Monday 31 December 2012

Bicycles on the pavement? No just cars!

It's the season of visiting, so MCLoM is in Atherstone today, a small market town, 100 miles from London on the A5.

Soon a walk out to the shops with a camera I was on the lookout for passing cyclists.I saw just one pushing her bike along the pavement as she went between shops.

However, the town is plagued by people driving on the pavement!

This small town is utterly dominated by traffic. The main street should have been closed to through traffic, instead it has been made one way, and people drive round and round rather than walk a few yards from the nearest car park.

I did see one police woman, but she wasn't making any attempt to deal with the traffic chaos, just driving round and round like the rest.

Saturday 29 December 2012

ASLs - A Failure of Policing

We've all seen them - the people driving motor vehicles who ignore the advance stop lines which are meant to give people on bicycles some chance of getting away safely at traffic lights.

In fact in Manchester you see them almost every day.

Well thanks to a recent Freedom of Information request by Tom Jeffs we now know why so many drivers feel free to ignore them...

It turns out that between 1/1/2011 and 1/1/2012 Greater Manchester Police issued no fixed penalties or summons for driving into an ASL when the lights were red. None whatsoever!

At this point one also starts to wonder if the same is true for red light running and blocking box junctions.....

Wednesday 26 December 2012

202020 Vision - make Manchester a City fit for Cycling

So what is the 202020 vision?

It is the view, expressed by Prof John Whitelegg, at the recent Go Dutch event, that there is no reason why Manchester could not achieve a 20% modal share for cycling by the year 2020.

You can read his presentation here.

Think about what Manchester would be like if cycling made up 20% of all journeys. It would transform this noisy, polluted city centre. Turning a city dominated by the motor car into a city which gave over space to people.

If you think this could never happen, then go and look at Oxford Road. It is one of the busiest roads for cycling and here you will already find during the rush-hour a 20% modal share by bike, and that is on one of this country's busiest bus routes.

The key message from Love Cycling Go Dutch Manchester was that the city needs political vision and leadership to drive through the necessary changes. However, don't expect that leadership to come from the council. The council leader may ride a bike, but he shows no sign of leading the city towards a cycling revolution. He's a political manager, not a leader.

If Manchester is to become a world class cycling city then we, those who care about our city, need to voice that vision and provide the leadership. We need to show the people who run this city just how much better Manchester could be, economically, structurally and environmentally if it were to truly provide streets fit for cycling.

Come along to PopupBikes in January and help start the process.

Monday 24 December 2012

Coffee Cranks Film Night at Pop Up Bikes

Zym & co. from Coffee Cranks Coop are organising a cycling social night at Pop Up Bikes.

When: Saturday January 19, 2013 @ 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Where: Pop Up Bikes, Arch 5 Corporation Street, M4 4DG Manchester

Hello everybody!

We’d like to invite you to watch some films about interesting cycling projects from around the world including a short promo film about our cargo bike that will mark the launch of our crowd-funding campaign.

We hope to inspire you with the versatility of the bicycle and its applications. We’d like to showcase a film or two about cycling infrastructure, and tell you about different efforts of bringing it to our city. You’ll also be able to see some really cool people having lots of fun on bikes.

If you’d like to get involved in different campaigns promoting cycling or just spend some quality time with other cyclists, you can’t miss this. This will be a great opportunity to get to know interesting people who love cycles as much as we do and would like to see more of them on the streets.

We’ll be taking over Pop Up Bikes for the entire evening as guest baristas serving our great organic and fair-trade coffee from our now famous thermos flasks. We’ll also take care of you if you wish to have a proper espresso from the machine that’s in the cafe. We’ll bring loads of our signature home baked biscuits to boot.

We’ll have some great music on throughout the evening and have a cycling postcard sale on as well. So why not come on down and make friends with Coffee Cranks Coop. Bring your friends. The more, the merrier!

We’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Dipak from Pop Up Bikes without whom this would not be possible. You’re great!

The films should start around 5.30 P.M.

