quiet part of Deansgate.

Now you have to look very carefully to your right to see the path under the block of flats. One of these parking spaces is planned to be removed to enable access.

From here is the end of the Manchester City Council section and the beginning of the path on Peel Holdings land. There has been some work on this section with textured pavement, though there is no benefit for cycles.

This section under the A56 becomes extremely slippery during the winter, making it very difficult even to walk on, let alone cycle. There has been nothing done to improve matters...

This next section is also slippery during the winter.

Another problem for people cycling will be how busy this area gets during fine summer evenings, particularly here outside the Wharf.

The wooden bridges have all been resurfaced with the addition of narrow anti-slip strips. Again this surface is very helpful for people walking, but will have little benefit when cycling.

As the path turns away from Castlefield Basin the mud and cobbles start. This section  of cobbles is very rough.

This gives way to paving slabs which have been repaired recently. They were in a poor state.

When the cobbles recommence it is clear that there have been some repairs, but they are still horribly rough for an ordinary bike.

These cobbles lead up to the first of the narrow bridges over the wharfs.

On the other side the cobbles are rough and uneven.

At the bridge under the ring road the cobbles give way to brick pavers, which cover the next narrow bridge.

This is certainly a better surface than the cobbles and paving stones, but still not as good as smooth tarmac.

Passing Timber Wharf on the left the next bridge is particularly steep on this side

and not much better on the other side.

At the following bridge under Hulme Hall Road the path narrows horribly.

The path under the bridge is fairly unpleasant.

After a short section of gritted tarmac the next wharf bridge is rough cobbles.

No attempt has been made to improve the surface and there was a lot of glass here.

The surface is uneven on the down side too.

As the path goes under the railway bridges it becomes loose gravel.

The next obstacle is the old bridge under Pomona Strand.

Here the path is dangerously narrow.

Barely wider than bicycle handlebars, and with little headroom it is difficult to get through with an unloaded bicycle. With panniers or a child seat it's pretty dangerous, and far too narrow for tricycles or handcycles.

After that things get a little easier

the old path has been widened a little.

As the path curves, Throstle Nest Bridge comes into view.

The path here is a horribly loose gravel, deep enough to make riding a bike feel unstable.

The loos gravel is gradually being thrown onto the stones forming the edge of the path and into the canal itself.

The feeling of vulnerability on this surface isn't helped by the brambles growing into the path.

As a cycle route this section of path is pretty narrow, and really only suitable for fat tyres.

The final insults are the barriers at the bridge

and another set of rough cobbles.

At least the canal boats get a smooth ride.

As part of Velocity 2025 this route is a waste of money. There are far better routes into the city from here, either crossing Pomona or taking the well surfaced and well lit tow path alongside the River Irwell both of which are easier and far more comfortable.