This month's Manchester Cycle Forum was another real cracker. With around 30 people attending there was only just room for everyone who turned up, and many chairs had to be fetched from a next door room.
However, the council's new security system was a real pain and a large group of people came in at the start of the meeting clearly very frustrated at the difficulty they had had just getting into the building. Manchester City Council needs to find a more publicly accessible and much larger room for future meetings.
There were quite a few new faces, some I recognised from GMCC meetings or Critical Mass, but there were also several "consultants" who are now beginning to smell the money, including a former Manchester Cycling officer, now based in Derbyshire, who was responsible for some of the stranger cycle facilities. It was also disappointing to see the way the new Chair of GMCC shambled into the meeting around 50 minutes late and then proceeded to butt in whilst others were speaking, whilst the new GMCC Policy Officer left before the end of the meeting. I have resolved to stop wasting my time and effort on the group.
As Cllr Kate Chappell was busy chairing another meeting, Jessica Bowles Head of City Policy at Manchester City Council chaired the meeting. She is the officer responsible for the delivery of the Velocity program and it is very encouraging to have such a senior officer running the meeting, especially when she is clearly very passionate about her work.
The main item was a TfGM Smarter Choices presentation from Helen Ramsden. Many of us have seen this presentation a number of times. It has not been updated recently, and despite the Cycling strategy consultation closing around two months ago there was no report on the outcome. This was a major shortcoming, and when I asked about the consultation the response was less than satisfactory.
Much more impressive was the presentation of the Manchester Cycle Lab survey results by Gabriele Schliwa. The outcomes are not particularly surprising, most people want decent cycling infrastructure, but they are also having success with their use of mobile apps to study people's journey patterns.
The report on GM Cycle Safety by Eleanor Roaf the Regional Director for Sustrans NW turned out to be a story of engagement with GM police. It seems that she and Pete Abel have had considerable success in engaging with GMP at a senior level. The person who responded was Chief Superintendent John O'Hare, in charge of Tactical Aid Unit, firearms, mounted and dog sections, helicopter, plane, Manchester Airport and traffic police. He also rides a bicycle and the three of them went out for a cycle ride to help John O'Hare understand the view that others have from a bike. This has resulted in a key change of attitude within GMP, and the end of the utterly dreadful Operation Grimaldi. The new version is being called Operation Considerate and is due to start today.
Then there were quick updates on the LSTF Sustainable Access to Regional Centre consultation by Dave McCormack, a Velocity from Jessica Bowles and a Parking Enforcement Report and Rickshaw Licensing from Kate Chappell. The news is largely positive, apart from MCC's excuses for banning rickshaws and a reluctance to prosecute motorcycles for parking on the pavement and blocking cycle parking.
The final item was Bike Month Manchester from Pete Abel of Love Your Bike which brought the meeting to a close on a very positive note, demonstrating how a very small voluntary group can have a big impact in the city.
Manchester City Council is clearly showing the way forward with a senior councillor and senior officer running the meeting, both in a position to effect change. This is in stark contrast to other parts of Greater Manchester where the cycle forums are either non-existent, or run by local campaigners with no political power.