Sunday 15 December 2013

Design Options for Oxford Road


The following has been sent to cycle forum members

As discussed at the Manchester Cycle Forum meeting last week, TfGM have set a date for a workshop to discuss cycling infrastructure options as part of the Bus Priority Package. This workshop will be focused on the section from Hathersage Road into the City Centre.

The cycle forum workshop is to be held at TfGM’s office at 2 Piccadilly Place on Tuesday 14 January 2014. The workshop will start at 5pm in Room 1A.

TfGM will host the workshop with the intention being to discuss the most suitable approach for Oxford Road’s cycling infrastructure.

Please could you respond directly to Philip Haynes at TfGM to confirm your attendance, email Philip.Haynes at


Design options being considered by TfGM for this "On-Carriageway Segregation" :

I will add more information to this post as I find it.... sorry it's a bit of a mess at the moment, but I wanted to get the information out.

Flexible ‘wands’ - as used for the London Olympic lanes;

The wands, appart from looking ugly are not robust against moving traffic. Shortly after the wands were installed they ended up like this;

smashed up by passing traffic, so no protection at all!

The wands in this location were smashed up a second time after they were reinstalled.

So these are not at all robust and will be a maintainance problem.

Armadillos: possibility of echelon or longitudinal arrangement;

The Armadillos are also made out of plastic by a Spanish company based in Barcelona. Judging by their web site the company are new to the market and have only been used in a few places. This also means their longevity is not proven. Also, as they are quite low they are no protection against a driver who wants somewhere to park.

Cycle campaigners are not happy with the way they have been used in Camden.

Photo from The Alternative Department for Transport

And neither were the Washington Area Bicyclist Association happy with the way they were installed in Pennsylvania Avenue.

Discontinuous kerbing;

As for intermittant kerbs, they are no match for the determined driver either.

Brighton - Grand Avenue and The Drive

Vertical v’s physical segregation;

Update: think I've worked out what TfGM mean by this...

Wider than wands, possibly more robust, these will eat into the lane widths and look pretty ugly....

Appropriate drainage solution;

(and boy does Oxford Road need the drains fixing!)

Other possible alternate options.

(presumably this could include proper Dutch or Danish designs...)

Oxford Road Update from TfGM

At last week's Manchester Cycle Forum David Budd from TfGM gave a presentation called "Cycling and Bus Priority on Oxford Road: Update."

Unfortunately this isn't available on either the council or TfGM's web site at the moment. The proposals can be seen here.

The key areas and issues from the consultation were the huge support for the ‘Dutch-style’ cycle lanes along Oxford Road and there were requests to see similar schemes across Greater Manchester. There was also support for improved bus access and services that will cross the city and for improved connectivity to key destinations along Oxford Road, including the universities and other sites.

There were concerns from private hire taxi firms who don't like being excluded from Oxford Road, about the impact of displaced traffic on parallel routes and access for delivery and parking, both on-street and disabled.

Generally TfGM seem very happy with the response to the consultation with overwhelming support for the scheme, particularly from people who want to cycle on the route.

So far so good....

However, then came the not-so-good news. It seems that the proposals for the "Dutch-style" cycle provision are not set in stone yet, and TfGM may be looking for compromises in the design rather than creating an iconic, high quality, visually attractive route that will live up to the ambitions of Corridor Manchester Partnership and the Corridor Strategic Plan 2020 and raise the status of utility cycling in the city.

Image from Corridor Manchester Partnership web site

Whilst the stated ambition is ‘Safe, segregated cycle lanes, minimising conflict and maximising opportunity’ and they are planning to engage user groups to develop the optimum design solution, you may note the use of the term "cycle lane" rather than segregated cycle route.

Sadly TfGM seem to be focused on the design of bus stops with bypasses rather than looking at the cycle route design as a whole. The design proposals are for "On-Carriageway Segregation" with bus stop bypasses not high quality Dutch style provision with full segregation provided by kerbs, cycle parking, trees and other infrastructure as seen in the video here. There is a route about the same width, if not narrower with bus stops about 7 minutes in.

And if you want to see the best of Dutch infrastructure where there is space here is what has been built around the University of Utrecht (speeded up).