Two dynamic cycling projects coming together under one roof.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Bring on the Clowns - Sky Ride 2012

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with writing this post. The Sky Ride event is such a dreadful display of corporate advertising and dangerism that I've prevaricated over this for several months. This sign best describes the attitude...

The sign marked the entrance to the Castlefield arena where there were a number of stalls and an awful lot of sand.

This year I thought I'd have a go at diluting the corporate spin with some loud music and a four wheeled pedal cycle...

...and a trailer carrying a message about Critical Mass.

However, it took me some time to realise that all the other sound systems I saw were rather similar and somehow artificial. Not the kind of hardcore setups that turn out for Critical Mass and political demos.

They were in fact all being paid for their services. They were all clowns riding Circus Zapparelli’s fleet of sound bikes. When I stopped for a chat I was even told they might be able to get me some work with the Brox.

To add to the disneyesque nature of the day a Jessica Rabbit look-alike on a bike was hired in to do the naff publicity photos.

At least the 105th Manchester Scout Group turned out in their own pedal cars.

The ride itself was fairly boring; an out and back from Castlefield to the Commonwealth Games Stadium with two way bikes on both sides of the road, making it pretty cramped. Only if you ventured out from the stadium up to the extra loop to the velodrome did you then get a lovely little ride on quiet roads back to the stadium.

Sadly Sky Ride is one of those events where lots of drivers strap bikes onto their cars and drive into Manchester so they can have a few hours cycling in the city centre, dressed up in helmets and ugly yellow advertising bibs before driving home again to their car-dominated suburbs. Far from improving the image of cycling, it promotes the idea that cycling is dangerous and strange. It would be far better to close the city centre to traffic every Sunday and encourage people to cycle into the city.

Vole O'Speed has posted a pretty good damnation of this kind of event.
I've been to enough of those Sky Ride type events. They are horrible. They amount to a kind of unique torture for cyclists, cramming us together like sardines in a tin on a few niggardly-handed out kilometres of closed roads in central London, for which privilege we have to suffer a bombardment of unwelcome music, moronically-cheery "motivational" announcements over PA systems, the advertising of sponsors forced down our throats, a sea of stupid yellow tabards, the promotion of helmets, and the presence of boring cyclesport celebrities. Like everything else to do with the official treatment of transport cycling in the UK, it's just another insult.

Sky ride is a sad example of Manchester's lack of transport focus when it comes to spending on cycling. The council channelled over 8 times more money on funding sports facilities for British Cycling (funded by Sky and car firm Fiat) than it has spent over the past five years on making the streets of Manchester attractive for cycling.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Where all the money went on cycling - part 2

I know I've ranted about this before, but if you want to know where priorities lie you only have to follow the money.

I've just been shown the latest version of the "Interim Strategy for Cycling in Manchester 2012/2013". It is a council report all dressed up in cycle racing colours, so a strong clue to priorities there. It isn't yet on line yet so I'll have to link to the draft version which is available on the council web site.

Update: I've just found the new colour version had made it onto the council web site here.

Page 5 of the new report (4 & 5 on the old version) clearly states

Manchester City Council, British Cycling and other funding partners, have invested significantly in cycling over the last five years. Headline figures include:

· Over £3.2 million on infrastructure through the LTP Highways Capital Programme
· £549,000 on child cycle training and over £45k on adult cycle training.
· £56,000 promoting Bike Week
· £24 million on expanding the National Cycling Centre to include the Indoor BMX Arena and British Cycling’s headquarters.
· Over £12,000 in small grants to community groups through the Working Neighbourhood Fund
· £2.5 million on promoting and supporting sport and club cycling and hosting major cycling events.

So whilst the vast majority of cycling in Manchester takes place on the city streets only £3.2m has been spent on infrastructure in the past 5 years. In that same time period cycle sport in Manchester has received £26.5m of funding.

Just imagine how much better a place Manchester could be now, if those figures were the other way around....

The fight to make Manchester a World-Class Cycling City with world class streets for cycling starts here.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Dangerous Deansgate

When you start to take a closer look at the problems with the roads in central Manchester you start to realise that traffic law is simply not enforced.

