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

Saturday 10 November 2012

Princes Bridge & the Ordsall Chord

Princes Bridge, the traffic free route which links Salford and Manchester, is soon to become the site of a massive building project.The new rail line to link Manchester Picadilly with Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations, called the "Ordsal Chord" will involve building a new railway viaduct which will pass close to or right through Princes Bridge.

Plans are at an early stage, and it is not clear yet whether the existing bridge will remain or be demolished and replaced by a new cycle/pedestrian bridge, and where that new route will go, but the latest maps show the viaduct cutting straight through Princes Bridge.

Also what is quite certain is that this massive building project will have a severe impact on the people who cycle and walk across the bridge. It is possibly the busiest bridge in Manchester for cycle traffic. Construction traffic is planned to run along Regent Road and onto the inner ring road, bringing increased lorry traffic into the junction with the cycle route.

The main construction base is probably going to be on this car park, to the north of the bridge.


Surveying work is already taking place, and I saw a cycle count being carried out on the 9th October, but as far as I know they only sampled the bike traffic on that one day.

Network Rail will be undertaking a programme of public consultation to provide residents and interested stakeholders with an opportunity to view the plans and submit feedback.

Visit one of the exhibitions at the following times and venues:

Tuesday 20 November, 4pm – 8pm, Museum of Science & Industry
Wednesday 21 November,12pm-8pm, Museum of Science & Industry
Friday 23 November, 12pm – 8pm, Creative Media Centre, Salford
Saturday 24 November, 1pm – 5pm, Museum of Science & Industry
Monday 26 November, 4pm – 8pm, Salford Central Station
Tuesday 27 November, 10am – 5pm, Manchester Town Hall
Wednesday 28 November, 4pm – 8pm, Manchester Piccadilly Station

For more information or to register your views, e-mail

This is important as we don't want a replacement bridge as bad as these examples further along NCN6!



And, there is also the prospect of construction traffic and changes affecting routes in this area with the proposed Middlewood Locks development, just to the west.

Sunday 4 November 2012

The River Medlock - Lower Medlock Branch

This route is shown on the Medlock Valley Leaflet as alternative to the NCN 86 along the Ashton Canal. It is shown going from the inner ring road by PC World all the way to Sport City

It is also shown following the same route on the latest TfGM Manchester cycling map.

However, when I rode this route back in August I found the route came up somewhat short of it's claimed destination.

The route begins at the southern end, where the inner ring road crosses the River Medlock.

It is a rough start on cobbles alongside the river.

After the cobbles run out the path forks left along the river,

and gains a tarmac surface as it starts to slope upwards.

It then turns right and climbs more steeply between railings to run alongside Aden Close,

before turning left and descending to rejoin the river.

The path then crosses Palmerston Street. Thankfully the kissing gates have been removed all along this route, so access is not a problem.

After crossing Palmerston Street the path turns sharp right and goes into woodland,

before emerging at Gurney Street. Here the route turns left along the road crossing the river on the road bridge

and then turns right into woods again.

A few yards further along the route forks left up a steep path, the only signage being the NCN sticker on the railing.

The path then turns left again

and emerges onto Merrill Street/Ashton New Road at the Mitchell Arms.

Here, despite the sign pointing onwards the route just vanishes.

The rest of the route onward to Sportcity has been closed for the construction of the tram line. There were no closure notices, nothing.

I could find nothing on the City Council's web site about the closure or anywhere else for that matter.

The maps given out to people interested in cycling contain quite a few errors and omissions. I don't trust these maps as they do not give accurate information about the conditions on the ground.

This is not a route I would recommend for cycling. There is too much stopping and starting and a lot of broken glass along the route. The Ashton Canal is a far better route.

View Lower Medlock Branch - NCN86 in a larger map