So the proposals from TfGM seem to lack ambition when it comes to achieving high quality segregation and they make comments about confident cyclists being able to use the road, which suggests that only timid cyclists will want to use the cycle provision...

The cycle route widths quoted are very disappointing too. Rather than planning for a 2.5m or 3m wide cycle route, they are planning on only 2m wide, narrowing to 1.5m behind the bus stops. The narrow cycle routes will increase the conflict with pedestrians and make it difficult to pass other people.

The standard width for one way cycle paths in the Netherlands is a minimum of 2.5 m ( 8′). 

As for the options being considered by TfGM for this "On-Carriageway Segregation" they are somewhat disappointing:

Flexible ‘wands’ - as used for the London Olympic lanes;

Armadillos: possibility of echelon or longitudinal arrangement;

Discontinuous kerbing;

Vertical v’s physical segregation;

(whatever they are!)

Appropriate drainage solution;

(The drains in Oxford Road really do need fixing!)

Other possible alternate options.

(Presumably anything else)

I will post separately about the problems with most of these options. As well as being visually unatractive there are also problems with their lack of robustness.

What happens next

TfGM are planning on holding "design workshops" in the early new year with pedestrian groups, cycle groups (cycle Forum), disability reference groups and Corridor Manchester Partners. It will be essential for people to get to these workshops with good ideas to ensure we end up with a good functional and long lasting design for Oxford Road. Cycle campaigners need to ensure a high quality design for Oxford Road which has the capacity to cope with a big increase in cycle traffic. We also need to ensure that last-minute changes don't allow delivery vehicles in to the area and block the cycle routes.

Friday 13 December 2013

Student Cycle Map & BUG

This is a great piece of practical activism from the Students' Union at the University of Manchester.

When I started making contact with university bicycle user groups I was shocked to realise that they often do not involve or represent students. The Students' Union at Manchester University have addressed this problem head on by forming their own Students Bicycle User Group.

In addition to the web pages and a Facebook page they have also produced a great cycling map covering the problem areas for students.

This is really good practical work and reminds me that we need to get on with sorting out a MediaCityUK BUG.

(Pitty about the crap version of the GMCC logo though)

Sunday 8 December 2013

Manchester Day, "Going Global!" 2014

This week details were anounced for the Manchester Day Parade.

The parade will be on Sunday 22 June 2014.

The theme this year is ‘Going Global!’.

The deadline for applications is Friday 31st January.

This year there is going to be one important change. After participating last year, several of us felt that the parade ended too quietly, there was no carnival or party to wind down at. Well next year that will change. The organisers, Walk the Plank are aiming to transform some of Manchester’s city squares into "mega parties of amazing décor, mounthwatering food and drink and vibrant performance" as well the parade..

The idea behind the theme of 2014 is to reflect Manchester’s position as a world leader and how the city and its people connect with the world.

So there are many way to take the theme, from cycling around the world, to Critical Mass around the world to great cycling cities of the world.

We need to remember that priority will be given to groups with exciting creative ideas, groups who can demonstrate both a commitment in time* and the capacity and enthusiasm to deliver a quality project and groups who are able to bring some funding or resources to Manchester Day.

A couple of last year's participants have already expressed the idea that this year we should be in the parade and put on a pedal powered party in one of the squares. Who else thinks that would be a good idea and is prepared to put in the effort of making it happen?

If you would like to be involved then email me at mdp(at)

* (e.g. 1 workshop of 2-3 hours per week for 4 weeks)

Friday 6 December 2013

GMCC News 4 - Winter 2013

By this stage I would have hoped that most GMCC members would have received their copy of the newsletter in the post. However, following a bit of a cock-up last Saturday, none of the newsletters went in the post over the weekend and the rest that are due to be distributed by local members are still being sorted out.

So, in case yours hasn't arrived yet, here is the fourth GMCC newsletter that I have compiled. It features a great new calendar of cycling events from Love Your Bike and lots of great contributions from GMCC members.

GMCCNews Winter13

If you would like to contribute to the newsletter then please send text and images to along with your name and a short byline introducing yourself.

