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.