I took a look at the junctions on Deansgate today, stopping to video a few light sequences. In over half the videos I took people drove through the lights on red.

In this first example the red Audi is so late through the red lights it passes through the pedestrian crossing on the green man.

In this second example two people drive through on red.

This third example shows a bus running the red light into Liverpool Road so late that the cars going through on green have to stop!

Finally a family on bikes try to get well ahead of the traffic...

Is it any wonder that cycling on Deansgate has declined? Manchester City Council has made this area far more dangerous and the police don't seem to do anything about the people who drive through red lights.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Deansgate's Dangerous Road Narrowings

Deansgate has become a real problem for cycling, ever since the road narrowings were put in. If you want to reduce traffic flows then the most logical thing to do is reduce the number of lanes of traffic entering the junction. In Manchester, logic is in short supply.

Instead the road narrowings have been imposed on the exit from the junction and traffic in the left hand lane going north is supposed to turn left....

Well, this results in traffic queueing down the right hand lane and a nice inviting empty lane on the left....

This means that anyone cycling north along Deansgate ends up having to cycle in the left turning lane, but has to get over to the right at the junction. Even worse, the more aggressive drivers also drive down the left turning lane, only to push back in at the last minute.

Cycling south it is now almost impossible to turn right at this junction as you never know where the cars are coming from. Here the driver of the white van changes his mind once on the junction...

Further south at the junction with Liverpool road the situation is even worse. Here drivers are all over the place and keep going through the red light phase.

This car moves forwards through the ASL and the pedestrian crossing to get forward far enough to go straight on from the left turning lane. Pity anyone on a bicycle coming the other way trying to turn right.

So there you have it. A road narrowing scheme which was supposed to reduce the impact of traffic on Deansgate has resulted in the traffic behavior becoming far worse. I see fewer people cycling along here since this scheme was built. The design is so bad one wonders if a 10 year old could do better....

Saturday 1 December 2012

November Critical Mass

November's Critical Mass was a very chilly one. As the cycles were gathering, the traffic looked so bad we thought we'd be going very slowly. However, as we rolled away the congestion cleared somewhat and we had a reasonably free flowing ride.

There were at three sound systems on the ride, including this trike-mounted one which I hadn't seen before.

The ride was also very colourful, several people were wearing strings of led lights and it was especially good to see Dipak from Popup Bikes back on his bike after his long recovery.

I left the ride as it turned south towards Platts Fields.

It was getting pretty cold by this point.

Monday 26 November 2012

First Letter in the MEN

Not my headline - makes you wonder if they understood the letter - still first letter in the MEN at the first attempt.

Cllr Fender says that TfGM is already taking steps to deliver real improvements for cycling in Manchester. However, if they continue to build cycling measures in piecemeal by adding it into major projects targeting bus priority and the like then the city will simply end up with yet more low quality discontinuous routes. Likewise, a small number of expensive, small scale cycle hubs will not make any difference to the level of cycling in the city.

What Manchester needs, if it is to become a world class cycling city, is a world class cycle network. The way to achieve this is to create a continuous, convenient, direct and safe cycle routes, re-engineering the street space to prioritise the movement of people rather than motor vehicles. Many of Manchester's streets have two or three lanes of traffic in each direction and in these places a traffic lane could be replaced by a protected cycle track and improved pavements.

As Prof John Whitelegg said at this week's Dutch cycling conference in Manchester. There is no reason why Manchester could not achieve a 20% modal share for cycling by 2020. Such a change would transform our city, reducing traffic congestion and air pollution whilst improving peoples' health and the city's economic prospects. Given the option, most people would like to walk and cycle more and drive less.

Transport for Greater Manchester needs to stop treating cycling as a secondary mode of transport and make it a clear priority. They can make an immediate start by implementing a major cycle route to Dutch standards alongside the bus priority scheme on Oxford Road and continue it south into Rusholme and Fallowfield along the notoriously difficult Wilmslow Road. At the same time they need to plan a strategic network of cycle routes, and build it into all their schemes as a priority. The network needs to be backed up with sufficiently high levels of secure cycle parking and go where people want to travel.