The deadlines for submitting copy for the 2014 newsletters will now have to be earlier in the month so that we can get the newsletters out in time for important events like Bike Week in June. The newsletter deadlines will now be the first weekend of the month, as follows:-

Spring 2014: Sunday 2nd February

Summer 2014: Sunday 4th May (for Bike Week)

Autumn 2014: Sunday 3rd August

Winter 2014: Sunday 2nd November

If you like to receive the paper copy of this newsletter, then join GMCC - it's currently free for the first year, so there is no reason not to and you can receive a full resolution copy of the newsletter in the post.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Oxford Road bus priority package consultation

The report on the Oxford Road consultation came out last week, and I received an email response:-

Dear respondent,

Oxford Road bus priority package consultation

Following your response to the Oxford Road bus priority package consultation which was held between 22 May 2013 to 5 July 2013 we have now analysed all responses received.

Over 1,000 people commented on the plans for both Oxford Road and Manchester city centre. The reports demonstrates support for our original proposals with Oxford Road receiving support from 65% of consultees, with 12% against the plans and 23% neutral or with no clear opinion. A copy of the consultation report is attached.

Please note a separate report is available for the Manchester city centre proposals.

If you would like to view a copy of the Manchester city centre report or the appendices for both reports, these are available at or alternatively, you can request a hard copy by contacting us:

by email:

by phone: 0300 123 1177

by post: Transport for Greater Manchester bus priority, FREEPOST RRHE-RKUU-KSJY, Manchester M1 3BG

Both Oxford Road and Manchester city centre schemes are now being further developed in line with the suggestions and comments received during the formal consultation process.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Boulton

Head of Programme Management Services

The consultation report is available on-line, please have a look.

The main message is that by far the biggest number of responses were about cycling, so a big thanks to everyone who responded.

The recent fatalities in London, underline the need to get this scheme right, and not just bodge something up because it is cheap.


There is a whole road safety industry out there that seems to treat people who walk and cycle as vermin to be removed from the road. The latest incarnation of this in the local area is the campaign from the Greater Manchester Casualty Reduction Partnership.

The attitude towards people like us can be seen in this line advising drivers:-

You might think you know the roads but every day new hazards appear; road works, pedestrians and cyclists so make sure you pay attention.

So the Greater Manchester Casualty Reduction Partnership regard pedestrians and cyclists as "hazards" alongside roadworks. To them we are no different from traffic cones or holes in the road!

The whole approach is to push blame towards the victims and young drivers, rather than enforcing road traffic law and reducing traffic speed and levels.

Worst of all is the advice for "cyclists"

Remember that cycle lanes are there to help you and when you need to make sure you share the road.

Don’t go unseen make sure your wearing high visibility clothing and always wear a helmet.

Cycle lanes are there to help you? Not round here they aren't, most of the cycle lanes in Manchester are CRAP!

Many are even downright dangerous.

As for Hi-Viz and Helmets, they are both causes for concern and may actually be counterproductive. The case for Hi-Viz is demolished by the Road Danger Reduction Forum as yet more victim blaming, and the case against cycle helmets has always been clear, as collated by the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation.

Of course neither are a legal requirement on our roads and promoting either of them actually discourages people from cycling, with all the consequent health risks of inactivity.

This campaign is doing nothing to improve the safety on our roads. We desperately need better road traffic law enforcement in Greater Manchester. Every day I walk down Deansgate I see drivers openly flouting the law and endangering lives... Here a bus goes straight through a red, long after the other direction has gone green.

It is time to properly enforce road traffic law and take the dangerous drivers off the roads, not blame their victims.



Following our complaints this page has now been reworded to remove some of the offensive language...

You might think you know the roads but every day new hazards appear; road works, pedestrians and cyclists so make sure you pay attention.

Has been replaced with

You may think you know the roads but are you prepared for change? Are there roadworks along your journey now? Are there any pedestrians in the road or waiting to cross? Is there a cyclist ahead? Give room! Slow Down! Be respectful. Share the road!


Remember that cycle lanes are there to help you and when you need to make sure you share the road.