With increasing numbers of young people choosing not to drive and the price of oil continuing to rise, now is the time for Manchester to show real leadership not just in cycle sport, but in the much bigger issue of cycle transport. A truly world class cycling city needs world class support for cycling on its roads as well as in the velodrome.


Mike Armstrong

Sunday 25 November 2012

Ghost Bike on Deansgate

I've never seen a ghost bike in Manchester before.

This one looks back to an event in November 2006, long before I came to Manchester.

It is quite moving that people have created this memorial six years later.

Love Cycling Go Dutch - Manchester

Last Tuesday, 20th November, I took the day off work to attend the Love Cycling Go Dutch Conference in Manchester. It was the last of four such conferences organised by the Netherlands Business Support Office and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The conference was aimed, primarily at council officers and other professionals involved in cycling, but I was fortunate enough to have received an invitation as a local cycle campaigner.

It is worth noting that there was a very significant commercial interest in this for the Netherlands. They are looking to sell their expertise in cycling and cycle provision around the world. However, their approach was not the hard sell you might expect. It didn't need to be. Dutch and UK speakers simply laid out the massive benefits of cycling to their economy, and their people and how it has been achieved. The results speak for themselves. It isn't just about Dutch cycle infrastructure, it is a complete package which has taken many years to get right, and they are still making improvements. The most amasing message of the day is that the Dutch still want to increase levels of cycling in the Netherlands.

The day was chaired by Philip Darnton, President of Cyclenation who did a good job of keeping every one to time. The conference kicked off with a welcome from the deputy Dutch ambassador before diving straight into a session on the costs and benefits of cycling.

Kees van Ommeren from consultants Decisio went though some impressive case studies of the way social cost benefits can justify expensive cycle infrastructure, justifying a new bridge project and demonstrating the folly of charging for cycle parking in Utrecht. Nick Carvill then followed on with a stunning presentation on the massive cost benefits of cycling in the area of health. His presentation contains some really impressive reference to research showing how much more effective cycling is as a treatment for health conditions than drugs like statins. His presentation starts with some photos of people cycling and asked where we thought the photos were taken, his comment to one dressed in HiViz, helmet and helmet camera was, he's not going cycling, he's going into battle!

The second session was a review of the previous day's workshop presented by Marjolein de Lange where Manchester planners and and Dutch experts had reviewed two locations in Manchester. The first part was a rather disappointing review of the mess of half-baked segregated cycle tracks around the A56 Chester Road roundabout. The Dutch team didn't suggest anything more than minor changes where local residents knows the area well can see that the road needs narrowing further to reduce traffic flows heading for Deansgate. However, the second example was far more exciting. The team had looked at the opportunities for improving the dreadful situation on Wilmslow Road, otherwise known as Curry Mile. Here the Dutch team came up with a stunning solution which separates the buses from cycles completely and removes all the on-street parking. During the break for coffee, I found the councillor who's ward includes Curry Mile talking enthusiastically about how good this plan would be for the area and how it would fit in well with the wishes of the local traders. With the planned improvements to cycling in the Bus Priority on Oxford Road to the north there is a possibility that something very significant is achievable here.

Next up was Vim Bot of the Dutch Cycling Union who started his presentation with a video...

I like Vim, amongst the tall Dutchmen he was the shorter man. A cycle campaigner, like myself he was less of a sales pitch for the infrastructure and consultancy and more the man who talked about the ethics and culture of the Netherlands and how cycling fits in with all of that.

Partnering Vim was the wonderful John Whitelegg. A former Green Party councillor in Lancaster who has now given up politics he opened his presentation with a slide titled "202020". I am a huge fan of John Whitelegg, I have followed his work on & off over the past quarter of a century, but he still doesn't fail to inspire. His opening message was that there is no reason why Manchester, or any other city for that matter, cannot achieve a 20% modal share for cycling by 2020. This was a stunning challenge to the officers and politicians from Manchester City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester who were sitting in the audience. He commented that choices have to be made about the quality of life in our cities and that we have not created civilised public spaces, even in York. This change requires a great deal of restraint on the car, the enforcement of speed limits and the removal of parking. His talk was followed by questions to a panel which just served to highlight how far Manchester is from providing adequate facilities for cycling.