Don’t go unseen make sure your wearing high visibility clothing and always wear a helmet.

has been updated to read

Remember that cycle lanes are there to help you and can be useful for your journey, please use them when safe to do so.

Don’t go unseen make sure your wearing high visibility clothing and always wear a helmet.

Which is no better, except that it acknowledges what we have known all along, that some of Greater Manchester's cycle lanes are actually dangerous.

Saturday 30 November 2013

A Convivial Critical Mass

This lovely comment on Facebook sums up the spirit of last night's ride:-

Just got home from CM, had a great time, didn't know a soul but was made to feel really welcome. Thank you lovely people! Looking forward to the next one.

The theme was dress up like a Criticalmass Tree with lots of LED lights. There were several examples of brightly lit bikes.

These drew the admiring attention of a pair of passing community support offices who normally patrol on bikes. They were very impressed with the lights and chatted for a while before moving on.

The turnout was worryingly small, probably caused by the cold and earlier rain, which had only eased off at about 6pm, but the ride seemed larger than the start.

However, we needn't have worried. As the ride moved off to sample the xmas lights it became clear that the ride was going to be a good one. The corking and communication with the traffic was really good - often 3 of 4 people handling each junction. The ride got held up in traffic, but this didn't spoil the atmosphere.

The abiding memory was of a very friendly ride. Lots of conversation over the music and everyone looking out for each other. I even received help from other riders pushing me up the steep hills.

We took a very unusual route out onto Bury New Road and up by Strangeways,

then crossing Cheetham Hill Road and approaching the new Coop building along Red Bank.

The ride ended at a warm and cozy Popup Bikes,

for the Bikes ‘N’ Such Photography Exhibition which included free beer!

The projected photographs certainly added to the atmosphere.

It was a really lovely ride and it really lifted my spirits.

I won't be able to make December & January's rides because of clashing commitments, so hope to see you all again in February.

Thanks everyone for making it such a lovely evening.


Music playing was by MorPheuSz, Days of Delirium & Nocturnal Nightmares

Sunday 24 November 2013

A Cycle Strategy for Greater Manchester - (CILT meeting)

... or how Manchester won't be Going Dutch, but may be taking a route to Camden with armadillos in the roads.

Photo from James and the Giant Bike Ride

Last Tuesday I went to a CILT (The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport) meeting at the Rain Bar in Manchester on the theme of A Cycle Strategy for Central Manchester. The billed speaker was Helen Ramsden, Head of Travel Choices at TfGM, but the talk was actually given by Nick Vaughan of TfGM. The room contained the usual gender bias that afflicts such occasions, Helen Ramsden was present, but was one of only 3 women amongst 24 men.

Nick Vaughan got underway by admitting that his real expertise was in bus routes and that he had only recently taken on responsibility for cycling. He did, however, say that he regularly rides a bicycle, to and from his local station to get to work. He made some good points about the conditions for cycling in Manchester being potentially better than for Amsterdam, including the fact that Manchester has a LOWER average annual rain fall level than Amsterdam, 32 inches against 36 for Amsterdam. He then conceded that a lot of work on cycling in the UK has been focused on cycle sportif and said that we "need to move beyond this" in order to address the key benefits of cycling for health, the environment and the economy.

The figures from the 2011 Census show that there were 25,000 cycle to work trips in Manchester, against 800,000 by car. However, 30% of these car trips were less than 3 miles, and these 240,000 car based commuters are the people that TfGM think can be persuaded to take up cycling.

He introduced the Velocity bid and then talked about how TfGM intend to spend the money, touching on 7 main areas:-

1) Infrastructure

This was the point where the excuses came out. TfGM have clearly decided that they will not be providing Dutch standard cycle routes in Manchester. Their main excuse is cost. The reasons given included drainage and litter, so they are going for what they call "light segregation" using splitter islands and not solid boundaries.

It seems that TfGM are sold on the idea of installing, so called, armadillos to mark the edge of the cycle lanes. These cheap plastic lumps which are bolted onto the road will be trialed on a cycle route in Salford by the end of 2013 (possibly Liverpool Street between cross lane and Albion way).

Photo by Laura Laker from the Cycling Weekly web site.

The idea is that these lumps (available in three heights, 5, 9 and 13 cm) will keep traffic out of cycle lanes. The GMCC Deputy Secretary, present at the meeting insisted on calling these "protected" rather than "segregated" cycle routes. However, whilst they may dissuade all but the largest of cars from using the cycle lanes, they will not protect the lane from being used by taxis and delivery vans as a convenient stopping area. After all such drivers have no qualms about driving onto the pavement in places like Oxford Road, so a few lumps of plastic won't stop them blocking a cycle lane..

In Camden, where these armadillos have been installed, they have not been used in isolation. Large, heavy planters have also been placed along the lanes to clearly mark the cycle lane and deter parking.

Photo by Jean Dollimore of Camden Cyclists

So, we will have to wait and see how TfGM use armadillos in Salford, but I strongly suspect we will not see our schemes being as good as Camden's and there are cycle campaigners who are not happy with what has been built there. The bus stops are just dreadful!

Photo from The Alternative Department for Transport

I do not think that TfGM will ever have the motivation to produce good quality cycle infrastructure in Manchester if some cycle campaigners in Manchester are prepared to give the thumbs up to half baked designs. I do not see a few lumps providing sufficient protection for a cycle route when road traffic law is not enforced in the area.

2) Interchanges

This part of the presentation was all about TfGM's Cycle Hubs. There was lots of talk about the small park-and-ride style hubs that cost users £10 a year at Tram Stations like Bury and absolutely no mention of the big expensive white elephant in Manchester City Centre...

3) Partner Schools

TfGM are looking for a long term cultural shift by encouraging children to cycle . They will be partnering with 10 schools in the area, which seems a very small number to me.

4) Health, Wellbeing & Physical Activity

This section linked into the recent transfer of public health money to local authorities. There is an excellent guidance document from NICE on the topic of walking and cycling.

5) Practical Support and Training

This was all about TfGM's cycle training programme and other measures that are already underway.

6) Marketing and Communications

Again this section restated existing work on the GM cycling maps and other cycling information.

7) Monitoring and Evaluation

The final section was about the development of a "Bicycle Account" for Manchester.

This will be assessed across 5 areas:-
  • Infrastructure
  • Cycle flows and modal share
  • Satisfaction
  • Impact e.g. environment
  • Practical Support and Monitoring

I opened the questions that followed by asking why the presentation had contained nothing about restricting car traffic, when the cities that have high cycling levels have been those that have restricted car use. This triggered a lot of excuses about the failure of the congestion charge in Manchester and some comments that car access will be restricted by the bus priority schemes and other measures. Reference was made to the Transport Strategy for Manchester City Centre as being evidence of this. It was very clear from some of the comments that council officers have suffered from some very nasty reactions from the road lobbyists in recent years, which left me wondering whether cycle campaigners should behave likewise.

I left the meeting feeling that whilst the level of funding for cycling has improved in Manchester, the attitudes of the local authorities need to change radically if Manchester is to get anywhere near its own cycling targets. I would like to see TfGM prove me wrong, but I don't hold out much hope.

Sunday 17 November 2013

The Rochdale Canal - Manchester to Rochdale

This is a set of photos from back in July which I've finally got round to posting as I've done a map of this route for the forthcoming GMCC newsletter.

Whilst this 12 mile route enables an almost entirely traffic-free ride all the way from Manchester to Rochdale, the surface is very rough in places and there are several sets of steps. The narrow parts of the path will prevent trikes, handcycles and trailers from getting through.

The surface is so bad in places this route is not suitable for small wheeled bikes like Bromptons, as proved, rather painfully by a fellow blogger earlier in the year. This route is suitable for robust tourers or hybrids and mountain bikes, or be prepared to walk quite a bit.

As far as I am concerned, the route starts here, at this lovely bridge just off Great Ancoats Street, the site of one of the city's most awful cycle routes. You can ride past on either side, but the tow path is on the right.

Further on the new bridge may be open now and that leads into this narrow section.

After a narrow section of tow path, unsuitable for anything wider than a bicycle, the path opens out and here we join the official cycle route - NCN Route 66.