The afternoon was divided up into Workshop sessions, some of which ran twice

▪ Dutch Design Techniques for Safer Roads and Junctions
Speakers: Wim van der Wijk - Royal Haskoning
Adrian Lord – Chartered institute of logistics and transport

▪ Residential Street Design – Safer Communities and Retail Areas
Speakers: Rod King – 20’s Plenty for Us
Marjolein de Lange - Dutch cycling embassy

▪ Health Benefits of Cycling to the Economy
Speakers: Wim Bot - Dutch Cyclists Union
Nick Cavill – Public Health Consultant

▪ Connected Journeys & Integration at Transport Interchanges
Speakers: Margriet Cuypers – Abellio
Paul Salveson MBE - Founder Northern Rail Cycle Forum

▪ Bicycle Parking
Speakers: Martin Reuvekamp – Falco
Patrick Babb – Greater Manchester Police Design for Security

▪ Creating a Cycling Culture & Highlighting the Social Cohesion Benefits
Speakers: Wim Bot – Dutch Cyclists Union

I attended both of Vim Bot's sessions, but also found, by accident, that Adrian Lord had used a couple of my photographs for his slide presentations and recommended this blog in his presentation. It is nice to find that I have been influential in such a high powered cycling conference.

I left with my head spinning with ideas of how we could move forward cycling in Manchester. TfGM and Manchester City Council have failed to get close to the aspirations of the conference. One PR woman from British Cycling spouted the rubbish "one million new cyclists" nonsense in one of the sessions as if she had to get it out of her system. Her body language displayed her lack of belief in what she was saying. Behind the scenes, some people from British Cycling are starting to understand the enormity of the task in hand and a comprehension of what happens next. After all British Cycling have signed a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Manchester City Council. So we can blame British Cycling just as much as Manchester City Council and TfGM if they fail to deliver a city fit for cycling.

Saturday 17 November 2012

City Centre Cycle Hub

The flash new £500,000 City Centre Cycle Hub has an impressive front door.


The cycle entrance is a pretty dreadful car park entrance.

Nothing like the shiny door in Picadilly Gardens.


Half a million pounds and they have created 200 cycle parking spaces in the bottom of a car park.

There is room in the bottom of this car park for thousands of cycle parking spaces!

Sunday 11 November 2012

The Trans Pennine Trail - Part 3, Woodcote Road to Carrington Lane

Continued from Part 2, Dairyhouse Lane to Woodcote Road

This part of the route passes through Carrington Moss, an area used by Manchester Corporation for the disposal of human waste. The area had a network of tramways which were removed during the second world war when it became a Starfish site, where decoy fires were lit to divert enemy bombers away from targets in Manchester.

This part of the route starts at Woodcote Farm where the road turns into a concrete track.

This track then passes through the more modern sewerage works

and narrows beyond.

The surface soon degrades,

and a lot of horse shit was in evidence. Unfortunately, unlike dog owners, horse riders do not feel obliged to clear up after their animals. This adds a significant amount of organic matter to the surface of the path.

There are also a number of muddy puddles as the trail turns onto the route of one of the pre-war tramways.

The path then meets the route of the main east-west tramway, and turns right.

The path is wider here and has more open views for a while before the hedges turn to trees.

Here the path turns left and drops down off the raised tramway bed.

This narrower path soon hits the first of a number of barriers.

Soon the path kinks right into woodland. Here the path is very muddy and poorly maintained.

Once you emerge from the wood, there is another barrier.

The path runs alongside fields to the left before turning right again,

and eventually reaching Carrington Lane via yet another set of barriers.

The path crosses Carrington Lane at its junction with the Carrington Spur, a very odd section of road where horses people and cycles are banned. It is only when you realise that this road only goes to junction 8 on the M60, and that it originally was going to be a dual carriageway does it make any sense. See Pathetic Motorways for the rest of the story.

The next section of the Trans Pennine Trail continues along Banky Lane.

View TPT part3 in a larger map