This is an open grassy part of Ancoats, where the old industrial buildings have mostly gone. However they did leave one old, narrow road bridge which is decorated by a CYCLISTS DISMOUNT sign. This part of the path does flood in winter, so be prepared for wet feet.

A little further along is Victoria Mill, which stands almost entirely alone in the landscape.

From here most of the path has recently been tarmaced, however, they did leave the original cobbles, where they still existed. They are quite large and uncomfortable, even on my fat wheeled tourer.

This section is more enclosed, but new lighting has been installed.

At Queen's Road (NCN Route 60) you hit the first set of steps, just after the bridge.

It is possible to bypass them by going up to road level, and crossing at the lights, but rather slow and inconvenient.

As you head towards Newton Heath there are more trees, and several of the locks here show signs of having been completely rebuilt.

At Newton Heath itself, the landscapes opens up on the right, but the canal & path are in quite poor condition here.

At Old Church Street there is yet another set of steps.

This time the diversion is more difficult, involving going back and over the footbridge. There are the inevitable anti-cycling barriers to make this difficult. You then go back across the canal on the road bridge and first left.

After going under Poplar Street, you see this distinctive chimney.

A bit further along at Ridgefield street are another set of steps. Whilst there are only a few of them, the diversion to avoid them involves a long road diversion.

Warning - coming in the other direction these steps are difficult to spot!

Soon the buildings become very modern and you pass a number of huge retail outlets,

before the canal turns north, with Failsworth Library on your left.

Here the path degrades rapidly. The bridge under Oldham Road is very narrow and uneven, and the cobbles continue from here.

At George Street, there is this semi-stepped and cobbled slope,

and on the other side the cobbles are particularly large and uneven.

The next bridge takes the tram over the canal and there is this bizarre cycle barrier. An example of some idiot, probably from TfGM, wasting public money.

From here the path has a fairly reasonable surface. However, this overflow is not much further along.

This little footbridge at Henshaw Lane marks a distinct change in the scenery

Soon the path branches right and upwards to meet the road,

then left and up further to cross the M60 on this strangely compelling bridge.

After rejoining the canal the path degrades again. This time the cobbles are quite small and flat,

but they are not always present and the path suffers from subsidence in places. This is a largely industrial area with electricity pylons overhead and factories around.

At the join between Grimshaw Lane and Foxdenton Lane is a little swing bridge.

The industrial landscape gives way to trees and housing,

and the canal swings east then north again after Middleton Road

and crosses the River Irk Aqueduct.

Now the area becomes rural, and these poems suddenly crop up.

The canal then goes under the railway. The railway itself is on the second of two bridges, the one in front is unused.

A little further along the path crosses Boarshaw Lane, where there is a single, very large step. The sign points to Middleton Town Centre.

After Middleton, with it's industrial estate on the right the canal goes under Rochdale Road and past this little bridge

you come to Slattocks Top Lock cottages.

Here the canal rises above the landscape, and views open out to the right.

There is one Sustrans sculpture along here.

At the crossing with the M62 the motorway builders failed to provide a towpath.

This usually means a diversion via the A664 Manchester Road

and back via these anti-cycling barriers.

What is supposed to happen is that you can use this pontoon bridge to get under the motorway. However, the day I came past it had been removed and parked here.

A little further along the path swaps sides over a little cobbled bridge.

The path joins Maltings Lane for a bit in this post-industrial area.

At Gorrels Way the towpath runs out again, and you cross the road here and join the pavement on the other side.

then round to the left along Queensway and Edinburgh Way, and across at lights to rejoin the canal. The loss of the path here was caused by the building of the A627M.

Back on the path the landscape improves.

This little bridge over an overflow comes just before

Milkstone Road which marks the point where you turn into Rochdale with a set of anti-cycling barriers. The towpath crosses the canal at this point on the road bridge.

Here you turn left and join the road towards Rochdale. The route is quite mixed, particularly with all the new work to put the tramlines in. The signposted diversion to avoid the tramlines sent me down a very steep and dangerous cobbled road to get to the town centre, so be prepared for problems.

View Rochdale CanalUntitled in a larger map